Light Rolling Slowly Backward is Ethna McKiernan's fifth and most ambitious collection of poetry. McKiernan, who has a gift for metaphor, gives us 120 poems in her latest volume, a third of which are new. Her work, which some critics have compared to Mary Oliver and Adrienne Rich, ranges from the hilarious (police arrest her girl scout troup of 13-year olds prancing in nighties at midnight on a Chicago street) to an elegy for George Floyd (where she tosses a "grenade of grief up to the sky"), to "The Radiation Room" where she compares the light beams sweeping her body for cancer to the reassuring twinkle of winter constellations overhead and "everyone she's ever loved."
McKiernan pivots from sorrow and illness to natural beauty in "Light," where "Two birches wear the white sheen of it" and then again to "Lewy Bodies," where she explores the territory "near the cliff that separates the upright from the fallen." Beneath her unflinching realism lies an affirming flame, which makes this collection unique. Like the poet Rumi, she knows that "the wound is where the light is."
"The poems here have an exact and hard-earned lyricism...a difficult music which comes from experience rather than from any rhythmic holiday from it." - Eavan Boland
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Date of Publication: 26/07/2021