Poetry by John F. Deane
"Manhandling the Deity"
published in 2003 by
Carcanet Press
Pat O’Brien wrote in The Furrow: “The individual poems within
Manhandling the Deity retain their stringent unity and stand alone, but they
come together in one heartbreaking, spirit-healing work which marks a
major achievement in contemporary Irish poetry”.

“John F. Deane, with Manhandling the Deity, has produced a work worthy of
the great spirits it calls to mind. It deserves ‘attending, and standing still’
before its achievement.”  

Judy Kendall in
PNReview writes: “John F. Deane rewrites the litanies of the
mass, making the ritual phrase new. The Deity, handled by this man, is
everywhere, even in the smallest ‘faults’ - men’s shelters, bird’s nests, an
egg-woman’s yard. He lays them on the line with generous, daring humility
and skill”.
Alison Brackenbury in Poetry Review writes  “… the forms of Deane’s art
are strongly felt and seductive, secure in line, reassuring in rhyme. 'Late
October Evening' takes a certain kind of melodious, rhymed lyric almost
to perfection. . . I read and re-read the music of John Deane: a fine poet
for our lives’ divided seasons”.  

And the
Irish Times said: “No other contemporary Irish poet, and few
Irish writers, have mastered the art of eloquent, impassioned expression
as artistic statement so beautifully as John F. Deane. This is a major
European writer of conscience well noted by his international peers”; . . .
“in common with Yeats and Kinsella, Deane possesses an instinctive feel
for beauty.” “It is a beautiful collection”.

PN Review, Fred Marchant writes: “Deane’s new book 'The
Instruments of Art' has an extraordinary thematic sweep. The poems
move from the self and its relations to family and loved ones, to the
citizen and his relations with nation and state, to our animal nature, and
our relations to the natural world as a whole. And at the far end of his
thematic spectrum, we find Deane’s enduring inquiry into the nature of
the human soul and its relations to whatever gods there are. Both in
ambition and achievement, this is a major book of poetry”.  

“His confrontation with the world is a passionate confrontation. In the
contemporary world this is an uncommon stance – beyond questions of
fashion or of innovation. Every utterance is a poetic moment”
Late October Evening

We sat and watched the darkness close
— like a slow galleon under black sail
nearing; and grew conscious again of those
of our loved dead who might come, pale

in their murmuring group, up the long road
towards us. Thrush and blackbird hurled
valiant songs against the gloom as though
this was the first dying of the world.

You and I drew closer still
in the fire’s glow, grateful this far
for love and friendship, while the low hill
melded with the dark and a perfect star

swung on its shoulder. When I turned back,
near sleep, to hold you, I could pray
our dead content again under black
sails, the tide brimming, then falling away.

from "The Instruments of Art"

A small row-boat on Keel Lake,
the water sluppering gently as he rowed,
the easy sh-sh-sshhhh of the reeds

as we drifted in, and all about us
tufts of bog-cotton like white moths,
the breathing heathers, that green-easy lift

into the slopes of Slievemore. All else
the silence of islands, and the awe
of small things wonderful : son,

father, on the one keel, the ripples
lazy and the surfaces of things unbroken.
Then the prideful swish of his line

fly-fishing, the curved rod graceful,
till suddenly may-fly were everywhere,
small water-coloured shapes like tissue,

sweet as the host to trout and - by Jove!
he whispered, old man astounded again
at the frenzy that is in all living.

from "Manhandling the Deity"
Achill Island
A New Poem    12 July 2007

(Rusheen: Achill Island)

You may step off the old stone pier
onto the world at the ocean’s edge, over boulders,
lichened rocks, erratics; the sea idling, long

arms of kelp sashaying in the swell;
you may be part of something, between-wheres
between-times, the distant islands shrouded,

the inland meadows dulled. In soft
off-the-Atlantic and persistent mists, you will stand
absorbed, flesh-heavy, anticipating spirit-shapes

and their whisperings as they pass, incautiously, by;
up on the mountain road the toiling
engine of a truck is an intrusion

yet a strong lien holds you to the invisible
and almost-visible, while you are relishing
the all-embracing ovoid bone-structuring

of the earth. Too soon this solitary existence
will have become so exquisite you will call
out urgently for companionship.