About Brendan Kennelly
Brendan Kennelly (b. 1936) is the prolific author of over twenty books of poetry as well as plays, novels and criticism. Born in Ballylongford in Co. Kerry, Kennelly was Professor of Modern Literature at Trinity College, Dublin for thirty years. In his native country Kennelly is public property, both popular and controversial, not least for his collections Cromwell and The Book of Judas both of which generated many column inches on publication. Counting the rock band U2 amongst his friends and appearing in car adverts on Irish TV, Kennelly straddles both the public and private spheres in his unofficial role of "Ireland's poetry confessor" (The Independent).
Kennelly has said of himself "If I'm anything it's open," and this is borne out in his writing, particularly in the recurring idea of giving and receiving. Like the 'Happy Grass' that accepts "every human cry" there is space in a Kennelly poem for the good, the bad, the ugly (and the beautiful). His vision defies any attempt to impose strict categories on the world. He has much in common with the children who feature in some of his best-known poems, remaining wide-eyed in the face of the contradictory nature of life, describing both its malignity and its grace: in 'Blackbird' the bird's yellow beak is both an instrument of violence and of song 'Spontaneous as light, pure as flame."
Music is a central motif, part of Kennelly's obsession with voices. His poems are densely peopled with a cast of named characters whose stories are told in a variety of forms from strict ballad metre to free verse. Inanimate objects too have their say, be they a shell, the sea or a loaf of bread. But it's in the movement into song and dance that a person becomes most truly him or herself as in his moving elegy 'I See You Dancing, Father': "You made your own music/Always in tune with yourself." Kennelly's reading (he was recently voted "the most attractive voice in Ireland" in a radio poll) brings out the inherent lilt of his poetry and conveys his sense of excitement about a universe that, despite its disasters, "insists that we forever begin" ('Begin').
His recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 13 June 2001 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.
Brendan Kennelly's Favourite Poetry Sayings:
"I dabbled in words and I found they were my life. " - Patrick Kavanagh
"He does not write at all whose poems no-one reads." - Martial
" The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth." - Jean Cocteau
"Poetry is the ultimate democracy." - Brendan Kennelly
"I could no more define poetry than a terrier can define a rat." - A. E. Housman
Brendan Kennelly: A Host of Ghosts (John McDonagh), The...
Reservoir Voices, Bloodaxe Books 2009
Now, Bloodaxe Books 2006Buy
Familiar Strangers: new and selected poems 1960-2004,...
Martial Art, Bloodaxe, 2003Buy
The Little Book of Judas, Bloodaxe, 2002Buy
Glimpses, Bloodaxe, 2001Buy
Begin, Bloodaxe, 1999Buy
The Man Made of Rain, Bloodaxe, 1998Buy
Brendan Kennelly Reading from his poems
7The Happy Grass
16Poem from a Three Year Old
21Dream of a Black Fox
29We Are Living
45I See You Dancing, Father
I've avoided poems that other writers here have recommended, but which otherwise would certainly have been on my...