VIII Stepping Poems & other pieces brings together ten years of work from Irish poet, critic and art practitioner Fergal Gaynor. This is poetry in the modernist tradition, often in experimental forms. The Stepping Poems make apparent a surrounding silence or inarticulacy; the terse, gnomic triads of the Runes are based on Old Irish riddling forms. Through these forms recurring themes are refracted: location, especially Gaynor’s native Cork City and Munster region; the presence of history, often as fossilized remains, in XI Pieces for Austria-Hungary; and the contemporary, as something alien and urgent, the subject of science fiction. VIII Stepping Poems & other pieces is at once learned and passionate, impersonal and highly individual.
Reviews & Such
- In these aphoristic poems, Gaynor assembles an intricate tracery of speech-gestures that thread through the labyrinth of the city and the constantly shifting terrain of thought that takes off from it. Never losing their contact with the phenomenal, or with the “flotsam of history” whose debris they measure, these poems nonetheless take off into lyric flights and philosophical excursuses that have no evident precedent in Irish poetry. This is a poetry through which an Irish matter articulates with a rich European field of allusion and technique. It bears reading, again and again, step by step. —David Lloyd
- Though I’ve watched this book grow over the course of a decade, I’m still surprised by it. The terrain has been deep history and the earlier thinkers and artists who have been engaged through that to develop and keep alive possibilities for imagination. But it’s the poems of the last few years that reach beyond to something unexpected. In the Stepping Poems, Runes, Pieces for Austria-Hungary, and From Lower Realms, the learned language of poetry begins suddenly to exercise itself, and the thematics change radically from the materials of intelligent discourse to something entirely else, no longer separable from the poetic forms, but forming and being formed by them. That’s the surprise: after so much learning, a poetry that is fresh, inventive, and supple enough to live with. —Trevor Joyce
- There is a lot going on here, barely a line in which something does not happen, linguistically, intellectually or (although it may not at first seem so) emotionally. Fergal Gaynor’s first full-length collection brings together over ten years’ writing and as such unsurprisingly exhibits a considerable variety of work. There is the spare lyricism of the title Stepping Poems and Runes, condensed to the point of ellipsis. There are poems about Ireland and his home city of Cork, portraits of Elizabeth Bowen, Beckett and Nietzsche, and a superb evocation of the world of J.S. Bach. The collection finishes with the strangely powerful gnostic references of From Lower Realms, transposed into a modern context. In all the poems however there is a consistent economy, a razor-like sharpness of thought and image, which pleases and surprises. This is fine writing in both senses of the word. —Geoffrey Squires
About the Author
Fergal Gaynor was born in Cork City (Ireland) in 1969, of Tipperary parents (a lecturer in Ancient Classics and a National School teacher). Educated in Cork, Sheffield, and Swansea, he was awarded a doctorate in 2002 for a thesis on D.H. Lawrence, Cézanne and modernism. Since 2000, when he co-founded the art interventionist group Art / not art, he has been continually involved in the arts, especially in his native city: regularly performing and collaborating, curating (e.g. the Cork Caucus in 2005), assisting with the SoundEye Festival, devising (e.g. The Avant: Ten Days of the Progressive Arts), editing (ER : Enclave Review) and writing criticism (chiefly for Circa Contemporary Art Magazine). He is married to the baroque violinist Marja Gaynor (née Tuhkanen) with whom he has a daughter, Eleanor.