In this powerful, evocative collection, master storyteller John ODonohue explores themes of love and loss, beginnings and endings. Inspired by the ancient wisdom of the Celtic tradition and the rugged, majestic landscape of his birth, the west of Ireland, here he also creates a unique vision of a place and time, and the echo of a memory that will never fade.
John O'Donohue passed away in January 2008, aged just 52. Recognized by many as one of the most charismatic, inspirational writers of his day, John lived in the solitude of a cottage in the West of Ireland and spoke Gaelic as his native language. The writer David Whyte elegantly described John as 'a serious philosopher, [a] critical take-no-prisoners thinker, the responsible head of a close, extended family, and the courageous, almost sacrificial activist, who with a group of North Burren allies, took on the might of the Irish establishment and won a victory that changed Irish law at a foundational level. This is a man who could hold the broad spectrum of human experience together in a fierce, intimate and compassionate way, leavened with a humour that defies easy description.
John O'Donohue was awarded a Ph.D. in philosophical theology from the University of Tbingen in 1990. He wrote several major works, including two poetry collections, Echoes of Memory and Conamara Blues, and the international bestsellers, Anam Cara, Eternal Echoes and Divine Beauty.
His taut concise pieces use words and syntax with the sort of freedom that comes after mastery.
- Books Ireland
In these poems, the west of Ireland landscape and climate in all their harshness are metaphors for the emotional climate of the work.
- Poetry Ireland Review
`There are certain threads that run through the work of John ODonohue. They manifest themselves with different colours and textures. The form may change for different purposes of rhythm and resonance, but the intention remains constant. It is grounded in human vulnerability and the desire, the longing, for a connection to the wonder of the divine in nature, and human life within it.
- Michael D. Higgins, politician, writer and broadcaster
Everyone was surprised when, in 1997, a book of philosophical thoughts and prayers drawing on old Irish religious writings became an international bestseller. It was called Anam Cara, and its author, John ODonohue, then a curate in Co. Galway, found himself thrust into the limelight.
There followed several further successful books, but early last year his life was tragically cut short at the age of 52. This volume of poems, a handsome reissue of his first book from 1994, is a fitting memorial.
Lelia Doolin, an old friend of the poet, contributes a sensitive new introduction to the book. Elsewhere, she has said that, though ODonohue left the active ministry after Anam Cara was published, he was in a sense a one-man church himself.
These fine poems bear this out. They blend an exuberant appreciation of the land of Ireland with a thoughtful, probing attitude to matters of the spirit. The poet has as little time for theological complexities or churchianity as he does for literary rhetoric: he tackles many of the biggest questions that we face on our journey through life, but he does so in language that is as simple and unselfconscious as a conversation between friends.
Many of the poems in this book examine the mysteries surrounding death: one of these, Beannacht, written for his mother, is already justly famous. Another, November Question, may serve as a monument to both its subject and its author. In it the poet addresses his beloved uncle Pete, who died in 1978. At the end of the poem, he inquires:
Have you someone there
that you can talk to,
someone who is drawn
to the life you carry?
With your new eyes
can you see from within?
Is it we who seem
- Reviewed by John Wyse Jackson, The Irish Catholic, November 2009