By Richard Kell
135mmx210mm, paperback, 90pp
The reviewer of a previous collection of Richard Kell’s in The Times Literary Supplement characterised his work as possessed by “a sense of wonder as well as sceptical intelligence,” while Anne Stevenson has noted that Kell is “always the technician, a man in love with the musical scope of his art.” These judgements between them identify all that is most cherishable about the work of this unfailingly interesting, invaluable poet. Kell’s speculative, quizzical cast of mind takes him into territory that few anglo-phone poets nowadays occupy, and his formal skills are such that he never makes less than compelling poems out of his variously ruminative, sharp-edged discoveries.
Richard Kell, born in Co. Cork in 1927, was educated mainly in Belfast and Dublin, where he graduated from Trinity College. He taught in England, finally as a senior lecturer in English and American literature. He contributed poetry reviews and critical essays to several periodicals, and after retirement co-edited Other Poetry.
Kell began writing poetry at the age of ten, and at eighteen achieved newspaper publication with his now well known poem ‘Pigeons’. Since then his work has appeared in magazines, anthologies, and (including this one) fifteen solo collections large and small.
The finely crafted poems in Making Word Gifts cover a wide thematic range. For example, the book’s first part has a little poem called ‘Itchy’, and its third a longer one entitled ‘God and the Scientists’.
‘Such variety’, Michael Thomas remarks in a substantial review (Under the Radar, April 2015) of Kell’s previous collection Old Man Answering, ‘is one of the great appeals of his work’. Thomas also notes the poet’s ‘mix of formality and living voice’.