I love the title of Gerard Smyth’s new and selected poems from Dedalus Press – The Fullness of Time. While it might suggest a satisfied contentment of a writer and poet nearing his sixtieth year, it also bathes and basks in a rich warm yellowing street light of memory. Of memory, earned in a lifetime of words as poet in the sixties, as journalist and as recorder of the passing of life and time in a Dublin of dreams, harsh reality, gentle kisses to last a lifetime and an emerging engagement with modernist poetry and journalistic concerns. Where today is important and tomorrow another page to be completed.
It is that accumulation of time and memory that seeps out from this book where the new work is first up and outsinging reflective sequences. We are where we have been and what we have written, things seen, told off and lessons partially learned, never off by heart but of the heart remembered.
Gerard Smyth read at the Seán Dunne Writer’s Festival some years ago but I missed him, but in a way I didn’t as for over forty years, his poetry has been a beacon, a reminder like I was at that gig, sat in love at the Brazen Head, bought the t-shirt but now it does fit me anymore.
The book is the pleasure, the review only the task. All you have to do is open and read. To rediscover the Purple Haze – a melody of Girl in Blue Denim who is Polish and exotic in Dublin 1968 – she is past the age of going home. My bones may ache, my heart wheezes in my chest but I feel I am still not past that age of going home. Or the resonance of stopping at Drumcliff Church in Two Steps on the Way to the Sea and looking up Yeats’ epitaph as I did a few years ago and my wife, companion of many years, took the digital photograph.
Opening the poems at another page, Goldenbridge and the evocation of the terrible things, inhuman happenings, of love stripped away in places so well hidden, they could have been the hidden half of the moon. I quickly turn to A Previous Life to experience the tender image of a kiss after a dance.
The new poems have such a contented richness like the title poem. I heard the poet read a while ago in the bowels of the National Gallery and I wryly thought he had become an institution, now in his grey and grisly eminence seeing his father in the mirror. Then I read Lost Photograph and see myself trying also to recall the names in a Leaving Cert class that I was in but am not in the photo – seeing nothing of what the future held and I want to write holds not held.