Featured Anthology: Staying Alive – Brendan Kennelly

As the end of the week arrives and the last poem from our featured anthology Staying Alive is posted, it seems somehow appropriate to have a poem about new beginnings. Moving forever forward, not backwards. As ‘Begin’ by Brendan Kennelly, one of Ireland’s most distinguished poets, so eloquently captures. Kennelly has said of himself, “If I’m anything, it’s open” and this is sustained in his writing, which has space for the virtuous, the merciless, the beautiful and the hideous.

Begin

Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of light at the window,
begin to the roar of morning traffic
all along Pembroke Road.
Every beginning is a promise
born in light and dying in dark
determination and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.
Begin to the pageant of queuing girls
the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal
bridges linking the past and the future
old friends passing through with us still.
Begin to the loneliness that cannot end
since it perhaps is what makes us begin,
begin to wonder at unknown faces
at crying birds in the sudden rain
at branches stark in the willing sunlight
at seagulls foraging for bread
at couples sharing a sunny secret
alone together while making good.
Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.

(This poem is reproduced with permission from Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times (2002, Bloodaxe Books), edited by Neil Astley.)