With ‘Crocus: a brief history’, John F. Deane sets his Dear Pilgrims in motion, a series of brief histories of time, a time that is rich in incident and in redemption. In a decisively secular age, Deane’s is a poetry of Christian belief. It explores renewal, alive with and to the kinds of witness he has learned from George Herbert, Gerard Manley Hopkins and R.S. Thomas. His ‘I’, like theirs, makes space for a reluctant ‘us’.
Dear Pilgrims includes actual pilgrimages. The poet moves through England (East Anglia in particular), Israel and Palestine, disclosing a ‘new testament’ that revisions the Christian faith through the eyes of an unknown female disciple of Christ. He vividly adapts the Middle English poem Pearl and realises it for our time. He is also a master of the sonnet as an instrument of love, doubt and faith.
The poet’s voice, perhaps because of the timeless wisdom it carries, is vital and contemporary. It is no surprise that the founder of Poetry Ireland and Dedalus Press is a poet of wide reading and vision. The clarity of his verse and purpose makes his voice unique. Rowan Williams celebrates his ‘Music, a stony, damp and deeply alive landscape (both Ireland and the Holy Land), a passionate and searching engagement with God’.