The Wrong Side of the Alps

10.00

Anthony Glavin

Available in Paperback only

 

 

The Wrong Side of the Alps includes many of the poems for which Anthony Glavin won the Patrick Kavanagh Award. It contains a number of exquisite lyrics and a remarkable extended sequence.

Among the shorter poems are meditations on art, literary figures and the precariousness of human relationships. These are laced with ironies and self-deprecation. The three sections of ‘Living in Hiroshima’ collected here offer glancing images of modern history, and prove a memorable and compassionate focus of an unusually accomplished first collection.

‘I have praised Anthony Glavin’s collection previously. It is a fine, meticulous book. Glavin took a Patrick Kavanagh Award in 1987 and he teaches at the Royal Irish Academy or Music. There is a distinct and sometimes ominous music throughout his poetry, but always great attention is paid to style, harmony, rhythm. The humour is sparse and dark, and occurs with a certain deliberate timing, reminding one of those little fanciful tempo indications in music: adagio,definitely, for Glavin’s ‘Living in Hiroshima’, spirituoso for ‘Houlihan’s Daughter’ . . . Irish poets tend to sway easily enough In the breezes of European philosophy; is there something in the Irish climate and consequently the Irish psyche which makes it so difficult for us to laugh without sneering? Glavin tends to internationalise and place in convincing historical context this profoundly Hibernian appetite for dark laughter.’ — Fred Johnston, Books Ireland

I have praised Anthony Glavin’s collection previously. It is a fine, meticulous book. Glavin took a Patrick Kavanagh Award in 1987 and he teaches at the Royal Irish Academy or Music. There is a distinct and sometimes ominous music throughout his poetry, but always great attention is paid to style, harmony, rhythm. The humour is sparse and dark, and occurs with a certain deliberate timing, reminding one of those little fanciful tempo indications in music: adagio,definitely, for Glavin’s ‘Living in Hiroshima’, spirituoso for ‘Houlihan’s Daughter’.

 

One suspects that the entire collection might have been constructed along certain musical lines. Be that as it may, there is, to quote Glavin himself, ‘a weightless perfection’ about most of these poems. There is also a single but sustained note of irony running through all of them; that he has written a poem to Holderlin and quotes an epigraph from Camus is not surprise.

 

Irish poets tend to sway easily enough In the breezes of European philosophy; is there something in the Irish climate and consequently the Irish psyche which makes it so difficult for us to laugh without sneering? Glavin tends to internationalise and place in convincing historical context this profoundly Hibernian appetite for dark laughter.

— Fred Johnston, Books Ireland

 


 

Anthony Glavin is a late starter, and The Wrong Side of the Alps seems a deeply pondered book — penseés rather than poems, a touch of William Empson. The collection begins with a salute to ‘Companions of the Rhymers’ Club’, which suggests both Glavin’s ambition (‘They stand at twilight, wrestling with the century’), and its locus in language:

‘So urchin their appeasements, so joyous the way
They chitter-chivvy in and out of light . . .’

It’s refreshing to read poetry that accepts the verbal challenge of Wilbur and Larkin. Another literary poem has Scott Fitzgerald ‘crying his eyes out / On a one-block cab-ride between speakeasies’ because ‘he knows he will never be so happy again’. Glavin’s imagination (a bit like Derek Mahon’s) deals in ultimates: the fin-de-siècle, the end of the world. His centrepiece is a sequence of four-line aphorisms, ‘Living in Hiroshima’, whose sweep can be gauged from a preliminary four-liner, ‘In Cologne Cathedral’:

                                                . . . I clap my hands.
And an atom of Socrates’ dying hemlock-breath
Collides with an atom marauding since Hiroshima.

The Wrong Side of the Alps is not perfect, but I may have kept the best wine till last.

— Edna Longley, The Irish Review


Year Published: 1989
Details: 56pp
ISBN PBK: 978 1 85235 048 2