Michael Feeney Callan’s love of poetry began at an early age, when he became fascinated by the mystery of its effect on him. As a child he was captivated by the lulling magic of Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, and later the symbolism and mysticism of Yeats and Poe became key influences.
“To me poetry is the ultimate workman’s tool,” he says, “full of power and flexibility.” Among the Modernists he favours confessional and language poets such as John Berryman and Wallace Stevens. “But I’m proud to have an antiquarian bent. Poetry is the most potent distillation of the history of human thought, so it’s always valuable to excavate. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Homer and haiku are as relevant today as rap. It’s a visceral, living, doing thing.”
The poems of An Argument for Sin form a kind of memoir. Individually they document moments from Callan’s childhood, travels and career, while collectively they can be read as a narrative meditation on self-discovery, the soul and the indications of human destiny.