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In Still Life, Ciaran Carson guides us through centuries of art and around the Belfast Waterworks where he walks with his wife, Deirdre; into the chemo ward; into memory and the allusive quicksilver of his mind, always bidding us to look carefully at the details of a painter’s canvas, as well as the sunlight of day. This master translator chooses here to translate the painter’s brush with the poet’s pen, finding resemblances, echoes, and parallels. A thorn becomes the nib of a writer’s pencil and the pointed pipette of a chemo drip entering the poet’s vein. Yet, Deirdre stands as much in the center of these poems as do the paintings. At times, the two seem to escape into the paintings themselves: “Standing by the high farmstead in the upper left of the picture—there!—in a patch of / sunlight. … They could be us, out for a walk.” Balancing the desire to escape into the stillness and permanence of art with the insistent yearning to be fully present in each moment, Carson reminds us—“Look! … There!”—that in the midst of illness, even in the face of death, there is, still, life.
About the Author
Ciaran Carson was born in Belfast in 1948 and lived there his entire life. Educated at Queen’s University Belfast, he was appointed Chair of Poetry at its Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry in 2003 and oversaw the Belfast Writers’ Group. He was a poet, traditional musician, scholar of the Irish oral tradition, prose-writer, and translator. His awards include the first-ever T.S. Eliot Prize for First Language (1994), the Forward Prize for Best Collection for Breaking News (2003), and the Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize for his version of Dante’s Inferno. He is the author of sixteen books of poetry, including his most recent, From There to Here: Selected Poems and Translations (2019). He died in October 2019 at the age of 70.
"This beautiful collection offers a lasting, life-affirming tribute to human relationships, memory, and the shared experience of art." —Publishers Weekly