St. Brigid’s Well began on the West Coast of Ireland as Jonas Zdanys was teaching a seminar in Dingle, County Kerry, on writing the literature of place. It is a single lyrical narrative poem, composed in stanzas and sections, that considers place as a described location, as a foundation and springboard for metaphorical representations and explorations, and as a wide and flexible container filled with people and actions and things, all connected and all ever-changing. There is a fourth dimension of place at play in this poem as well, the dimension of time, which ultimately sculpts all three, pushing and pulling them across many horizons. The poem’s focus on the Dingle Peninsula, past and present, the vistas along the Ring of Kerry, and the literal as well as metaphorical pilgrimage eastward to St. Brigid’s Well in Kildare is linked to the figure of Brigid, who serves as a touchstone in that exploration both as Christian saint and as pagan goddess. It is Brigid, in both forms, who appears in these pages as a principal definer and texture of the Irish landscape as it has blossomed and changed – and as it has remained constant – in its physical dimensions and across the currents of time. This poem invites and deepens the understanding of that landscape and of how a “poetry of place” can also define the interior human landscape, encouraging us to understand and celebrate the world in which we live and ourselves in it.
“There is description here, but there is also action — not just describing a place as an outside observer but of making a place by being in it. Describing, founding, representing, exploring, containing — and defying containment as the dance of poetry is inclined to do — defines this remarkable poem.” Steven Schroeder
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Cover photograph ©Joanna Zdanys. A View of the Blasket Islands from Slea Head.