‘I have rarely encountered a contemporary voice that brings out as strongly and convincingly as does James Harpur’s in “The White Silhouette” the way in which spiritual wrestlings and traditions can live again in poetry.’ — MICHAEL O’NEILL, London Magazine
‘An outstanding collection … I have read and admired earlier volumes by Harpur, but none of them had prepared me for just how remarkable a collection “The White Silhouette” proved to be.’ — GLYN PURSGLOVE, Acumen
‘In “The White Silhouette” he has created a … triumph of contemporary poetry … Harpur is the poet of Knights Hospitaller materials, a quest for that faraway Grail. Faith for Harpur has always blown in with the Lindisfarne storm. There are many poems here of astonishing quality.’ — THOMAS McCARTHY, Poetry Ireland Review
‘James Harpur’s “The White Silhouette” is a beautiful collection of poetry in three parts. “The White Silhouette” is a tour of faith and history. “Kells” imagines a conversation with the various artisans of that famous illuminated text. The last section, “Leaves,” blends classical references with memories of family, school, friendships, and loss. The book’s total effect is both complex and meditative. Throughout the collection, Harpur’s craft is both beautiful and subtle.’ — GREG BROWN, World Literature Today
‘“The White Silhouette” is a triumph of spiritual word-wielding … The rhythm of Harpur’s lines are so masterfully controlled, one is borne along on his voice; calm, careful and always drifting … Holy or not, these poems are for the spirit.’ — JOE DARLINGTON, Manchester Review of Books
At the heart of James Harpur’s The White Silhouette is a meditative poem inspired by the Book of Kells – a poem that follows threads into themes such as the nature of the divine, the efficacy of sacred art, and the way of silence. The title poem – described in the TLS as a ‘compelling spiritual memoir’ – is a haunting journey of ‘missed encounters’ in the landscapes of Wiltshire, Tipperary, and Patmos. Elsewhere, Harpur writes about pilgrimage, the Perseids, mystical experiences, and icons and iconoclasm – from Rublev’s golden images to decapitated angels in Galway. He complements his explorations of the sacred with more directly personal poems, including elegies and elegiac translations from Homer and Horace.
Harpur’s poetry is distinguished by its lyric grace and mythohistorical resonance. The musical texture of his lines conveys the warmth, clarity and intimacy of a voice exploring the mysteries of natural, human, and metaphysical worlds. The White Silhouette is the richest summation of his spiritual journey to date.
James Harpur. Paperback, 96 pages, 2018.