Brendan Kennelly - A Personal Response

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Brendan Kennelly’s Poetry, A Personal Response 4

Brendan Kennelly’s Poetry, A Personal Response

Reading and studying Brendan Kennelly’s poetry is a rewarding and refreshing experience because although many of his poems on the Leaving Certificate course speak of or to something quintessentially Irish, each begins ‘again’ in the sense that it is written with a fresh approach and intention, tackling new subject matter and themes.

Furthermore, each of Kennelly’s poems seems written in its own unique style and voice. Where Yeats was a stylist, Heaney revelled in wistful nostalgia, and Kavanagh was determined not to fit in, the only description we can apply to Kennelly and his poetry with any real confidence and consistency is that he writes in a series of unique voices (from the poet’s self-described “house of voices”). And each of them are his own.

Naturally, I must open this essay with ‘Begin’, which is, in my opinion, the poem for which Kennelly will be known. This poem’s title reads as a command to ‘begin’ something new, but as it progresses, it becomes clear the poet actually means ‘Begin again’ – something we see as soon as line 1.

Rather than an order to ‘begin’, this poem manifests itself as an inspirational rallying cry for the reader to take pride in and relish every new day and experience, to recognise each and every start as an opportunity to experience new worlds and find new eyes:

Every beginning is a promise / born in light and dying in dark / de...

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