Rory Brennan has written six books of poetry which have been recognised
with awards in honour of Patrick Kavanagh and W. B. Yeats.
He believes a poem should above all be luminous. It should continue to shine after it has
been read, in the way the light of a perished star continues to travel through a galaxy.
"A poem must lift, take wing and fly – ideally, but not always – towards the sun"
Poetry clarifies feeling and puts into words what otherwise cannot be fully expressed
or even imagined. Poetry is delight as Dryden so wisely said.
Critics have written about Rory Brennan's work;
"Density, sensitivity, paradox"
The Irish Literary Supplement
"His poems have a wonderful lyric buoyancy"
The Irish Times
"His transition from anecdote to narrative is managed with great calm and skill"
"Menace, foreboding, a sense of puzzlement produce memorable lines"
The Sunday Press
"The range of feelings, enthusiasms and indignation is vast"
The Irish Times
"Anyone impatient to find alternatives in Irish poetry will be interested in Rory Brennan"
The Sunday Tribune
Rory Brennan's work has been recognized by the following prizes and awards:
The Patrick Kavanagh Award 1978
Judge: Derek Mahon
The Listowel Writers' Week Prize for Poetry, 1987
Judge: John Montague
The William Allingham Prize, in honour of the 19th c. Irish poet, 1985
The W B Yeats Award of the New York Yeats Society, based at the National Arts Club, NY, 2017
Judge: Alfred Corn
SELECTED NEW POEMS
To the Castle
We used to walk up to a castle on a hill,
Down a long city road, then twists and turns.
I could draw a rough sketch-map of it still.
Past stem terraces and miniscule front lawns
As streets lost their grip and slopes spilt down,
Elbowing between the cliff, the edge of town,
With the castle up above an ogre-merchant’s lair,
All turrets and balconies and granite-grey.
We were not orphans who had lost their way
But we went hand in hand as if we were.
Below lay a shadowy black lough, deep as a fiord,
Its shores lined with stranded wrecks of industry.
Ships wrought there once went all around the world
And at the time I talk of some still tramped by
And out into the soiled lace-curtain gloom.
In our hearts we knew we’d follow them
Far from the tiny gardens and the terraces,
But in the meantime we would hug and kiss,
Knowing nothing could be better than just this,
While knowing too that there were better places.
Off the sweeping drive strayed forest tracks
Overarched by boughs that filtered a pale sun.
Leaving the harassed, ailing city at our backs,
Our arms as ever round the other one,
We found a way through the branch-strewn maze.
I see now that we have done this always,
Delved into far deeper woods and made the best
When there were ditches, dikes and traps,
Even if we were foolhardy and ignored the maps.
The cliff-top hung like a hatchet at the crest.
I knew clever, courageous men had met up there
To proclaim a new and treasonable equality.
I admired them then. So much I still revere:
Their bond with each other, a frank readiness to die.
Perhaps our intense love of just one other one
Is possible because we know two people alone
Will perish in the gilded mirror of their gaze
And we need to cherish the whole universe.
Or perhaps the truth is simply the reverse,
That your beauty just continued to amaze.
The castle was a stage-set where we played.
You climbed up flights of steps to pose as Juliet
While I implored below the balustrade.
But the populace were Montague and Capulet,
Grudge-hoarding to exact revenge and kill,
Years of bloodletting welling up to spill.
We climbed back down, the castle perched above.
So we criss-crossed the world, like travellers in a tale,
Far from the maimed city and its neo-Gothic pile,
A strange place to discover and unravel love.
Winner of WB Yeats Award, New York Yeats Society 2017
I fell for the lilt and echo of Dublin names,
Bohernabreena, Templeogue, Tinnock,
Their syllables trickled and spilled in streams
And foamed at the lock of Grand Canal Dock,
Rathfarnham, Rathgar, Ballybrack, Blackrock.
I loved the siren songs of their cadence,
Eden Quay, Ussher’s Island and Chapelizod,
Old Gaelic, Imperial, Norman and Norse.
They shone like rainy cobbles along the road
Where the Dargle, Dodder and Tolka flowed.
Who curled up in comfort out in Bride’s Glen?
Or sheltered from storms in Windy Arbour?
What on earth did they store in Dolphin’s Barn?
The riddling reel of words held the answer
Like the bobbing boats in Bullock Harbour.
Leopardstown, Fairyhouse, the Phoenix Park,
Bright jockeys gallop past bellowing crowds,
But their colours grew dim in the falling dark
And Misery Hill wore black clerical clouds,
The shawls of women like threadbare shrouds.
Horizons dazzle and the world is wide.
So, Casablanca, Cairo, Rangoon, Rome.
Still I was pulled back by the Poolbeg tide.
