Island Earth: New and Selected Poems
Brandl & Schlesinger, $29.95 pb, 335 pp
‘Dark satanic mills won the day’, S.K. Kelen tells us in one of his strongest poems, ‘Slouching’. ‘Cold modernity followed, a brooding European / monochrome hinted at worlds passing (the good old days).’ What many critics take to be William Blake’s damning of the Industrial Revolution – ‘And was Jerusalem builded here, / Among these dark Satanic Mills?’ (from ‘And did those feet in ancient time’, c.1804) – could easily have served as an epigraph for Kelen’s Island Earth. The industrial age, its intrusion upon great swathes of the ‘emerald world’, has been variously and often compellingly dissected by Kelen throughout his poetic career, which spans more than three decades and is represented in this New and Selected. Also scrutinised is industrialism’s accomplice and enabler: the increasingly global economy that, for Kelen, has made a hostile takeover of human activity at almost every level.