with Séamas Cain


     “Séamas Cain's The Dangerous Islands are atolls of language's coral encrustations, like none other.  Sections portend narratives which dissolve on contact; the work is a collocation of entangled intensities, the births and deaths of prose.  I reside in virtual worlds, and these Islands, airy and watery, are their counterparts.  Their lyricism and webs of characters, events, and world-making are astonishing.  This is one of the most amazing books I've read, where prose is the very stuff of creation.  And I keep thinking of coral seas, and the spaces of moist atmospheres, uncanny whisperings, and an untoward, wayward beauty that is utterly fantastic.  The Dangerous Islands deserves reading and rereadings — it's gorgeous!”

               Alan Sondheim,
               Brooklyn, New York.

[Alan Sondheim is the author of two books published by SALT in Cambridge, England :
Deep Language (2010) and The Wayward (2004) ... ]


     “After Joyce, Beckett, Wilde, Yeats, Séamas Cain unveils a very new Ireland — come with me into this life-long garden of tarots, into his visual, limpid, liquid, open space.  After Malcolm Lowry, Mikhail Bulgakov, a Kafkian Max Ernst, with Jarry playing hide and seek, Cain's subtle poetry would be Salvador and Gala Dalì's joy, besides being our own.  And congratulations for this exceptional exceptional work.  It should be read drop by drop, not one page after the other.  And congratulations to Sheila E. Murphy's introduction, too.”

               Anny Ballardini,
               Bolzano, Italy.

[Anny Ballardini is the author of Ghost Dance In 33 Movements, published in 2009 by Otoliths in Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia; Maria Morganti, published in 2006 by M. Corraini in Mantova, Italy; Opening And Closing Numbers, published in 2005 by Moria in Chicago, Illinois; and, with George Wallace, the co-author of Swimming Through Water, published in 2002 by La Finestra in Trento, Italy.]


     “Séamas Cain’s novel The Dangerous Islands : I shuddered when I read, ‘A pig looks into the distance and grieves.’  There are so many images in this novel that arrest us.  Pigs usually look down, snout in trough.  But why shouldn't they look into the distance?  In Ireland it was thought that pigs could actually see the wind.  Who discovered that?  I don't know.  Is it true?  Who knows.  ‘A pig looks into the distance and grieves.’  But what grieving is this?  It is the blight man was born for.  His/her own demise?  A pig grieving pig's demise?  The death of the novel?  Yes, didn't you hear?  The novel died last night; but Séamas Cain brought it back to live again.  This is it.  Viva!”

               Gabriel Rosenstock,
               Dublin, Ireland.

[Gabriel Rosenstock is the author of Uttering Her Name, published in 2009 by Salmon Poetry of Knockeven at the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland; Haiku Enlightenment and Haiku : The Gentle Art Of Disappearing, both published in 2009 by Cambridge Scholars Publishing at Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England; Rogha Dánta : Selected Poems, published in 2005 by Cló Iar-Chonnachta at Indreabhán in Conamara; Cold Moon : The Erotic Haiku Of Gabriel Rosenstock, published in 1993 by Brandon Book Publishers at Dingle in County Kerry; Dánta Duitse! : Scothvéarsaí Do Dhaoine Óga, published in 1988 by Cló Iar-Chonnachta at Béal an Daingin in Conamara; and Susanne Sa Seomra Folchta, published in 1973 by Clodhanna in Dublin.]


     “Resounding with echoes of Joyce, Burrows and the noble bardic voices of yore, The Dangerous Islands is a tapestry of influences and voices — as much like song or poetry, as much like golden fleece, as like prose.  These are passages to be savoured like rare foods, to be traced by the fingertip, or better yet tongue, onto the skin, to be indulged in and read aloud.  Werewolves cavort with literary intra-textual examinations and hallucinatory visions of bodily fluids and physical forms made surreal and representational.  This is a modern fairytale for the artist-cum-literary critic-cum-mythic historian.  Séamas Cain has one of the most exquisite relationships with the English language that I have ever encountered — and his word paintings/sculptures (‘A heavy wagon rumbled by red peonies, and red insects quivered’) embolden the mind.”
          JL Williams,

          Edinburgh, Scotland.

CONDITION OF FIRE, a volcanic Ovidian sequence of poems by JL Williams ...

PROVOCATEUR, a soundwork with poetry by JL Williams and Opul ...


     “The Dangerous Islands : Style aside, substance aside, characters aside, Séamas Cain's colors remain with you, who are now as imbued with them as their companions.”

               Jeff Harrison, poet,
               Dardanelle, Arkansas.

[Jeff Harrison is the author of books and chapbooks published by Writers Forum, Persistencia Press, MAG Press, and Furniture Press.  His poems have been included in anthologies published by Meritage Press and Firewheel Editions.  Some of his poetry will be found at ... ... ]


     “Séamas Cain's novel The Dangerous Islands is an intensely lyrical work, at times becoming more ‘poetry’ than ‘novel’ but always thoroughly integrating the constantly shifting voices, points-of-view, characters, and visionary passages into what might be thought of as a long poem couched in an enriched prose broth or aura.  I’ve never read anything quite like it; it’s not just that the language is rich with metaphor, symbol, and tactile and sensory description, but that it’s all set up on a frame of specific characters, some of them historical (Yeats, for example), specific places and elusive events, which create the impression that this work is an autobiography — an autobiography that enhances and enriches that generic concept into a ‘history’ that includes many kinds of consciousness or many different experiences of the same self.  Reading it is like reading several different narratives or discourses at the same time.  The book is thus not only a delight to read for its language but compelling for what it suggests about how we understand and know ourselves.”

               Dr. John M. Bennett, Curator,
               The Avant Writing Collection at
               Ohio State University in
               Columbus, Ohio.

