Through the prism of illness and loss, the meditations in The Face of the Earth move away from Medbh McGuckian’s recent books’ concentrations on violence and political strife towards an acceptance of the natural order of the world. As she arrives at a mystical interpretation based on faith, the poet renders her apprehensions of renewal in characteristically rich rhythms and with dynamic emotional force. Franz Rosenzwieg, the Jewish German philosopher, wrote ‘For only death makes life a unity.’
Out of the patterns of light and dark which tremble over the ground, and under a spell of the earth itself, this continually innovative author discovers, and presents, a grace which heals with its shadow. The book concludes with ‘She is in the Past, She has this Grace’, winner of the Forward/Tolman Cunard Prize for Best Single Poem, 2002.
‘The cup from which
I drank is unnumbered bits
of a bigger story . . .’
— ‘Valentine Not to be Opened’
‘Although this book has suffering and loss very close to the surface, it is ultimately optimistic, conveying a very real possibility of renewal. Its triumph lies in its willingness to face difficulty and to live alongside it. This quality of acceptance reveals a maturity of outlook which the other two books lack. It is this which, despite its difficulty, will draw the reader further in. Of the three, it is this book which will continue to engage and sustain those who are prepared to be present with it.’ — Kate Keogan, PN Review