Angel Blood: The Tess Poems
by Kevin Irie
Angel Blood: The Tess Poems is Kevin Irie’s radical re-interpretation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Here, Tess herself recounts her tale of sex, class, money, and violence. This is the voice not of a Victorian maiden but a demonic Tess returned from the dead, unleashed from the underworld. Finally free to speak as she pleases, and with nothing to lose, she does not care who will be taken aback, be it husband, family, or “The President of the Immortals” – or even the innocent reader.
|Dimensions||8.5 × 5.5 × .25 in|
Kevin Irie has appeared in publications in Canada, the United States, England, Germany, and Australia and his poems have been translated into French, Spanish, Japanese, and Portuguese. He has four books of poetry: Burning The Dead; The Colour of Eden, a finalist for the City of Toronto Book Award; Dinner at Madonna’s; and Angel Blood: The Tess Poems, longlisted for the National Relit Award in Poetry. He was a finalist for the CBC Literary Award in Poetry 2008, and was also shortlisted for ARC’s Poem of the Year Contest 2009. He lives in Toronto.
Adopting the posthumous voice of a wronged girl from 19th-century fiction makes for a bold imaginative leap on Irie’s part. Yet he enters into Tess’s situation so thoughtfully, and his diction is so exact, that he ends up making a success of it.
~Harry Vandervlist, Alberta Views
Angel Blood is a clever palimpsest that re-positions the dramatic monologue and Tess’s intimate thoughts squarely in our time and place. …In the end, her character emerges as complex, clever, manipulative, decidedly in-control; we sympathize with her plight but cheer on her feminine wiles. Kevin Irie’s narrative gifts and use of dramatic, verbal, and situational irony are an endless source of delight. Readers will want to return to the salacious gossip and pick up on the metafictional gloss on point of view and narrative strategy – its duplicitous, devious meanderings – at the same time.
~Richard Stevenson, Lethbridge Insider
The narrative is interesting on a number of levels: because it is written in Tess’s voice, because it is reflective (we hear from Tess as a spirit), because it is a commentary on the way women were treated at the time of Hardy’s novel and because this is a male poet writing from a woman’s perspective. Irie succeeds in creating a strong narrative and his lines seduce readers into Tess’s world.
~Jocelyn Grosse, Fast Forward
This isn’t a Victorian angel of the hearth, but a flesh and blood heroine. It has been suggested that “Tess” is a fictional figure drawn from the heroines of works by Fielding, Disraeli, Thackery, Gaskell and Eliot. Well, counterposed with Sylvia Plath, Medbh McGuckian, Elizabeth Bishop, Eira Stenberg, Anne Carson, Moniza Alvi, John Sutherland, Susan Musgrave and Anne Sexton, by Irie, virtually anything is possible. Another Tess is heartbreakingly probable.
~Anne Burke, Prairie Journal
Tapping into the emotions of willful Tess Durbeyfield of Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Kevin Irie gestures to the reader to overhear her intimate thoughts, and there are heart-quickening moments aplenty: “I felt my childhood leave without me,” “He would be what I earn for my living,” “Where do you find the mercy to grieve for yourself?” “A woman gone missing from her own life.” I could continue in this vein, but it is better for the reader to discover such intimacies in this book of poems about a literary character who is either a woman who is pure or a “pure woman.”
~John Robert Colombo