Kevin Irie’s Dinner at Madonna’s explores the fusion of personal and historic memory and nationality within the context of growing up in multicultural Canada. A third generation Japanese-Canadian, he writes:
Memory is the country I hold
as a citizen displaced
by my time in the world.
Finalist: CBC Literary Award for Poetry
Kevin Irie’s book is his third, and, for my money, the best, most mature collection here… These poems scale the upper reaches of Parnassus and bring back the news.
Irie’s work is beautifully restrained as it moves from Toronto to Italy to British Columbia, and out of that restraint comes some truly arresting images. In Sunday at the Vatican, for example we encounter the Pope at a window as “a lone tooth in an ancient mouth,” with a red tapestry below him “like a panting tongue”. The strength of Dinner is the frequency with which Irie lets such images speak for themselves, avoiding the temptation to overwrite them or bury them in commentary.
The collection takes us sequentially from the streets of Toronto’s Little Italy to the historically rich arteries of Venice, then back to Canada with a new, widened perspective… The work moves from distanced observation of others’ migrations to greater and greater intimacy.”
Dinner at Madonna’s is Kevin Irie’s third book, a mature and reflective work, full of resonance and depth… Sparse, carefully wrought and lit with piercing imagery, this work is moving and beautiful.
Here is a poet with a particular past walking through the streets of Venice and Toronto, through art galleries and back alleys, through familiar and foreign mythologies, startling us, arresting us with each unexpected turn of his heart and mind.
About the Author
Kevin Irie was born and lives in Toronto. His poetry has been published in periodicals and anthologies in Canada and the United States, Australia and England, and has been translated into Spanish and Japanese. He won first prize in the 2000 poetry competition in Rice Paper. He is also the author of three previous books, Burning the Dead, The Colour of Eden, which was a finalist for the City of Toronto Book Award, and Dinner at Madonna’s.
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