The Candlelight Master
‘I can’t bear the thought of a world without Michael Longley, yet his poetry keeps hurtling towards that fact more and more urgently as it stretches in an unflinching way beyond comfort or certainty.’ So wrote Maria Johnston, reviewing Longley’s previous book Angel Hill. Yet The Candlelight Master does not only face into shadows. The title poem sums up the chiaroscuro of this collection, named after a mysterious Baroque painter.
Other poems about painters – Matisse, Bonnard – imply that age makes the quest for artistic perfection all the more vital. A poem addressed to the eighth-century Japanese poet, Otomo Yakamochi, says: ‘We gaze on our soul-landscapes / More intensely with every year.’ The soul-landscape of The Candlelight Master is often a landscape of memory. But if Longley looks back over formative experiences, and over the forms he has given them, he channels memory into freshly fluid structures.
His new poems about war and the Holocaust speak to our own dark times. Translation brings dead poets up to date too. The bawdy of Catullus becomes Scots ‘Hochmagandy’. Yakamochi and the lyric poets of Ancient Greece find themselves at home in Longley’s Carrigskeewaun.
About the Author
One of Northern Ireland’s foremost contemporary poets, Michael Longley was born on July 27, 1939. He is renowned for the quiet beauty of his compact, meditative lyrics. He is the author of many poetry collections, including Angel Hill (2017); The Stairwell (2015), which received the 2015 International Griffin Poetry Prize; The Ghost Orchid (2012); The Weather in Japan (2000), which won the Irish Times Literature Prize for Poetry, the Hawthornden Prize, and the T.S. Eliot Prize; and Gorse Fires (1991), winner of the Whitbread Poetry Prize. In 2001 Longley was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
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