Biography of Eamon Grennan
Eamon Grennan is an Irish poet born in Dublin. He has lived in the United States, except for brief periods, since 1964. He was the Dexter M. Ferry, Jr. Professor of English at Vassar College until his retirement in 2004.
Though his Irish roots are clear in his poetry, Grennan has an international sense of literary tradition. He has cited as influences American poets including Robert Frost and Elizabeth Bishop (herself an international poet with ties to the U.S., Canada, and Brazil). In addition to writing poetry, he has translated Giacomo Leopardi and—with his wife, Vassar classicist Rachel Kitzinger—Sophocles's Oedipus at Colonus.
Grennan studied at University College, Dublin, where he met poets Derek Mahon and Eavan Boland, and at Harvard University, and began teaching at Vassar in 1974. He returned to Ireland fairly briefly, first in 1977 and later in 1981, and began writing poetry there. His first book, Wildly for Days, was published in 1983. Gaelic poetry became an important influence, particularly, he has said, on the sound of his poems. At the same time, he is interested in the sentence as a poetic unit as well as a prose unit. In an interview with Timothy Cahill, Grennan said:
I have, it's a toothache quality, a kind of pain -- the ambition to make a sentence that is full, that has not gone limp, hasn't stopped while it still has some elasticity in it.
Grennan's career has been long, productive and distinguished, and he has earned from fellow poets a reputation for lyrical skill and psychological intensity. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins said of Grennan:
Few poets are as generous as Eamon Grennan in the sheer volume of delight his poems convey, and fewer still are as attentive to the marvels of the earth. To read him is to be led on a walk through the natural world of clover and cricket and, most of all, light, and to face with an open heart the complexity of being human.
Grennan was shortlisted for the 2008 Poetry Now Award for his collection, Out of Breath.
Eamon Grennan's Works:
Matter of Fact. St. Paul, MN: Graywolf, 2008
Out of Breath. Gallery Books, 2007
The Quick of It. St. Paul, MN: Graywolf, 2005.
Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus. Trans. with Rachel Kitzinger. Oxford, 2004.
Renvyle, Winter. Philadelphia: Pointed Press, 2003.
Still Life with Waterfall. St. Paul, MN: Graywolf, 2002.
Selected & New Poems. Dublin: Gallery Press, 2000.
Provincetown Sketches. Aralia Press, 2000.
Facing the Music: Irish Poetry in the Twentieth Century. Omaha: Creighton University Press, 1999.
Relations: New & Selected Poems. St. Paul, MN: Graywolf, 1998.
Selected Poems of Giacomo Leopardi. Trans. Princeton: Lockert Library of Poetry in Translation, Princeton University Press, 1997.
So It Goes. St. Paul, MN: Graywolf, 1995.
As If It Matters. St. Paul, MN: Graywolf, 1992.
What Light There Is and Other Poems. New York: North Point Press, 1989.
Twelve Poems. San Francisco: Occasional Works, 1988.
Wildly for Days. Dublin: Gallery Press, 1983.
Cat Scat North Point Press, 1988.
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Eamon Grennan Poems
At her Junior High School graduation, she sings alone in front of the lot of us--
I am watching Cleo listening, our cat listening to Mozart's Magic Flute. What can she be hearing? What can the air carry into her ears like that,
Through an accidental crack in the curtain I can see the eight o'clock light change from charcoal to a faint gassy blue, inventing things
On A Cape May Warbler Who Flew Against M...
She's stopped in her southern tracks Brought haply to this hard knock When she shoots from the tall spruce And snaps her neck on the glass.
Looking for distinctive stones, I found the dead otter rotting by the tideline, and carried all day the scent of this savage valediction. That headlong high sound the oystercatcher makes came echoing through the rocky cove
Untitled: Back they Sputter
Back they sputter like the fires of love, the bees to their broken home Which they're putting together again for dear life, knowing nothing Of the heart beating under their floorboards, besieged here, seeking A life of its own. All day their brisk shadows zigzag and flicker
The whole chorus saying only one thing: look at what goes, where we stand in the midst of it: Golden eyes of the beginning, deep patience of the end. Stone-deaf, the rocks in silence
The Cave Painters
Holding only a handful of rushlight they pressed deeper into the dark, at a crouch until the great rock chamber flowered around them and they stood
All Souls' over, the roast seeds eaten, I set on a backporch post our sculpted pumpkin under the weather, warm still for November. Night and day it gapes in at us
Watching it closely, respecting its mystery, is the note you've pinned above this heavy Dutch table that takes the light weight of what you work at, coaxing the seen and any mystery it might secrete
Scattered through the ragtaggle underbrush starting to show green shoots lie the dark remains of rail sleepers napping now beside the rusted-out wreck of a Chevy that was once sky-blue and now is nothing but shattered panels and anonymous bits of engine in the ditch by a path that was once a railway line
Looking for distinctive stones, I found the dead otter
rotting by the tideline, and carried all day the scent of this savage
valediction. That headlong high sound the oystercatcher makes
came echoing through the rocky cove
where a cormorant was feeding and submarining in the bay
and a heron rose off a boulder where he'd been invisible,
drifted a little, stood again -- a hieroglyph
or just longevity reflecting on itself
between the sky clouding over and the lightly ruffled water.