The Book of Kells (Paperback)
Cascade Books, 9781532606366, 88pp.
Publication Date: December 13, 2018
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Barbara Crooker's eighth book of poetry, The Book of Kells, focuses on the illuminated medieval manuscript with a series of meditations on its various aspects, from the ink and pigments used by the scribes and illustrators to the various plants, animals, and figures depicted on its pages, including the punctuation and use of decoration in the capital letters. It also contains poems on the flora and fauna of Ireland (swans, hares, magpies, fuchsia, gorse, crocosmia, etc.) that Crooker encountered during writing residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in County Monaghan. The third thread in this volume is a series of glosas, a fifteenth-century Spanish form that incorporates a quatrain from other poems; here, Irish writers (Yeats, Heaney, O'Driscoll) provide the embedded lines. In her work, Crooker considers the struggle to pin lines to the page, to tie experience to the written word, to wrestle between faith and doubt, to accept the aging body as it tries to be fully alive in the world. Crooker contrasts the age of faith, when the Book of Kells was created, to our modern age of doubt, and uses as her foundation the old stones of Irish myth and lore from pre-Christian times. She juxtaposes a time when the written word was laborious and sacred against our electronic world, where communication by pixel is easy and brief. Above all, she captures the awe that the word inspired in preliterate times: ""The world was the Book of God. The alphabet shimmered and buzzed with beauty."" ""Somehow Barbara Crooker has fastened it all to the page here: the sweet green world of Ireland, with its glorious Book of Kells, its age-old humor, its inimitable music, its poets with their delicious bendy language, so that you can almost taste those buttery scones and its peat-laced Irish whiskey. There's so much to love in this collection, to return to over and over: poems which this faithful scribe has gifted us with, in the long line of those ancient monks, her with a notebook in one hand, and a pen in the other."" --Paul Mariani, Professor of Poetry, Boston College ""In turns playful and provocative, The Book of Kells offers us a finely attuned look at both the eponymous text and Ireland. Ancient words and worlds come alive by Crooker's careful eye: sheep clotting the green fields and blackbirds chuffing at the sky, snakes curling around illuminated script whose color fireworks across the centuries in impossibly quiet splendor--indeed, these poems capture so much wonder at the wide, wild, weary moments of being human and looking for God, letter by letter, loss by loss, lake by lake. The Book of Kells is a treasure."" --Susanna Childress, Assistant Professor, Hope College ""It's hard not to be startled by both the how of her rendering and the what of which she makes such music, something created by monks 1,400 years ago. This is thrilling stuff: 'six hundred steps to the scriptoria / on rocks piled by the hand of God' and the 'castellated outcrops terrifying / above the brooding sea.' And lizards slithering in the text, animals as punctuation, peacocks everywhere. ' A]n N made up of two wrestling men.' She gives us that long ago Ireland, then today's as seen through the feeling eyes of a poet on retreat. This book is a wonder, a departure from Crooker's celebrated domestic work, and gloriously so."" --Greg McBride, editor of The Innisfree Poetry Review Barbara Crooker is a poetry editor for Italian-Americana, and the author of seven previous full-length books and twelve chapbooks of poetry. Her work has appeared in many anthologies, including The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Imago Dei: Poems from Christianity and Literature, and Looking for God in All the Right Places. She has received a number of awards, including the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award and three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships.