Going Home to Wyoming. New selected Poems 2000 – 2020 John Ennis.
During the COVID-19 lockdown I received an invitation from the BOOK HUB PUBLISHING GROUP, in Ireland, to edit a new selection of poems between 2000 and 2020, by the eminent, award-winning Irish poet, John Ennis.
The chance to work on any manuscript by a distinguished poet, is a rare gift for an editor. I initially felt rather hesitant to accept as I was unfamiliar with John Ennis’s work, and felt unqualified. Whatever reticence I felt evaporated on receiving the manuscript. Reading through the poems was to step enter across the proscenium of into a world of private lives. Personal recollection mingles with homage, myth envelopes memory and the mystery that is the poetic form captures all of it with a turn of phrase, evocative allusions to myth and legend, and to landscapes, both exterior and interior.
Going Home to Wyoming is a love letter to a century which is mostly a foreign and unknown history to most younger poets, writers and readers, and to the questionable ethics of attitudes which informed it culturally and politically. I found a wordsmith in Ennis, unafraid to sculpt literary poesy out of an amalgam of classical complexity, as well as intimate memoir – of dinners, friends and family, delivered with sleight-of-phrase servings of music, rural landscapes and Irish folklore. The reader becomes a companion traveller and by turn, a witness too, of poetic understatement, expressed with the most exacting, ‘old-school’ linguistic craftmanship.
A SPECIAL MENTION: IN MEMORY OF THE COVER ARTIST
The cover art of Going Back to Wyoming is a print of the engraving of a celtic knot by artist Jane Kendall. After graduating in 1990, she was, at various stages, a graphic designer, a dressmaker, soft furnisher, rag rugger, framer’s assistant, portrait painter, artist, illustrator and mother. As her bio describes: ” Jane was diagnosed with terminal cancer in the spring of 2018 and died 6 months later, after an amazing summer, filled with laughter, memories and lots and lots of cake.”
John Ennis bears more than witness to a broader history of a recent century, his writing encapsulates the broad scope of literary and scholarly acuity. He brings a deep personal history with ‘text’ and the traditions of those whose ideas and poetics,had shaped the literary landscape of the twentieth century, and every detail is delivered with blend of beguiling lyrical understatement and undeniable Irish acerbic wit.
EXCERPTS from the editors
Wyoming? Home once of the proud Cheyenne nation, the people of Cheyenne, who now comprise a reputed 1.6% of the total population there. The Cheyenne, whose breakout 1,600-mile trek north from the reservation is the stuff of John Ford’s Cheyenne Autumn. A cranky piece of work. Ford was old, ill; filming had become a torture, and he was not able always to get his own way. He didn’t like the score music (and there was too much of it). He couldn’t get the actors he wanted, or the many stills he wanted as reference points, scenes were cut he wanted in: add to his woes, the tatty cheap white-man’s brave new world splicing the movie in two. As recompense, he found plains and plain-talking Richard Widmark, whose devout belief never wavered in the People.
Niall MacGiolla Bhuí, PhD., Co-Editor.
John Ennis crafts a poetic discourse throughout his collections like a master weaver; the multitudinous threads seem on initial viewing to be unconnected and his interests very diverse. It takes a moment for the true depth of connectivity to surface, often with breath-taking subtlety. From myth to family members, friends and lovers, Ennis’s poems reveal themselves as landmarks in a landscape that is deeply traditional, with its roots embedded in Ancient Irish folklore and woven through pastoral symbolism and myth, while fearlessly rendering an undeniable fragility and humanity throughout. The reader is a participant, not merely an observer – from engaging dinners, to intimate reflections when the poet reveals his love of music and birdsong, his admiration and adoration of pastoral life; his reverence for the classics and his advocacy in the face of human rights’ violations. Renée Sigel, Co-Editor.