with Séamas Cain


     “The Dangerous Islands : Anarchic egoism rends the social fabric to discover itself in Séamas Cain's dazzling, enigmatic novel of ideas.”

          Dr. Allan Antliff,
          The Faculty of Fine Arts at
          the University of Victoria,
          Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

[Dr. Allan Antliff holds the Canada Research Chair in Modern and Contemporary Art at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.  He is the author of The Writings Of Donald Judd, produced as a conference publication in 2009 by the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas; Unleashing The Imagination : An Acratic Tour Of The National Gallery Of Canada, published in 2007 by the Exile Press in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; and Anarchy And Art : From The Paris Commune To The Fall Of The Berlin Wall, published in 2007 by the Arsenal Pulp Press in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

     [Dr. Antliff, an Art Historian, is also the author of Anarchist Modernism : Art, Politics, And The First American Avant-Garde, published in 2001 by the University of Chicago Press.  The book describes the influence of Hippolyte Havel, Robert Henri, Rockwell Kent, Elie Nadelman, and Man Ray on the beginnings of Modern Art in America.  Antliff also traces the interactions between these artists and other cultural figures and thinkers including Emma Goldman, Alfred Stieglitz, Ezra Pound, and Ananda Coomaraswamy.]


     “Words tell the story, yes.  But the words, one senses in Séamas Cain's The Dangerous Islands, were not just authored but also precipitated by immediately preceding words or phrases.  This is to say, the energy flowing through this novel is so powerful it sometimes dances away from narrative thread(s).  The result is an author going beyond the limits of self, and a story that is not just pleasure but is a violent pleasure.”

          Eileen R. Tabios,
          St. Helena, California.

[Eileen Tabios is the author of Silk Egg : Collected Novels, published in 2011 by Shearsman Books of Exeter, England; The Thorn Rosary, published in 2010 by Marsh Hawk Press of East Rockaway, New York; Nota Bene Eiswein, published in 2009 by Ahadada Books in Berkeley, California; The Blind Chatelaine's Keys, published in 2008 by BlazeVOX Books in Buffalo, New York; The Light Sang As It Left Your Eyes, published in 2007 by Marsh Hawk Press of New York; The Secret Lives Of Punctuations, published in 2006 by "xPress(ed)" in Espoo, Finland; Dredging For Atlantis, published in 2006 by Otoliths in Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia; Reproductions Of The Empty Flagpole, published in 2002 by Marsh Hawk Press of New York; Beyond Life Sentences, published in 1998 by Anvil in Pasig City, the Philippines; and Black Lightning : Poetry-In-Progress, distributed by Temple University Press, and published in 1998 by the Asian American Writers' Workshop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.]


     “The Dangerous Islands invites the reader into a kaleidoscope of colors, sounds and images.  The experience is both intensely personal and cosmic.  Séamas Cain's work comes out of the world of ancient Celtic sagas, out of the séances of William Butler Yeats, out of T.S. Eliot's desert wastelands, and especially out of James Joyce's play with language.  We wait for Jhem and Shen to appear, for Tinbad the Tailor or Jinbad the Jailor to step forward.  Cain creates an intricate world for his own Shaun, Frank, Harry, Jane, Ariadna, and the Lady O'Handrahaun.  As with Joyce, Séamas Cain must be de-coded and translated, and he takes the reader to mysterious islands, as well as dangerous islands.”

          Dr. Francis Carroll,
          Professor Emeritus,
          St. John's College,
          The University of Manitoba,
          Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.


     “Séamas Cain's The Dangerous Islands is a novel, but a very unusual one, one in the language of poetry.  The Dangerous Islands is a most wonderful thing, if I am permitted to say that.  Thanks!”

          Jan Voss,
          BOEKIE WOEKIE,

          Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


     “The Dangerous Islands by Séamas Cain is a Joycean, Rimbaudean, Lorcaesque, philosophical journey down the elaborate inroads of the mind, couched within a symbolist and typographically fertile decentred narrative.”

          Jeffrey Side,

          Liverpool, England.

[Jeffrey Side studied English at Liverpool University and Leeds University.  From 1996 to 2000 he was the deputy editor of The Argotist literary magazine.  He now edits the online version of this, The Argotist Online, which has an ebook publishing arm called Argotist Ebooks.

     [Mr. Side has had poetry published in various magazines such as Poetry Salzburg Review, The White Rose and Homeground; and on poetry web sites such as New Hope International, Underground Window, A Little Poetry, Poethia, Nthposition, Eratio Postmodern Poetry, Ancient Heart, Blazevox, Lily, Big Bridge, Jacket, Textimagepoem, Apocryphaltext, 9th Street Laboratories, P.F.S. Post, Moria, Pirene’s Fountain, Great Works, Ken Again, Hutt, Fieralingue, The Dande Review, Raunchland, Poetry Bay and Dusie.

