Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Remembered Kisses - an Illustrated Anthology of Irish Love Poetry~ Ed. by Fleur Robinson

Ten years ago, when I was newly married and expecting my first child, I bought this very special book for my husband on St. Valentine's Day.  Each year, he and I buy each other a book of poetry on the 14th February, it is the only annual tradition which has lasted over the years.  The little book shop where I found this particular volume has long since closed down, but I have not forgotten it.

I was hot and bothered with my ever-growing bump and was almost ready to leave the shop when a helpful shop assistant took pity on me and came to my aid.
'I'm looking for something for my husband, for Valentine's Day', I said.  'He likes poetry'.  She offered me a collection of various books, all with serious, dour-looking covers, but nothing said 'love', to me.

So I moved to the 'art interest' section of the shop.  Perhaps a book on the Impressionist painters, I thought.  But the books looked so large and heavy, as art books always do.  I thought of my pinching shoes and my thickening ankles.  I didn't think I could face hauling a giant tome all the way home.

I would have to come up with an alternative idea, breaking the tradition, just this once.

But then, I saw a a title, 'Remembered Kisses', peeking out me.  When I pulled the book from its hiding place, I felt the surge of joy that I am sure you too, dear reader, have known: the pleasure experienced on finding the perfect book.

The book was a collection of Irish love poems, each one paired with a complementary painting by an Irish artist, which explains why it was categorised as an art book in the first place.

I fairly skipped home that day, bump and all, rejoicing at my find.

Yeats, Mahon, Heaney, they are all here, as are Lavery, O'Conor and Orpen.  Great poets and painters alike; a sensory heaven for the poetically minded.  Every time you open a page, the reader is presented with a beautifully delineated image and a finely crafted poem, each one adding layers of meaning to the other, regardless of whether poet or painter ever intended it that way.

This is a book to dip into and to marvel at.  It is said that Ireland is a place of saints and scholars.  I know nothing of that, yet this book reads as a testament to the many wonderful artists and poets that Ireland has given birth to over the years.  The theme of the poems and paintings reflect the themes of Ireland itself: a country coming to terms with its colonial history and its emergence as an independent state; its violence and its passion; its personal triumphs and national failures.

Yet each poem and every painting presents something unique and ultimately very personal, an artists experience of the world around them, making this anthology an especially important account of life through the discerning eye of master analysts; an diary in words and pictures, of Irish live over the last 300 years.

But for me, every time I pick up this beautiful, richly presented volume, I always remember the manner in which I came upon it, and think to myself that sometimes the best things in life are found in the most unexpected of places.

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