[John M. Bennett is the author of Everything Lost : The Latin American Notebook Of William S. Burroughs, published in 2008 by the Ohio State University Press in Columbus; Visual Poetry In The Avant Writing Collection, published in 2008 by the Rare Books & Manuscripts Library of Ohio State University; The Peel & The Peel Peeled, published in 2004 by Anabasis Press in Oysterville, Washington; ROlling COMBers, published in 2001 by the Potes & Poets Press of Bedford, Massachusetts; An American Avant Garde : First Wave, published in 2001 by The William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library at Ohio State University; Mailer Leaves Ham, published in 1999 by the Pantograph Press in Berkeley, California; Works, published in 1973 by New Rivers Press in New York; and many other books and chapbooks.]


     “Séamas Cain inhabits a literary territory where Orpheus meets William Burroughs.  The Dangerous Islands reminded me of nothing so much as Kenneth Patchen's Journal of Albion Moonlight.  Like Patchen, he takes us on a pilgrimage into the human soul.  Along the journey we travel back and forward through history and myth; we enter an otherworld populated by the Lady O’Handrahaun, ‘Billy Butler Yeats’ ordained by the men with guns, mermaids, animal-men, poets, spies, seals and shamans.

     “If the novel is anything, it should be ever new, and make the world afresh.  The Dangerous Islands is a book that stuns me with the utter beauty of its language.  It is surreal, sensual, vibrant, visceral, rhythmic, lyrical.  At its heart are playful meditations on the erotic, the philosophical and the political, including the ‘silence’ of Northern Ireland, and a modern Irish republic ‘all cased in bronze, like a Cambodian Emperor in primal times.’  Like William Blake, Cain’s anarchist heart rebels against ‘objectifying religion’ — and, like Blake, his voice sings.

     “In a time when language has been debased by politics, and where public discourse uses violent language to deal with a violent past, Cain has given us a gift — a novel that is a poem, a tender and uplifting prayer that celebrates language itself, and its capacity to say the unsayable.”

          Liam Carson,
          Dublin, Ireland.

[Liam Carson, the Director of the IMRAM Festival, is the author of Call Mother A Lonely Field, published in 2010 by the Hag's Head Press in Dublin. ]


A boatman steers away from curving dangers.
But I am disgusted with boatmen to the very marrow.

     “Don't read Séamas Cain's The Dangerous Islands ! — if you think that a novel without plot or psychology isn't a novel, if you prefer Knocknagow to Ulysses, if you believe prose and poetry are incompatible, or if you are unwilling to be bewitched, bothered and bewildered by a writer who unapologetically plays Cain with language and form.”

          Raymond Deane,
          Dublin, Ireland.

[Raymond Deane is the author of Death Of A Medium, a novel published in 1991 by Odell & Adair in Dublin, Ireland.  Also, Deane is the composer of Idols : For Organ, a score published in 2003 by the Contemporary Music Centre (CMC) in Dublin; Brown Studies : For String Quartet, published in 2003 by the CMC in Dublin; Rahu's Rounds : For Piano, published in 2002 by the CMC in Dublin; Seachanges : With Danse Macabre, a score for piccolo and flute in G, piano, percussion, violin and violoncello, published in 2000 by the CMC in Dublin; The Wall Of Cloud : A Chamber Opera In Prologue And Three Acts, published in 1997 by the CMC in Dublin; The Poet And His Double : A Confrontation In Four Scenes With Prologue And Epilogue, a miniature opera scored for mezzo-soprano, tenor and baritone soloists, with clarinet, horn, percussion, piano, violin and cello, published in 1993 by the CMC in Dublin; Avatars : For Piano, published in 1991 by the CMC in Dublin; and many other musical works.]


     ““The Dangerous Islands by Séamas Cain gave me the impression that I was, as it were, in a hall of magic mirrors, where reality can be seen simultaneously from different perspectives.  I was reminded forcibly of the definition of literature by the Russian Formalist Roman Jakobson, who described it as ‘organized violence committed on ordinary speech.’

     “When he was twenty, Kafka wrote in a letter:  ‘If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skull, why then do we read it?  So that it shall make us happy?  Good God, we would also be happy if we had no books, and such books as make us happy we could, if need be, write ourselves.  But what we must have are those books which come upon us like ill-fortune, and distress us deeply, like the death of one we love better than ourselves, like suicide.  A book must be an ice-axe to break the sea frozen inside us.’

     “I feel confident that those who read The Dangerous Islands will indeed be shaken up and motivated to reflect on its meaning.”

          Thomas Goggin,
          Kilfinane, County Limerick,

[Thomas Goggin is the author of Wanted : Dead Or Alive, a sequence of poems published in 2007 by Authorhouse in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England.]


     “The Dangerous Islands is a veritable tsunami of words and images — more of a verbal symphony than a narrative.  In the broadest of terms, it celebrates the beauty to be found in a world of vipers, slime, and violence.  If Dante Gabriel Rossetti had written a novel one imagines he might have taken the genre in a lyrical direction, as Séamas Cain has done.”

               W.D. Hamilton, Professor Emeritus,
               The University of New Brunswick at
               Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

[W.D. Hamilton is the author of Old North Esk on the Miramichi, the "final edition," published by Miramichi Books of Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, in 2004; The Miramichi Papers, published in 1987 by the Micmac-Maliseet Institute of the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, N.B.; and Charles Sangster, published in 1971 by the World Authors Series of Twayne Publishers, TWAS 172, in New York, New York; and many other books.]


     “The Dangerous Islands : First, congratulations!  I like Cain's work.  Good work, perfect!”

          Yoyo Yogasmana,
          Bandung, Indonesia