     [Jeffrey Side has reviewed poetry for Jacket, Eyewear, The Colorado Review, New Hope International, Stride, Acumen and Shearsman.  Mr. Side's poetry and other publications include, Carrier of the Seed (Blazevox), Slimvol (cPress), Cyclones in High Northern Latitudes, with Jake Berry (Lavender Ink) and Outside Voices : An Email Correspondence, poetry email correspondence with Jake Berry (Otoliths).]


     “If Lautréamont and Rimbaud, in an empty swimming pool in the desert, formed an Irish burning peat orchestra and Lyn Hejinian sat in playing the ice cube tray, maybe then we'd have the soundtrack for Séamas Cain's The Dangerous Islands.  Cain does things to the novel only a poet could do to create what deserves to be called ‘a savage mystery.’  We read, ‘I want a mystic devotion to beauty and art,’ and this book, if any prose can inspire such a revolution, contains that power.”

          John M. Bradley, M.F.A.,
          Northern Illinois University,
          DeKalb, Illinois.

[John Bradley is the author of You Don't Know What You Don't Know : Poems, published in 2010 by the Cleveland State University Poetry Center at Cleveland, Ohio; Eating The Pure Light : Homage To Thomas McGrath, published in 2009 by the Backwaters Press of Omaha, Nebraska; Terrestrial Music : Poems, published in 2006 by the Curbstone Press in Willimantic, Connecticut; Add Musk Here, published in 2002 by Pavement Saw Press in Columbus, Ohio; To Dance With Uranium, published in 1995 by Lake Effect Press of Tallahassee, Florida; The New Wine Dreaming In The Vat : Poems, published in 1993 by the Mesilla Press of San Antonio, Texas; and A-E-I-O-U, a chapbook published in 1981 by the Duluth Art Institute of Duluth, Minnesota.  Also, John Bradley is the compiler/editor of Learning To Glow : A Nuclear Reader, published in 2000 by the University of Arizona Press in Tucson, Arizona; and Atomic Ghost : Poets Respond To The Nuclear Age, published in 1995 by the Coffee House Press of Minneapolis, Minnesota.]


     “Within Séamas Cain's book, one finds a prismatic myriad of color, land, figures, and shapes.  Objects and names are interjected with statements on aesthetics and poetry, creating dense meta-narratives about the status of contemporary temporality — a state of profound liminality and engrossing remoteness.  We readers are thrown to great distances but also are kept very close, constantly being strung along but trusting in the overall thrust and direction of this ambitious novel.  Even when pseudo-physically grounded in the ‘motionless desert that Northern Ireland had become,’ readers will immediately float away, set adrift by a lyrical repetition of subtle grace and mysterious meandering.  One reads and rereads Cain's prose, not from lack of clarity, but instead from a purposeful double or even triple-coding that occurs through a precise and economic rhetoric.  One moves along the lines and paragraphs of the page, then shuffles backward, only to be goaded forward, all within a playful yet sincere tongue that makes us consider the simultaneous weight and inexactitude of language itself.”

          Nicholas O'Brien,

          University of Colorado,
          Boulder, Colorado.


     “One interesting aspect of the life of Séamas Cain, in Northern Ireland or in America, has been his continuous networking or re-aligning with a number of poets.  Thus Cain, in a constant dialogue, and in an uninterrupted process of becoming, defines himself — the poet as activist, and the activist as poet, in these deliberately enacted encounters with other poets.  Although this identification, this very process of self-definition, may be a quintessential feature of Irish culture past and present.  The contestatory nature of identity exists at all levels in Ireland or Northern Ireland.  What Cain is fighting is the projection of a collective sense of inferiority before our own creations, political or artistic.  Alternatives can, and must, be envisioned and enacted.  Innovation, both cultural and political, is a response to changing conditions.  Exploring the thoughts, the actions, and the writings of Séamas Cain, we are caught up in an unresolved dialectic between poets and activists in a time of unrest.

     “The social dimension is always the subject of poetry and art, whether explicitly or implicitly.  And in this dimension, the socio-economic and political dimension, Séamas Cain seeks ‘the indeterminate negation of the status quo.’  It is a struggle against the failure, or the refusal, to acknowledge the contemporaneity of human creativity (human construction), the literary and artistic as well as the political.  Thus Cain's own writings, the novel The Dangerous Islands, the political manifestoes and/or the fragments, as well as the poems, are first encountered outside the expected or permitted contexts and situations, and outside the severe limits of political cliché.

