"Dear Pilgrims"
Publication Date June 2018
With ‘Crocus: a brief history’, John F. Deane sets his Dear
Pilgrims in motion, a series of brief histories of time, a time
that is rich in incident and in redemption. In a decisively
secular age, Deane’s is a poetry of Christian belief. It
explores renewal, alive with and to the kinds of witness he
has learned from George Herbert, Gerard Manley Hopkins
and R.S. Thomas. His ‘I’, like theirs, makes space for a
reluctant ‘us’.

Dear Pilgrims includes actual pilgrimages. The poet moves
through England (East Anglia in particular), Israel and
Palestine, disclosing a ‘new testament’ that revisions the
Christian faith through the eyes of an unknown female
disciple of Christ. He vividly adapts the Middle English
poem Pearl and realises it for our time. He is also a master
of the sonnet as an instrument of love, doubt and faith.

The poet’s voice, perhaps because of the timeless wisdom
it carries, is vital and contemporary. It is no surprise that the
founder of Poetry Ireland and Dedalus Press is a poet of
wide reading and vision. The clarity of his verse and
purpose makes his voice unique. Rowan Williams
celebrates his ‘Music, a stony, damp and deeply alive
landscape (both Ireland and the Holy Land), a passionate
and searching engagement with God’.
Crocus: A Brief History

The crocus opens out to something
more than crocus, becomes a brief history
of time, the ology of cosmos, as a poem is –

impacted yellow of gold-dust, shape
of a baby-thumb all-tentative, prelude to a new year;
breath of fire from the dark earth, from the closed heart;

the rose-coloured: flush of love,
signature of the overture: – these sudden, these small
preliminaries – polyphony of crocus – demi-semi-quavers

of what will be an oratorio
of hollyhock, lupin, sunflower,
under the gold-full baton of the light.

                            for Thomas Leonard

'Deane's work has always been distinguished by the wholeness of it's vision, and
the poems of Dear Pilgrims are no exception: the joy and compassion of his
responses to the natural world are of a piece with his spiritual preoccupations,
and gesture towards his poetic forebears, in particular Hopkins and Kavanagh.'

Caitriona O'Reilly, The Irish Times

'Both these collections (Dear Pilgrims & The White Silhouette by James Harpur)
give the lie to the idea that it is no longer possible to think and write creatively
and freshly about religion in modern poetry: both Deane and Harpur look back
for some of their insights, especially biographically, but their poetry remains
conspicuously watching, tasting and touching today's world.'

Stride Magazine

'There is light and muscularity in these poems that sometimes unexpectedly
recalls Ted Hughes'

Stride Magazine