Terence Brown’s review of The Burren Days, published in Poetry Ireland Review

The Burren Days

The Burren Days

Originally published in Poetry Ireland Review, issue 17, edited by Terence Brown

John Ennis has written a frankly pagan poem, a marvellously original re-interpretation of the legend of Diarmuid and Gráinne. Diarmuid is a laboratory technician in a milk processing plant, in love with a pillion-passenger Grainne in an Ireland of recognisable contemporaneity. The language of science, of sexual delight and a kind of slack everydayness (which reminds of Kavanagh) combine to create a wholly delightful poetic strangeness. This will give you an idea of the thing:

The eyes of Mr Joyce tracked down Ray Daly.
Farm soil blew grey and sleety in the north wind
The green grass bleached. A black frost clung.
The April air was white and dry with foreboding
The sapling trees bent like old lanterns in the breeze.
Daffodils danced insanely. Their yellow cups shook,
And a few attempts at forsythia bloomed in gold.
Across one shrub a juggernaut had reversed.
Within the snowy portals of Bord Bainne land
Presumptive teenagers from RTCs pimply
Adolescents on grant from the National Science Council,
Technicians with Diplomas on a part-time basis
Performed lactose, casein, anti-biotic analyses,
Novices on the grateful periphery of Science.

But in this bizarre world of papal visits and strange new chemical processes, Gráinne is her old self, a girl out of the old songs, the pagan, Gaelic world still intact, whatever else isn’t in this poem of frank sexual celebration:

The birch leaf fell from her cardigan
like an accusation.
Her father purpled. The Papal Visit was
her undoing.
And Gráinne remembered the blackbird singing
On the rhodendron beyond Tipperary.

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