Ciaran Carson’s series of seventy-seven sonnets begins, literally, in never-land, ‘where everything is metaphor and simile’, and rushes onwards to the twelfth of never.
His alexandrine lines conduct us from revolutionary France and Ireland through Imperial Japan, a journey accelerated by references to hallucinogenics, snatches of traditional Irish songs, and jigs and reels. The poppy recurs as an emblem of peace and the opium wars, as the author’s metrics hold in delicate balance the sights and second sights, metamorphoses and disembodiments found between ‘eternities and temporary halts’.
The Twelfth of Never is Ciaran Carson’s most appealing book since The Irish for No (1987). Intent on liberty, its playful narratives and flittings offer glimpses of ‘the imminent republic of the future’.
‘[The Twelfth of Never] is a chronicle of practice and refining performance. Elements from earlier pieces recur with new roles in succeeding verses. Ideas develop into full arguments that may later dissolve into half-thoughts and ruminations. Some poems are astonishing, unforgettable. Others intrigue but seem to be preliminary themes that only later are given full throat as songs. Carson sees provisional successes as integral to triumphs. Nor are spectacular poems always the most memorable. A poet absorbed in the work takes the difficulty—even the implausibility—of the goal as intrinsic to the process.’ — NY Journal of Books