“Love took the words right out of my mouth.” So begins the first line of Christopher Jane Corkery’s poignant and unforgettable new collection of poems. Throughout the work these two themes—the power and mystery of language, especially the crafted one of poetry, and what Keats called “the holiness of the heart’s affections”—intertwine, accumulating a rich panoply of associations and meanings.
The occasions for Corkery’s poems are often domestic: the thrill of youthful romance, of marriage and family, of children inventing new worlds. Yet here also are a poet’s acts, psychological and spiritual, in a life which, like every reader’s life, contains plenty and its absence all at once.
Objects matter here—a bread board, a swing, a still life—but so do places (from New England to Paris and Seville). The poet is also joined by the ghostly presences of poets and mystics, from Teresa of Avila, John Keats, and George Herbert to Emily Dickinson and William Butler Yeats.
Again and again Corkery is drawn to the essential way that poetry enacts love. In fullness or in scarcity, in loving or in grief, both writer and reader are engaged, fulfilling the contract of poetry.