A Universe of Influences
Working on this collection was an invitation to stroll through, linger and consider not only serious poetic practice, but to be intimately privy to a poet’s internalized universe of influences, experiences, loves and losses. To be given the trust to explore the manuscript freely with my own editorial instinct and acumen, was daunting to say the least, at first, though whatever trepidation I felt soon eased into a feast of exploration. That my ‘readings’ were meritorious of both John’s personal praise and met the publisher’s exacting expectations were rewards beyond my personal expectation, and for which I am and always will be, deeply appreciative.
John Ennis crafts a poetic discourse throughout his collections like a master weaver. It takes a moment for the true depth of connectivity to surface, often with breath-taking subtlety. From myth to family members, friends and lovers, Ennis’s poems reveal themselves as landmarks in a landscape that is deeply traditional, with its roots embedded in Ancient Irish folklore, Old English and Norse and woven through rural symbolism, and myth, while fearlessly rendering an undeniable fragility and humanity throughout. The reader is a participant, not merely an observer – from engaging dinners, to intimate reflections when the poet reveals his love of music and birdsong, his attachment to midland life and its people; his reverence for the classics and his advocacy for those facing human rights’ violations.
Poems address ‘the troubles’ with glaring intimacy and emotional rawness in the spotlight of honesty; others detail the brutalities of the endless middle-eastern conflict alongside poems lamenting the fate of the women who dare to be ‘Pussy Riot’. Each poem reveals how artists should never avert their gaze.
Leading off the poems, and central to them, is the persona of Suibhne, the archetypal wanderer or dispossessed of all human times: Suibhne, other, quite mad, recalcitrant, the always potentially violent anti-social geilt of Irish and Norse myth. Less obvious, yet no less intriguing, is the collection’s underlay; an exploration of self and the ‘myth’ of home. John Ennis’s outrage is particularly honed, sharpened and applied with the precision of a scalpel, to the inner sensibility of the idea that is ‘America, home of the brave’, captured in ‘Going Home to Wyoming’, based on John Ford’s film Cheyenne Autumn of 1964. This is a collection of a man taking a deeply personal stand, staking his claim and inviting us to ask of ourselves, where do we stand, in our personal humanity. It seems to me, no other question is more prescient or relevant, as we watch values burn, living as we do, with the very real existential threat of Covid19: who are we, really?
Renée Sigel, Co-Editor, Poet, Editor, Publisher Rare Swan Press / Literati Magazine
*Going Home To Wyoming: Later Selected Poems by John Ennis (2000-2020) is published by Book Hub Publishing and the books are available from www.bookhubpublishing.com and selected bookstores.