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Hare's Breath / Brian Kirk

Hare's Breath

By: Brian Kirk

€12.00
“The passage of time is central to this new collection from Brian Kirk, which shifts from an unsentimental portrayal of Irish rural childhood to post-pandemic Dublin, with ‘kids almost grown but the house more crowded than ever’. Hare’s Breath is a paean to a world bent on self-destruction, yet with dizzying brinkmanship it manages to skirt despair. With his masterful control of language and astute insight into the hum...
ISBN 978-1-915022-46-2
Pub Date Sunday, November 26, 2023
Cover Image ‘Irish Hare’ by Rosaleen Fleming
Page Count 66
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“The passage of time is central to this new collection from Brian Kirk, which shifts from an unsentimental portrayal of Irish rural childhood to post-pandemic Dublin, with ‘kids almost grown but the house more crowded than ever’.

Hare’s Breath is a paean to a world bent on self-destruction, yet with dizzying brinkmanship it manages to skirt despair.

With his masterful control of language and astute insight into the human condition, Kirk is both philosopher and chronicler of our time, catching every moment like the titular hare’s breath. An unmistakeable voice, always worth listening to.”

                    Amanda Bell author of Riptide (Doire Press)


“Brian Kirk’s second collection is a fine balance between the revelation of the hidden and the mystery of the seemingly obvious. Form is important, and so is rhythm and music: this is where his poetry truly excels. Once again, he conjures poems of nature, family, life and love, all of them leavened with an earthy philosophy that dares to stay close to the messy business of living. Community and neighbourliness matter, his poems seek out and reveal to us the ‘base that isn’t there’ in an unexpected lifeline, in the sometimes gruff hand of care. Parents and children, family and friends live and breathe in these vibrant and defiant poems. Relentlessly and honestly, he searches and probes for the truth amid sadness and loss, failure and illusion, and even the outright waste of existence itself. He does not give up, and neither should we: his poetry reckons with the complexity of life and finds and confronts it with skill and inspiration: ‘Then I saw her, shapeshifter, / iambic, limber, crossing the hill.’”

                    John Murphy  author of Zeppelin Vending Machine Manifesto (Salmon Poetry)


“Brian Kirk’s pure intentions illuminate each carefully crafted line of Hare’s Breath. This collection forms a contemporary and moving biography of old ways and geographies disowned until they disappear, as the hard edges of city life impose themselves on the boredoms and dangers of a rural childhood. Brian’s poems hint back in elegy for a writer-friend lost far too young; and for people and places left too soon. But, to quote from ‘The Invisible House’, ‘there will be time for all of us / to find the things we lost along the way, to learn the words of songs / we longed to sing but never had the heart.’ A thoughtful and unexpectedly joyous book.”

                    Jane Robinson  author of Island and Atoll (Salmon Poetry)

Brian Kirk

Brian Kirk is an award-winning poet, short story writer and novelist from Dublin. His first poetry collection After The Fall was published by Salmon Poetry in 2017. His poem “Birthday” won the Listowel Writers’ Week Irish Poem of the Year at the Irish Book Awards 2018. His short fiction chapbook It’s Not Me, It’s You won the Southword Fiction Chapbook Competition and was published by Southword Editions in 2019. He is a recipient of Professional Development and Agility Awards from the Arts Council of Ireland. His novel Riverrun was chosen as a winner of the Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair 2022 and was shortlisted for the Spotlight First Novel Award 2023. His poetry has been published in the Irish Times, Poetry Ireland Review, Cyphers, Abridged, Skylight 47, Crannóg and many others. His poetry has been featured on The Poetry Programme on RTÉ Radio One, the Words Lightly Spoken Podcast and the Poetry Jukebox installations in Limerick and Derry in 2023 as part of the Poetry As Commemoration strand. Brian has been a guest author and hosted events at literary festivals around the country including Dublin Book Festival, Listowel Writers’ Week, Red Line Book Festival, Cork Short Story Festival, Ó Bhéal Winter Warmer Poetry Festival, Belfast Book Festival and Bray Literary Festival. He is a member of the Hibernian Writers’ Group. www.briankirkwriter.com.  

Hare’s Breath


I came here to work

but needed to stop.

That first day, tramping

up Bolus Head, mentally

pulling together the threads 

of an unwritten story,

trapped between ocean

and mountain, eyes bent 

to the road, sheep droppings

bunched like black grapes.

I walked as words withered,

eyes scanning the cliffs

and those sheep, improbably 

balanced on a craggy incline.

Hooded crows fought the wind.

Then I saw her, shapeshifter,

iambic, limber, crossing the hill.

Frozen, lungs filled with wind – 

a hare’s breath – I held it

a moment before it escaped.



Googling My Parents


When I Googled my parents there were no matching results, only

traces of others who bore the same names, living counterfeit lives


that failed to reflect the authenticity of monochrome days I recall

in that house by the railway line, where the sun shone all summer,

 

where huge ash trees waved their hysterical arms in March winds,

and a thin frost painted a dull world silver on the shortest days.


My parents don’t exist in the world, real or virtual, but are trapped

in stacks of wrinkled snaps; they look out at me with unseeing eyes,


perplexed, uncertain, frozen in a moment snatched from time. I know 

there’s no option to reboot, no going back except through memory’s 


patched-up matinee. From time to time, to kick-start reminiscence, 

I read their names in stone among a host of other names on stones 


ranged on a blanket of land that rolls down to the sea near home.

Perhaps the mind is a hard drive scanning the residue of lives 


no longer with us, its circuits switching on and off, firing in dreams

where the dead arise, their voices talking out of the bright cloud.



Multiverse


“Every kairos is a chronos, but not every chronos is a kairos.”

Hippocrates 


Once upon a time in a land not very far away

I was a version of myself before I met a prototype of you;

two opposites collided in imagined space, auguring 

a future harmony, unexpected but awaited.

We sensed an opportunity, a spontaneous knitting 

of perspectives, gauche, sophisticated beyond the accidents

of birth. We shared a sense of quest fated in a sacred logos,

set forth upon an epic journey that took us back 


to here, where we are now. The sense of so much living

crammed into moments that collapse, unfold in arcane 

sequences, altered as occasion might demand. Dates 

like fairy lights strung across a darkening garden when the party’s

almost over and the next day hovers in the branches; dim outline 

of morning promising fatigue and argument, desire asleep

in bed beside you long after the alarm’s been silenced 

by a hand much like the one that knocks, demands you meet


the future; a concept that will be elusive yet concrete, indefinite,

but growing sharper every day. It’s time to rise and rush into 

that future, past the present, outrunning time’s arrow, outpacing

yourself in the narrow stream of things that constitute a life. Keep going,

you must be ready always for the moment when the stars align, 

before the arrow falls or after memory unspools, a remnant on the floor.

Light dies, and when a different light emerges, more blinding than before,

you believe in magic once again; a child cries, an old man dries his eyes.


Copyright © Brian Kirk 2024

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