I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

In Tune

Gerard Smyth
Donegal Tarantella, by Moya Canon, Carcanet Press, 80 pp, ISBN: 978-1784107871 In one of his essays the New Jersey poet Robert Cording, says that “if the artist fixes his or her attention on something real, what is made will be beautiful” and goes on to state his belief that “ the best art involves such loving attention to what is before us”. This belief seems to be one shared by Moya Cannon. Loving but also strict attention is the profound first act in the making of her poetry, followed by the expressive act of communication, setting in motion what has come into her gaze. In her new collection, Cannon proves herself to be the ideal spectator wherever she is – in the landscape, in a museum, a new city, a kitchen or on the threshold of memory. She exults in her surroundings and what she observes there. She is particularly at home in landscapes still holding traces of time and the ancient past and seems most at ease in the natural world, attuned to it, conscious of its boundaries. She is utterly capable of penetrating into the spirit of whatever outer world she inhabits and moves comfortably between that outer world and back into herself – the inner repository of feeling and insight – in these poems.  Even in a moment of air travel there is no gap in her attention: Every cloud, even the smallest tuft, drags its own shadow behind it, on the skin of a silver-blue sea. This keen alertness of eye – coupled with her alertness of ear (she declared her trust in sound in an early poem, “Listening Clay”) – has always been at the heart of Cannon’s poetry in its inquiry into “the relentless complexity of being”. This inquiry, or search for meaning, is for example exemplified in ruminative poems such as “Flowers Know Nothing of Our Grief” and “At Three Castles Head We Catch Our Breaths”. But there is always a tactful moderation in her entries into philosophical mode. Her matter-of-factness can lead to unexpected juxtapositions of thought and connections: in “The Ring-Forts”, in the midst of contemplating the presence of these primal earthworks in our landscapes, she remains conscious of the modern age she is living in – of how our “speeding minds” are full of “codes, contacts and pin numbers”. These poems do not reveal a speeding mind but one that…

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