Reviews of Seeking the Stones
SEEKING THE STONES J.J.LAFFERTY
Vogan Publishing, SOCAN
Seeking the Stones is a compact disc of poems which brings to mind the phrase "honey from the rock." This is not to say the poems here are sweet, though there is much sweet tenderness in them; but they draw nourishment from the stones of Celtic culture in a way that calls forth an answer from the listener's spirit. Perhaps mead from the rock is closer to the flavour of the dark, fluid passions the poems raise.
Jim Lafferty is a man on fire with the past, He is attuned to the sacredness of place, the accumulated losses and celebrations of his people, and in this collection stones are the magic means by which one breaks free of chronological time. "The landscape a script of time, and I a chapter of the Celt." ("The Druid Prince") Standing stones, common river stones, passage graves, hearthstones, the great coronation rock of Dunadd, the beehive huts of hermit monks: "wherein we siphoned honey for the soul from the pollen of our prayers." ("Souls by the Sea")- all serve to nourish Lafferty's rich imagination.
But finally it is the stone of the human heart that is his text."We are shards of our shattered dreams jagged, wounding and wounded in our incom- pleteness. We move, drifting together, to make a new form, but fail to fit exactly; there are holes where the dark seeps through. . ." ("Brokenness") Of Irish descent, raised in Scotland, and now living and teaching in Guelph, ("warm in the ice of Canada, "Exile") Lafferty writes of the diaspora of his people and their aching bond with the wild western edge of Europe ". . . the mare of history bears us, riding to the seas and throws us off with little care. Yet something warms, stirs in the smoored ashes of the heart, we bend to blow it now to flame, to pass it on." ("Ours Has Been Exile")
The poems are powerful in themselves, but the choice to present them as a CD rather than a book is particularly astute, for Lafferty's voice is one of the great pleasures here. His voice is for cathedrals, for mountaintops. The seventeenth cut on the CD. "Felix Culpa" is about Judas Iscariot on the night afterr Jesus has been put to death. Lafferty, in the voice of Judas, relives the man's attempts to evade the despair that finally claims him. In the three para- graphs the reader is so fully immersed, travelling on thsi voice into the isolated heart of another human being, that she feels by the end as if she has been to a play. It is a truly remarkable performance.
And finally, the poems are backed by music written by Ken Brown and performed by Brown (flute and strings), with Kelly Hood (uillean pipes) and Jay Weiler (violin). Oh happy confluence! Oh honey and mead! Seeking the Stones is available at Bryan Prince Bookseller. Its Hamilton launch is Nov.3rd between 2 nad 4 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. All are welcome.
REVIEW OF SEEKING THE STONES
BY Frank MacEowen
The Celtic tradition --- primal, ancient, and the still-pulsing heart of it today --- is a soulful pathway that yearns for thresholds and stopping places of prayer, pilgrimage, and holy remembrance. To the open-hearted listener, J.J.Lafferty's Seeking the Stones is a vehicle of healing, a divine spark of empowerment. and an energized portal of travel to other times and places. Lafferty is, no doubt, one of the Aois Dana, the Gifted Ones, embodying the spirit of the Celtic past today. His poems are stunning, moving and will have an undeniable quenching power to the ear and heart of any Homeland or Diaspora Celtic descendant. And, yet, the timeless power of these words, blended with subtle contemplative soundscapes, will speak to anyone exploring the themes of love for the land, remembrance of the ancestors, and the deep longing of the soul thirsting for a sense of place and a way to reconnect with eclipsed earth wisdom.
In Seeking the Stones, J.J Lafferty moves and inspires with this collection of Celtic poetry; a compilation of intensity and beauty- expressed through pen, voice, and song.
His holistic approach is a careful construction for dramatics and mood. Such consideration reflects the import of personalization- present here in form, as much as in content. Lafferty's own voice reverberates with the sounds of lyrical and genuine verse. He fills voids of space with his fullness and warmth. The words themselves have inclinations towards the soul; passionate, pure renditions of memory, thought, and life. Gentle and spirited notes dance in and out of the performed text, subtle and complimentary in fashion: Lafferty's close collaboration with composer, Ken Brown, is clearly evident.
The disc is developed in four sections. The first set deals with, "the Journey", a meditation on personal exploration. Here, questions of pain and joy, of tribulation and strength, cause empathetic reaction where both lamentation and hope pervade. Next, the "Celtic Core"- poems of tradition, remembrance, and mystery; the grandness of nature, an essence of far away. This is a passageway for, "History", a powerful description of a Celtic past juxtaposed with Lafferty's own reflections on the present. Following this is "Spirituality", which is, perhaps, the most expressive poetry on the disc. Lafferty writes with an unorthodox, but vivid and nourished faith. His work is filled with tension and honesty, obviously writ from the heart and sealed with the expression of his own voice.
The appeal of this CD needn't be limited to the Celtic community alone. All those who seek out passion in the poetic world can appreciate the struggle and triumph in "Seeking the Stones". It is an illumination of emotion formed to remember and reconcile the journey which each of us seeks in some way, always.
J.J Lafferty recently performed selected poems from Seeking the Stones at a The Black Mustard, in downtown Guelph, Ontario. Throughout the evening Lafferty entranced the audience with his grace and character and words- his unique dramatic portrayal nothing short of captivating.