The poems in this beautiful collection by Paul Kane travel widely across the earth and through history: Normandy, Australia, New Mexico, Greece, Genoa during the Second World War, 12th Century Caesarea, Fiji, Ireland, New York. What binds it all together is an exacting craft, an elemental vision attuned to “the ground of being in the world,” and a clear-eyed, unsentimental sensibility that has “shed the husk of certainty” in order to see more deeply into what it encounters. “Only assent makes it real” Kane writes, and I give mine unequivocally: Welcome Light is welcome indeed.
Paul Kane’s first five books established this poet as a varied master of five kinds of art; here in Welcome Light, his sixth, a distressed but never agonized poet offers not only amazing life within the established kinds of art—my favorites among three of the five kinds are “The Poet K Visits the Urologist,” “The Imagined World,” and Seven Catastrophes in Four Movements—but also offers explanatory asides at the start (“Words is Enigmas”) and at the close (“A Day in March”); this last is cast for Tina, which cannot be explained for it is the death of the poet’s wife for whom the entire book of poems has been gloriously achieved.
Welcome Light is a wholly welcome addition to the oeuvre of Paul Kane. Poetry lovers know to look for him for a quiet but commanding wisdom. He turns the simplest phrases (“leaving ourselves behind” or “looking out”) into points of philosophical departure. What’s more, his reverence for the unpeopled world (sea, horizon, stone, tree, mountain) is rightly balanced by his grounding in places humans have shaped and named (most notably Australia, Italy, and even the Persia of Hafiz). When Kane asks, “What flows between us under the ground of feeling?” the answer, we intuit, is poetry itself.
—Mary Jo Salter