‘Everything Gathers Light’ by Eithne Lannon: introduction by Anne Tannam

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This Guest Post, by poet Anne Tannam, is the text of her introduction to Eithne’s new collection, Everything Gathers Light, which was launched in the Irish Writers Centre on May 10th, 2023. Many thank to Anne for her insightful and inspiring introduction to Eithne’s wonderful book. To learn more about Anne and her work, visit her website.

Everything Gathers Light by Eithne Lannon

This is the moment / you hear it again, along / the forest floor, deep / in the valley / where the walls of the world open / where the walls of the world open –

Contrary to evidence that she’s just an ordinary woman with lovely curly red hair who lives in Malahide, Eithne Lannon, in fact, lives in the liminal space between the known and unknown world. Elements of the mystical tradition are very evident in her writing. Her influences include Rumi, Hildegard, Sappho and Jane Hirschfield, to name just a few.

The definition of a mystic is one ‘who lives in or close to the unknown, who has a direct experience of the sacred, unmediated by conventional religious rituals or intermediaries,’ Eithne mediates this direct experience of the sacred through language – what a gift (and responsibility) to be given; first to have the experience, and then to find the words to express what is paradoxically beyond language. In this, her second collection, Everything Gathers Light, Eithne offers us forty-three singular opportunities to experience for ourselves ‘the walls of the world open.’

Each poem in Everything Gathers Light is in and of itself a thin place, a numinous energy, a porous veil. Forget for a moment about the exquisite use of language or how skilfully it’s deployed and embrace each poem’s invitation to enter ‘through the mud wall with gapped patterns’, a world where beauty and sorrow are mediated through an encounter with what is both within and beyond us. Light is everywhere in the collection – Ripple- dazzle light

 ‘the way whole swathes of it distil / into morning / now a haze of green / on the shore of the shone horizon.

 Chatoyancy – an optical phenomenon possessed by certain minerals in reflected light, in which a movable wavy or silky sheen is concentrated in a narrow band of light. – to gleam like a cat’s eye.

The poet’s attention to detail creates a kind of chatoyance, an alchemy of light, like in the poem For a Dream, i.m of Thomas Kettle, who died in the Great War.

A pale soak of sun speckles the trees, / horses stand among the dandelions, / feathered thistles gone to seed; death / like a fine mist sits on a knife-edged sky / as though something beautiful were about to / begin.

 Or in The Cat and the Body, where what at first glance is gory or repulsive is transformed into something luminous. Life and death co-creating a single moment.

 the cat / part-soldered to the road’s / hard shoulder, polished loop / of intestine, claws coal-shone / and gleaming, and still, the delicate / stretched paw. Between her darkened lips / a froth of spit, you reach to touch / her fine-pelt face, the feathered hair / brush the air above her head, recall / how she flowed like a black silken river, / her conscious ears, the sleepless tail, / thin gateway of her watchful eyes.

As a poet, she pulls back the veil and beckons us in:

and you are here again / and I have never left/ …. Looking out beyond the milkweed and the thistle / the dark forest of your heart / where the wild bird sings

 Like all spirit guides, she invokes spirit animals to ease the loneliness of the journey. A menagerie of creatures who move between worlds: fox, owl, otter, lunar moth, acrobatic starlings, heron, egrets (slow rising into stillness), artic terns, blackbird, cormorant, seagulls ply the buffeting gusts, gannets shake their gangling necks, oystercatchers comb the tideline, starfish, muddy clusters of molluscs. Creatures of light, of dark, of sky, of water, of land; creatures of the liminal.

 Though the collection title points us towards the light, poems enter us through the ear, immersing us in sound and meaning. These poems ring, resonate, reverberate:

Is this the blank manuscript where we join hands – / so many meanings outside / the known language, every syllable searching / in itslexicon of sound. / Is this mine, I say, opening the frayed doorways to my story; how startling it is / to turn the pages of another life.

Reading Everything Gathers Light, I can hear faint echoes of many poets – reminding us that all we do as humans is borrow from what has come before us. Rilke came to mind, as did Hopkins, Ted Hughes (can anyone write about thistles without us thinking of him) and Mary Oliver, who came to Eithne in a dream and said, ‘I bequeath you the word ‘Meanwhile’. It’s yours to use now, though only sparingly, and when you’re done with it, pass it on.’

And now, I pass you over to the poet herself ….

Get Everything Gathers Light here

To learn more about Eithne and her work, visit her website.



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