Collected Poems represents John Montague’s long and remarkably rejuvenative career, nearly forty years. In the three celebrated sequences comprised in Part 1, in the individual love poems of Part 2, and in the new sequences of Part 3, Montague’s rare lyric gift serves a strong narrative impulse, and brings his strong love of place and keen ear and eye to Northern Ireland, Cork, Dublin, Paris, and North and Central America. Finally, he has written love poetry as poignant as any in our time.
“John Montague has been so long an established fact of the poetry of the English-speaking world that there is a tendency to take his really quite remarkable achievement for granted. He is a poet of enormous lyrical gifts, but he has as well an acute and dramatic sense of history — reland’s and the world’s — and a gentle moral insistence, all of which makes his Collected Poems an absolutely essential volume.” C.K. Williams
“Irish life is complex in its interrelations and, of all living poets, Montague succeeds best in capturing this complexity at its deepest level. …perhaps the greatest volume of collected poems to emerge from an Irish poet since Yeats.” Eamonn Wall, Shenandoah
for Barrie Cooke
Flat on the bank I parted
Rushes to ease my hands
In the water without a ripple
And tilt them slowly downstream
To where he lay, tendril-light,
In his fluid sensual dream.
Bodiless lord of creation,
I hung briefly above him
Savouring my own absence,
Senses expanding in the slow
Motion, the photographic calm
That grows before action.
As the curve of my hands
Swung under his body
He surged, with visible pleasure.
I was so preternaturally close
I could count every stipple
But still cast no shadow, until
The two palms crossed in a cage
Under the lightly pulsing gills.
Then (entering my own enlarged
Shape, which rode on the water)
I gripped. To this day I can
Taste his terror on my hands.