Volume 72, Issue 5
October 5, 2000

Poet Eamon Grennan presents reading

Andria Hayes-Birchler


Noted poet Eamon Grennan read from his
work in the Sophie Kerr room Friday.

Photograph by Christina Vouros, Elm photographer.

Despite the beautiful weather, the Sophie Kerr room was packed September 29 with an audience eager to hear the words of visiting poet Eamon Grennan.

Grennan, a well-known and award-winning poet, was born in Dublin, Ireland and graduated from University College, Dublin. He then came to the United States and received his doctorate from Harvard. The poet, who is also a professor at Vassar College, has been published internationally in magazines and journals, including Cyphers, the Irish Times, the New Yorker, the Poetry Ireland Review, and the Paris Review, among others.

Professor Robert Mooney introduced Grennan, speaking of him as "a man of finely tuned judgement and admirable resolve."

Mooney described Grennan's work as "remarkable poetry, which speaks to us in the tone of a relaxed and interested friend."

Following Mooney's introduction, Grennan read seventeen poems, giving a small introduction or afterthought to each. The poet gave precise explanations for the technical and personal aspects of the words and situations in his works. These details included the origin of words, such as the explanation that "angel" once meant messenger, as well as descriptions of the poet's memories.

Grennan described for the audience everything from details of his son's college life to Greek mythology to where linens are made in Europe.

The first poem he read was "Wing Road," detailing a garbage collector's morning at work. Grennan described the poem as "taking an ordinary occasion and trying to mix in a tiny glimmer of something else."

Grennan also read three poems about his children entitled "Pause," "Two Gathering," and "A Streak of Light."

"Two Gathering," the longest poem he presented at the reading, told the story of a father and daughter gathering mussels together and contemplating one another at the same time. "A Streak of Light" evoked laughter from the audience, as it told the story of his son streaking naked across a field with friends.

"Ants," "Desire," "Window Grave," "Bat," "Incident," "Artist at Work," and "Lesson" all used animals as carriers of images and emotions. Grennan spoke of his fascination with animals, and many of his poems described their life and death.

"Woman at Lit Window" was a favorite among many audience members.

Telling of the voyeur in each of us, the poem told a story of a man watching a woman from outside her window. Images of light and darkness took shape, including references to the glow of fireflies, which - as Grennan informed the audience - was "a sexual call."

Sophomore Shane Brill said of the reading, "The tenacious exactitude of Grennan's imagery demonstrates his mastery of the form as his words thrum to life."

Following the reading, audience members were invited to join Grennan for dinner at the O' Neill Literary House.

On the way to the house, Grennan asked about paintings of Sophie Kerr, poems hanging on the library walls, and inquired about the type of tree that grew next to the Cater Walk. He spoke with everyone, as he dined in the company of students and faculty on the porch of the O'Neil Literary House.

"You have to love the language," he said when asked about advice for aspiring poets. "You must read and have an openness to the language as it is used by good poets. Don't worry about poetry as a profession. Use it to make sense of your life."

Grennan's own love for the language began at boarding school where he felt very alone. He began as a reader but soon turned to poetry, newspapers, and magazines to develop his writing. The poet attended graduate school because "I wanted to stay close to books, and I didn't have anything else to do."

Grennan said he later stopped writing for a while but began again in his thirties.

"Things don't happen in order. They don't happen with reason," he said of his own writing career. "It is best to use language to make sense of things."