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Irish poet and novelist will visit ASU next week

John F. Deane will hold a poetry reading and discussion

From left, abbott Mark Patrick Hederman, bishop Rowan Williams and poet John F. Deane pose for a photo at a retreat offered by Deane and Williams to the monks of Glenstal Abbey.

From left, abbott Mark Patrick Hederman, bishop Rowan Williams and poet John F. Deane pose for a photo at a retreat offered by Deane and Williams to the monks of Glenstal Abbey.

“Love, I believed, was like starting on a pilgrimage, stepping blithely out over the gunwale, hoping to waltz on water; there would be hands working inside one another's lives, grasping the heart for hold. Then there was mother, father, there was the island, the island edges, the storms, the seas, the summer days along the strand. I heard their voices through the wall, at night, just like summer murmuring.”

The excerpt above is from the collection of poems, "Give Dust a Tongue: A Faith & Poetry Memoir" by John F. Deane.The book is part of the collection of poems that try to answer a particular question:

"Who do you say I am?"

Through multiple writings, all of Deane’s poems and essays work toward the origins and development of facing the question that once was asked by the religious figure, Christ.

"Again, who do you say I am?"

Deane will be visiting Arizona from Nov. 11-14. During his visit, he will speak at the Irish Cultural Center, an Irish church and the ASU Tempe Campus where he will hold a poetry reading and discussion.

To further understand the work of the writer, it is important to know the author.

Deane was born on Achill Island off the west coast of Ireland in 1943. Deane is known as one of the most influential poets in Ireland, not only from his formidable corpus of more than a dozen poetry books and essays and prose, but also because of what he has founded and organized in the Irish poetry world.

Deane has written many collections, established an independent newspaper/journal in Ireland and earned a multitude of awards and honorable positions.

Many have described him as an artist who has been an influential and supportive contribution to the art community.

Chas Moore, the head librarian of the McClelland Library, said the event at ASU will be free for students and the public. He added that he's looking forward to the discussion.

“He is an interesting person," Moore said. "I hope this will be a good night. I've been trying to get him to come."

Adrienne Leavy, an ASU graduate and accomplished poet and curator and editor of Reading Ireland, describes Deane as an interesting literary figure.

“He’s an interesting figure and an important figure in Irish poetry," she said. "He’s a senior figure at this point. He’s been a poet, a short-story writer and a fiction writer. But he mainly concentrates in poetry. He has published about seven or eight collections, all having a good critical acclaim.”

Through Deane’s influences and works, he has helped many writers be recognized in Ireland.

“He’s played a large role in supporting other artists in Ireland," Leavy said.

She said one of the many reasons art in Ireland is viewed differently from the U.S is the scale it is seen in.

"Because it’s a small country, people are more aware of writers and poets and what has been published," Leavy said. "We have such strong literary tradition that you are generally more aware of that. In America, there are so many wonderful novelists and poets that you can’t know them all. You tend to gravitate to either what you’re exposed to or what you particularly like.”

In the sense of his work, Deane’s work is grounded on his faith and in his religious beliefs. But embedded are elements of the landscape, along with a topical issue.

Leavy, who has read a section of his collections, said there were several elements of his poetry that peaked her interest.

“A lot of those poems are elegies, and I like that kind of work," she said. "He writes very movingly about his father without it being sentimental."

Leavy said she likes how he integrates people and nature into his poems.

"(I like) the way he can write movingly about people who were important to him in his life that have passed without any sort of sentimentality." she said. "It’s not sentimentality or clichéd. It gives you a sense of who the person is, who the speaker is talking about and what they mean to him. And how it can describe people with very little detail. “

On a larger scale, Irish art and U.S. art are very different when compared to each other.

Caroline Woodiel, a worker at the McClelland Library, added another point to the state of art in Ireland.

“The Irish government is very supportive of writing — very supportive of the literary tradition," Woodiel said. "That’s something that is maybe embedded at a different level then what we see in the U.S.”

Support also comes from fellow artists, such as Deane, who strives to support the art community.

“It says a lot that he is willing to meet all these different areas and speak to everyone about poetry," Woodiel said. "It says a lot about his accessibility.”

During his visit to Arizona, Deane will discuss his poetry. Each discussion will include a Q&A, a discussion on poetry and an informal session where anyone can talk to him.  He will be at ASU's Tempe Campus from 3 - 4:30 p.m. on Monday in room 316 of the Language and Literature building.

Reach the reporter at or follow @LurissaCarbajal on Twitter.

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