Keats Lives is Moya Cannon’s fifth collection of poems. Characteristically rich in the moods and rhythms of the poet’s western Irish homeland, it is also drawn farther afield, towards contemplation of the disasters of previous centuries, their ‘many victories, many collars, little grace’. ‘What shift of bedrock, what metamorphosis,’ asks the poet, ‘might heal such wounded, wounding ground?’ An answer is sought in the conversation – the conversion – between politics and ecology: precise, shell-like meditations on the natural world – snow drops and almond blossom, nights of summer thunder – are described with the same humane, delicate energy as warzones and prison camps. Between these extremes, and balanced by them, Homer and Achilles, Shakespeare and Cromwell, ‘cattle-herders, butter-makers, singers, dancers’ live out their ‘sliver of the earth’s time’ by the same equalizing measure of mountains and forests, ‘the gold-struck, mercury sea’. The collection unifies these pasts in the symbolic curia of the museum and library, from where so many of Cannon’s poems take wing, pursuing objects beyond their material presence into their haunted pasts, objects that, to paraphrase the collection’s closing poem, ‘we have often seen before but have never heard’.
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