Magazine article World Literature Today

A Hundred Doors

Magazine article World Literature Today

A Hundred Doors

Article excerpt

Michael Longley. A Hundred Doors. Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Wake Forest University Press. 2011. isbn 9781930630567

Peace has come to County Mayo. Michael Longley, a poet who has often interlaced meditations on poetic calling and keen observations of evocative, dramatic landscapes with his elegies for victims of the Great War and of Ireland's Troubles, has reached a sense of much-deserved contentment. Even when he turns his hand to elegize or recall his father's valor in war, he appears to have found serenity. It had never been far out of grasp-Longley's poems have always radiated a sense of gentle goodwill, have always been attuned to harmonies of person and place-but that goodwill and those harmonies were pierced by recollections of violence and trauma. Now, six grandchildren later, Longley is a generous connoisseur of the perceptual world. He introduces us, as well as his descendants, to fauna and flora both common and rare, for which "growing nowhere else / In the world was enough." They are captured in crafted forms that are measured yet light, shaped yet not rigid, allowing us to be surprised rather than lulled by their rhythms. Their voice is convivial and extraordinarily warm-even in poems addressed to others (friends, grandchildren, wife), the poetic speaker holds us close.

A major concern now seems to be the work of memory upon the present: the "unanticipated" resonance of an observed object brings back the past with remarkable immediacy. …

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