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Alan Gillis‘s The Readiness is a volume that moves fluently among various modes of poetic expression: the lyric, one of his most beautiful and assured; the gritty, one of his most familiar; and the comic, one of his most form-splitting. He can be darkly profound and lovingly comic, bitingly indicative, and compassionately pained. Gillis writes poems that measure our cultural morass with the love, pity, and sarcasm that it deserves. From the opening title poem, the volume is set in the terms Hamlet finally comes to at the end of the play: “There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow… the readiness is all.” Gillis concludes:
So make sure you’re up to speed
when, at sunset or dawn,
worms vex the seed,
crows shadow the corn.
The shadowy threats that appear throughout the volume are met in “Late Spring” by how the beauty of “a green / world moves through // us in slow motion.” They are also answered by the “quake” of recognition in a poem like “The Dote” that leaves the poet’s “mind in the air.” Yet, the darkness remains. We readers must also be ready, and, as the poet insists, we “know this, / the oncoming day, is nothing / but the night’s brief parenthesis.”
“Gillis is the dark star of contemporary Irish poetry, and a major talent.”
— Conor O’Callaghan, Poetry Magazine
“Gillis gives contemporary poetry a much-needed shot in the arm; poetic language is vivified, made stimulating and vital, in poems that leave the reader hanging on for dear life over every expertly-executed turn.”
— Maria Johnston, Poetry Ireland Review
“Gillis’s … ability to take a hammer to polite pieties does not involve sacrificing the ability to write affectingly about how we live now.”
— John McAuliffe, The Irish Times
“The first time I looked into Alan Gillis’s poetry, I was completely taken by it. Even though there was so much to take in at first glance, I was immediately hooked by its linguistic exuberance, its intelligence, its black humor, its sometimes zany flights of imagination that are grounded in an emotional reality … the poems are often gloriously funny, formally brilliant, jinking deftly between streetwise talk and mordant rhetoric.”
About the Author
Alan Gillis is an Irish poet from Belfast who now lives in Scotland, where he teaches English at The University of Edinburgh. He has published four poetry collections with The Gallery Press: Scapegoat (2014), Here Comes the Night (2010), Hawks and Doves (2007), and Somebody, Somewhere (2004), which won the Strong Award for Best First Collection in Ireland. He has also been shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot prize, and for the Irish Times Poetry Now Award. In 2014 he was selected as a “Next Generation Poet” by the Poetry Book Society in the UK. As a critic, he is author of Irish Poetry of the 1930s (2005), and co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish Poetry (2012), both published by Oxford University Press, along with many essays on contemporary British and Irish poetry. From 2010 to 2015 he was editor of the Edinburgh Review.
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