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Give Dust a Tongue

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A Faith & Poetry Memoir
John F. Deane
Hardback
230pp
ISBN 9781782182184

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A memoir that views the spiritual developments of an internationally acclaimed poet, from the strict Roman Catholic of his upbringing on Achill Island, through years spent in a Spiritan Seminary studying for the priesthood, a marriage and the death of a young wife, through the establishment of Poetry Ireland, the National Poetry Society, and the development of his own poetic career, the study of such faith poets as George Herbert and Gerard Manley Hopkins, to his present faith in Christ as the centre of hope and evolution.

The book uses many of Deane’s best and best-loved poems to help chart this development and works towards the origins and completion of a sequence of poems that face directly the question Christ asked: Who do you say that I am? Deane’s answer is in a sequence of poems, published here for the first time, “According to Lydia”. The route to a contemporary Christian faith takes in memories of his time on Achill Island, in the novitiate in Tipperary and the seminary in Kimmage, Dublin, as well as his encounter with the work of Teilhard de Chardin, priest and anthropologist, and the poetry of the Nobel prize-winning Swedish writer, Tomas Tranströmer. Through his founding of Poetry Ireland he met and became a friend of the late Denise Levertov, poet and convert to Christianity.

The work also examines the continuation of faith after the death of Deane’s brother, Declan, who had become a Jesuit and died in Pleasant Hill in California. Several of the pieces included here were first heard as Sunday Miscellany pieces of RTÉ radio, and published in such journals as “The Furrow” and “Irish Pages”. The whole offers one person’s pursuit of faith through a personal response to the name and nature of Jesus Christ, a faith that would be possible, even essential, in this age of un-faith and economic determinacy.

 

John F. Deane was born on Achill Island 1943; founded Poetry Ireland and The Poetry Ireland Review, 1979; published several collections of poetry and some fiction; won the O’Shaughnessy Award for Irish Poetry, the Marten Toonder Award for Literature, Golden Key Award from Serbia, Laudomia Bonanni Prize from L’Aquila, Italy. Shortlisted for both the T.S.Eliot prize and The Irish Times Poetry Now Award, won residencies in Bavaria, Monaco and Paris. He is a member of Aosdána . His recent poetry collections: Eye of the Hare came from  Carcanet 2011. Snow falling on Chestnut Hill: New & Selected Poems was published by Carcanet in October 2012. His latest fiction is a novel, Where No Storms Come, published by Blackstaff in 2010. A new collection of poems, Semibreve, will be published by Carcanet in May 2015.

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