The Innermost Room
September 2017. 32 pp. ISBN-13 978-3-901993-62-6
£6.00 (+ 1.50 p&p), €6.00 (+ 1.50 p&p), US$8.50 (+ 2.50 p&p)
“Givans approaches his subjects from an angle, brings them to life in richly rewarding insights, imagery and patterns of sound. The themes: characters of faith and literature, from Emily Dickinson to Marilyn Monroe, exude breadth and depth, the language is refreshing and the characters stand before us, suddenly familiar and bathed in new light. A masterly gathering, delicately and astutely balanced. And a joy to read.”
John F. Deane
“In The Innermost Room, Givans conjures intimate episodes from the lives of historical figures and those who loved and suffered their peculiar qualities. He re-illuminates these relationships and, in the process, reveals his own creative and ethical sympathies. A formally deft collection, there is a delicacy to Givans’ imagery that regularly gives this reader pause, as when the would-be lover of the Trappist Monk, Thomas Merton, confronts the impossibility of physical love: “Behind you the weight of snow / haemorrhages on clipped wings of a lone cedar.” Inventive, touching and witty: Givans sustains the promise exhibited in his first full collection, Tolstoy in Love (Dedalus Press).”
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Table of Contents
Excerpts from The Innermost Room
T. S. Eliot Sleeps on Eastbourne Beach
He pitches the deckchair on the dividing line
between estranged shale and pockmarked sand.
Sheltering from bitter winds he hugs the sand barrier
that steps down into the cold sea.
The distant pier, an unmasked Chinese dragon,
is illuminated by a kaleidoscope
of flickering lights. The half-moon peers
across its back, spills envelopes of light
over dark undulating waters that gently deliver
themselves onto the beach in frothy washes.
Despite their calm detachment, sealed within
is a fevered undercurrent that might unleash
a wave that snaps, lashes across this shoreline.
Eliot snuggles into a single blanket,
aftertaste of her flesh fresh on his lips.
In the morning he will return to find her thrashing
in depths of a honeymoon’s shattered glass.
John Donne: Mistress
He treads with gentle footsteps on the stairwell;
one resounding creak could raise my father’s ire.
He enters. In his eyes I see the fire
that’s only quenched by the morning bell.
He removes his boots, breeches, doublet and hose
before my girdle slithers to the floor.
It’s then I turn sideways, for he pores
upon my nakedness, as if his nose
was a cartographer’s pressed against a map.
Enraptured I watch him burn with cold
and tremble as my breasts ease from their moulds.
I unloose my cadence of hair and wrap
my flesh in linen. For decorum’s sake
I let him think it’s me he takes.
Reviews of The Innermost Room
"There is little happiness to be found in The Innermost Room, rich with madness, suicide attempts, affairs and unacquainted loves. It would not be a stretch to label the collection as a feminist text, as Givans shows again and again the maltreatment and injustices led by men of power and influence to the women in their lives. [...] The language suits the time period of the subject matter, something that Givans is careful to do throughout. The speakers are believable, their voices their own, varied and individual. Jumping from character to character, point to point throughout history, The Innermost Room finds Givans fully in control, sympathetic in one century, damning in the next, and always conscious of the weight of words in others’ mouths."
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