Sunday, December 18, 2016

John Montague

 Neither of the newspapers we subscribe to, The New York Times and The Washington Post, has noticed the death of John Montague on December 9. I heard of it only via Books, Inq.

It had been a while since I looked into the volumes I have, Selected Poems (1982) and The Dead Kingdom (1984); a few poems are found in both. Some I remember from first reading thirty years ago still: "Clear the Way", "The Cage", "Killing the Pig", "Country Matters", "Life Class", the prose poems "The Huntsman's Apology" and "Coming Events". The last begins
In the Stadzmuseum at Bruges, there is a picture by Gerard David of a man being flayed.
That picture is "The Judgment of Cambyses", as we discovered when in Bruges some years ago.

The poem "A Private Reason" begins
As I walked out at Merval with my wife
Both of us sad, for a private reason,
We found the perfect silence for it,
A beech leaf severed, like the last
Living thing in the world, to crease
The terraced snow, as we
Walked out by Merval.
The Collected Poems of 1995 must comprehend Selected Poems and The Dead Kingdom. Wake Forest Press, which published them all, keeps in print several of his other volumes as well. And it offers as its poem of the week Montague's "At Last", which you can find in Collected Poems.


  1. When I moved to Albany long, long ago, I took a community fiction workshop at the NYS Writer's Institute to try and meet some other writers. It was his, and limited to five writers. He was very kind and amusing, and later on I had the luck of a blurb from him on one of my books.

    1. And yes, it is too bad that there was not more notice, though not surprising these days. I think that I found out via twitter.

    2. Most interesting. I understood that head written stories, but have never seen nor tracked them down. An acquaintance who had worked for USIA spoke of meeting Montague, but did not, apparently, know his poetry--the discussion arose because he had spotted The Selected Poems in our house. I wish I could remember what if anything he said about Montague.

      One would think that a Brooklyn-born Irish poet would get a notice in the New York Times. I'm pretty sure that I read a piece by Montague in the Times long ago.

    3. You would think, yes. Sad. Wish that I had jotted down some of the things he had to say at the time....