Quiet in a Quiet House
|Richard W. Halperin|
Page Count: 80
Publication Date: Monday, January 11, 2016
Cover Artwork: Jessie Lendennie. Design: Siobhan Hutson
About this Book
Quiet in a Quiet House is a collection of poems about people and places no longer here. The landscape, whether Ireland, Italy, France, Japan, is characterised by quiet – interrupted at points by keening, by gales of laughter, by rants. Memory cuts both ways, past and future. People are depicted as souls – as in these lines about a woman shoring herself up to enter her own house: ‘Not polite to barge in, but:/there’s the step, there’s the door. It has to/be done. It’s like eating a small cake,/courage. She enters, her dog at her side,/sunshine at her back, and deep shade.’
Richard W. Halperin, an Irish/U.S. dual-national, is widely published in journals and magazines in Ireland and the U.K. His first-prize poem ‘Snow Falling, Lady Murasaki Watching’ is on permanent display in the Hawk’s Well Theatre, Sligo. The collections Shy White Tiger and Anniversary, respectively 2013 and 2010, are published by Salmon. The latter book appeared in Japanese translation in 2012 (Kindaibungei-sha Press, Tokyo), and has recently been translated into French under the title Présence. Four chapbooks have been published by Lapwing, Belfast, the latest entitled Blue Flower. Mr Halperin debuted as a reader in 2006 at Glenstal Abbey and at Glencree Centre for Reconciliation, and has since read at most major venues in Ireland. He has begun giving bilingual readings in Paris, where he lives. Before retirement from humanitarian work in 2005, he was chief of section for teacher education, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. There he edited Reading and Writing Poetry: The Recommendations of Noted Poets from Many Lands on the Teaching of Poetry in Secondary Schools (UNESCO, Paris, 2005), downloadable gratis from the internet in English, French and Spanish. Mr Halperin holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from the City University of New York.
Read a sample from this book
The Animals All Knew, Without Saying
Quiet in a quiet house is a good thing.
Panic at quiet in a quiet house is a
Leaper – to the mouth, hand leaping to the mouth
To stuff the panic back.
Is the doppelgänger in the mirror, is
The other Tristan, Iseult nowhere where
She should be which is why the house is quiet.
Negative ions are good things, Science says,
Negative ions are good things. My ears pop
As if I’m in a plane, and I am in the eye
Of quiet. The ear adjusts, like a cowed dog.
So quiet the house, the chair, the heart, the hour,
The world an anvil, I an anvil, waiting for
Christ the Hammerer.
He said in fact a usual thing.
People who do not have the experience
They should not make a discussion of it.
They are a distraction.
I can see the moon go on.
I cannot see her go on.
Pools reflect this
was like us.
‘Seagulls’ by Eileen Casey from a
literary event in Clogh Kilkenny
in 2005: in the swirl and suck and uplift
of masses of birds an African man
climbs a hill in Tallaght on a chilly windy day
a shopping centre far below
and the poet wonders
what she’s doing there and what he’s doing there
and thanks to her I wonder what Ireland
the west coast of which came up
from southern Africa
millions of years ago is doing there
and the only here in all these theres
is the Cave of the Winds
which the ancient Greeks
took for granted
as who wouldn’t who lives
pitched provisionally on a small island
and I remember This Island Earth
the title of a kitsch science fiction film
whose three words are as good
as anything in Yeats or Eliot
and my mother not far off
who seemed to know all this
from her birth in Belfast and on and on
through and past her brief life
which she scampered across juggling madly
irresponsibility and responsibility
and so thank you Eileen
and thank you my mother’s genes
and my father’s and Ireland’s
and Africa’s for the helium hilarity
and downward sadness
and how can anyone count
how many years old anything is
or how long it will take the African man
to climb that hill
here I am in a Paris heat wave
in a restaurant on the rue des Carmes
eating a three balls of gelato
with a mint leaf on top
and this is being alive
this is Kubla Khan snapped off
the best thing that ever happened to it.
Copyright © Richard W. Halperin 2016
Review: Quiet in a Quiet House reviewed by Zoe Cassells for DURA - Dundee University Review of the Arts (June 2017)
When we think of poetry, we do not think of silence; we think of a page filled, a rhyme uttered or uttered. Yet Richard W. Halperin’s collection, Quiet in a Quiet House, is wonderfully hushed, giving us – as the title suggests – a peaceful space. A dual-national of Ireland and the U. S., Halperin has a talent for writing poems that traverse cities and small towns (for example, “Return to Japan” or “Rome”). In the main, however, the collection deals with the spirit of the place rather than its actual details:
In a pause, Halperin opens up the page to white space, beckoning us to consider what lies between: the past, the remnants that push through stone and soil. Intimations of death do appear throughout the collection – this is to be expected in such a contemplative work – but it does no damage to the joy of other pieces, the movement of “A Walk in Venice” or the humour of “Winged Words”. In the latter the poet dines with Jane Austen:
Quiet in a Quiet House is like a garden of echoes where words are nurtured and moments preserved. The various references to literature, from 8th century Chinese poet Po Chü-i to Joseph Conrad, reflect a love for language as well an undeniable affinity with nature. Admirers of either are sure to enjoy his poetry, as indeed, anyone who might wish to be quietened by a soft voice, by the musings of a bibliophile, by a small glimpse into Greek myth and in particular, by Homer’s Odyssey.
Above all, this is a collection of faith. Within the poems there is a faint undertow of Christian belief – the verse is not preachy, rather, intimate and genuine. Halperin allows God to enter almost every poem in the collection, though not gratuitously. Some poems, like “Book of Luke”, seem to attempt an understanding of Biblical themes; others are more subtle. God becomes a ghost in the corner of a room. He is in the walls, invisible, settling onto the page in these melancholic lines:
The collection should not be judged on its presentation of Christianity alone. Those inclined to reject it based on this reason are free to do so, but they ought to have another peek…There is far more here than meets the too-fleeting eye, including a few snippets of wisdom:
Halperin is especially good at final lines. Of all the stanzas, the last is often the most astute and most quotable. By the time we reach the closing word, the emotional depths of the collection are lulled to a calm, pleasant quiet.
Quiet in a Quiet House will not suit everyone, but it may surprise many who choose stay with its peace.