Cuba, Nepal? Wanderlust is another tome.
Long hooks and harpoons haul us home.
Pigeon House Road to Sandymount Green –
Where will I stroll to wave a final adieu?
Harold’s Cross, Portobello, or on into town?
There’s a road in Ranelagh called Mountain View.
You can just see the hills, and that will do.
Published in the Irish Times - Poem of the Week, March 20, 2021
Painting by Rafael Mahdavi
Published by The American University of Paris
Illustrations by Alice Meyer- Wallace
Rory Brennan lives in Dublin where he grew up and attended Trinity College there. He taught abroad for several years in places as various as Morocco and Sweden.
He has worked in Ireland as an educational broadcaster, an arts administrator and he lectured in Communications in Dublin City University until recently.
He has lived on the Aegean island of Paros for long periods, which provided a setting for many of his poems, and he currently spends the summers there.
He is married to Fionnuala Brennan, a travel writer and novelist,
and they have two adult daughters.
He has published half a dozen collections of poetry and many reviews and articles. His work has appeared in The Irish Times, The Times Literary Supplement, Poetry Ireland Review and other periodicals and anthologies.
His awards range from one in memory of Patrick Kavanagh (1978) to the W. B. Yeats Prize of the New York Yeats Society (2017).
Rory Brennan has contributed articles and reviews to various outlets but for the last thirty or so years he has reviewed works of history, fiction, poetry and literary criticism for Books Ireland, the Irish counterpart of the London or New York Reviews of Books, though in magazine rather than newsprint format.
He has also edited a special edition of Poetry Ireland Review devoted to a reassessment of the significant Irish poet Austin Clarke.
A selection of Books Ireland reviews, both recent and from earlier editions, are appended below;
COLLABORATIONS WITH ARTISTS
Dancing with Luck
Rafael Madhavi and Rory Brennan
Nine paintings and twenty-five poems
Published by American University of Paris Press
Rafael Madhavi was born in Mexico, grew up in Majorca and was educated in Vienna. To complete his cosmopolitan upbringing he attended art school in the US. An account of his early years can be found in his vivid memoir Villa Dolores (Amazon). He has held many exhibitions, solo and group, in international venues and has taught in art schools in Paris where he lived for many years. Rafael also sculpts and his work is displayed in the US and Spain.
He is the author of the novel 'You do it this way' (Amazon).
Rafael invited Rory to respond in poetry to a series of nine large paintings, widely ranging in subject but connected by the thread of chance. Rory's response was in the form of twenty-five sonnets with the collective title, A Gavotte with Fate.
Peter Macken provided his skills as a book designer and this very fine hardback edition was published under the imprint of the American University of Paris.
RAFEAL MAHDAVI, ARTIST
Skylights or The Adoration of the Lamb.
Euphrosyne Doxiadis and Rory Brennan.
A painting and six poems in English and Spanish
Published by The Aegean Centre Press, Paros, Greece
Euphrosyne Doxiadis is both a painter and an art historian. She brings a uniquely informed perspective to both activities. Her Thames and Hudson book on the remarkable Egyptian Fayum portraits won widespread acclaim.
This book began with someone in Euphrosyne's studio remarking, Velasquez tinted the sky with marble dust, thus making Rory a present of the first line of a villanelle.
Five more followed on Euphrosyne's splendid work, Peter Macken readily stepped in to design the project with matching details from her picture and the local art school where Euphrosyne has lectured agreed to bring out this superbly produced “little gem” of a book.
EUPHROSYNE DIODAXIS, ARTIST & AUTHOR
PETER MACKEN, GRAPHIC ARTIST & SCULPTOR
The Morality of Owls
Sculpture by Peter Macken
Short film by Peter Macken
Poem above by Rory Brennan
Peter Macken is Belgian and lives in Antwerp and on Paros in the Aegean. He underwent extensive training at art college in Louvain before he practiced as a graphic designer in all aspects of the field and for such clients as Cirque du Soleil. He now paints and sculpts, bringing to the latter form some very unique concepts and techniques.
Peter sculpted a piece based on the owl poem in Rory's sequence,
A Gavotte with Fate and then made this short film that elegantly captures the mood
and theme of that poem.
The film has been accepted for the Video/Mixed Media website of the Atticus Review.
The Wind Messages
Illustrations by Alice Myer-Wallace
Poems by Rory Brennan
A chap book
Alice Meyer Wallace has followed the avocation of painter all her life.
She studied at Rhode Island School of Art and now lives in Philadelphia,
on Paros in Greece and in Majorca where she formed part of the circle that included the celebrated poet Robert Graves.
She has had many group and solo exhibitions in Europe and the US.
ALICE MAYER-WALLCE, ARTIST