     “Cain's work, both the iconoclastic and the poetic, may usefully evade any single social or political claim made for or against it because of the nature of its contradictions, surpluses, and negations.  In Cain's The Dangerous Islands as well as in his dissident manifestoes the continued marginality of radical elements still conditions the discourse about form(s) and suggests not simply alternatives but a very different set of meanings.  Cain's poetry and his activism are founded on an aversion of conformity in the pursuit of new forms.”

          Peter L. Freeman,
          Associate Professor Emeritus,
          The West Liberty University,
          West Liberty, West Virginia.

[Peter L. Freeman is the compiler/editor of a collection of “manifestoes and fragments” written by Séamas Cain during the time of Civil War in Northern Ireland, 1965-1998.  Publication is forthcoming.  For a number of excerpts from the book, go to ... ]


     “The Dangerous Islands : Séamas writes dreams.  Like your dreams, transparent and shimmering, these words by necessity call across time.”

          Rick Allard,
          Brooklyn, New York.


     “The Dangerous Islands : I gesture in homage to the work of Séamas Cain!”

          Shozo Shimamoto,
          Koshienguchi, Nishinomiya,
          Hyogo, Japan


     “As Sheila E. Murphy pointed out in her forward to The Dangerous Islands, poet Séamas Cain has given us the ‘full brea(d)th’ of his ‘centered voice.’  What Cain has also given us is a completely off-centered piece of literature.  A new form / poem as novel, and novel(ized) poem / surreality and all its impending possibilities, the borders and stretches of the imagination.  Dark wit.  Deep philosophical musings with a capital ‘I’ (eye) that quickly become Cain's version of Dick and Jane gone haywire or Alice in Wonderland or Jack and Jill in Crazyville.  Though in the case of The Dangerous Islands we have Frank, Jane, Alan, and the curious Lady O'Handrahaun.

     “This is a book filled with apparitions, aberrations, caterpillars, and original creatures all slithy and whimsical such as frog-men, antelope-men and scorpion-men.  We also encounter Jane's ‘motorized nostrils,’ scores of crickets, dolphins, plastics, ever-curious Carmelite nuns and dozens of flowers of every variety.  We are first lured in by Cain's mysterious, precarious BIG searching ‘I’ (am) and all its philosophical yabbering, and then are lead unsettlingly toward near-claustrophobic vistas.

     “This is a novel of contradictions and juxtapositions.  It is a constant working and reworking of thought, emotions, and ideas with an almost non-plot or anti-plot filled with its own road signs, symbols, quirky characters and post linear character (under)development.  It is a map of alternate worlds confined to one room, like pulling hats out of rabbits.

     “We are first meant to think, then float, then swim, then sink, then rise again.  Then at points we finally give up and accept we are lost in a maze of perverse metaphors and as Cain so aptly puts it from day ONE — creativity is a clown that makes you laugh, cry, wonder, scratch your head and behold ‘beauty is a creation of self by self.’  So immerse your self or selves into the beauty that is The Dangerous Islands and ever so calmly yet dangerously travel there often.

     “Thelonious Monk wrote a tune called ‘Ugly Beauty’ and I feel that that is exactly what Séamas Cain is presenting to us with his (at times) deceivingly simple construct — constantly unnerving us, distracting us, drawing us in while pushing us away, a loose tension, a profound innocence, a romantic horror story, a warp in the fabric of time, sheer and ugly beauty at its precipice.

     “Long prosper the forest through the trees.  Long live the circular world as we fall back to earth, ash, gold, dust, and greed.  It is a world that flourishes in ‘gems,’ ‘rainbows,’ ‘a blue haze of sheep,’ and the constantly blowing gritty wind.”

          Steve Dalachinsky,
          New York, New York.

[Steven Dalachinsky is the author of The Mantis : The Cecil Taylor Pomes, published in 2010 by Iniquity Press and Vendetta Books of Point Pleasant, New Jersey; Invasion Of The Animal People, published in 2010 by Propaganda Press in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Reaching Into The Unknown, published in 2009 by Rogue Art in Paris, France; Logos And Language : A Post-Jazz Metaphorical Dialogue, published in 2008 by Rogue Art in Paris; The Final Nite & Other Poems, published in 2006 by the Ugly Duckling Presse in Brooklyn, New York; Musicology, a chapbook published in 2006 by Éditions Pioche in Paris; Phenomena Of Interference, a CD published in 2005 by the Hopscotch Records in Brooklyn, New York; In Glorious Black And White, a book published in 2005 by the Ugly Duckling Presse; Subway Assemblages, a chapbook published in 2000 by JVC Books in Arcadia, Florida; Incomplete Directions, a CD published in 1999 by Knitting Factory Records in New York; and many other books and chapbooks.]