Ciaran Carson's Still Life

December 2020

The poet Ciaran Carson, who died of lung cancer in October 2019, was master of the long line, and chronicler of his hometown’s civil war. Books like Belfast Confetti (1989) will survive. Still Life, whose title is similarly painful, was published in Ireland in the month of Carson’s death, and in the US this past February (Wake Forest). It bids farewell to life in a sequence of seventeen poems about paintings and prints, all of them treasured, one or two of them—a still life of a bowl by Jeffrey Morgan, a print by James Allen—in the poet’s possession.

Many poets write poems about paintings; few, I think, have cared more for the art than Carson, and found a stronger, simpler way of saying so. Every poem in the book is infused with the prospect of the poet’s death. None is maudlin.

— T. J. Clark

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