The Erotic Secret Heart of Christopher Brennan's 'Poems 1913'

Michael Buhagiar


Arguably the most formidable obstacle to the wider, even global, appreciation of Christopher Brennan’s magnum opus 'Poems 1913' is the obscurity of so many of its 105 individual poems. This is due in some cases to Brennan’s espousal of Symbolist principles, which held that the reader should receive no help from adjunct material in addition to the bare symbols and images themselves; in others, to their presentation of sophisticated arguments, the main challenge to the understanding of which lies in the arguments themselves and not the manner of their expression; and in others, to the elision of certain words, and re-engineering of the syntax, in the service of rhythm and concision. However, there is also often a sense that Brennan may have chosen deliberately to conceal content in a way which does not fit into any of these three categories. James McAuley perceptively remarked the intense personal-erotic character of 'Poems 1913'; but this dimension is in fact far wider and deeper than McAuley recognised, and its intimate character might provide a very good reason for Brennan’s deliberate occultation of so much of it. The purpose of this paper is to illuminate some important occulta of Brennan’s life, as examined in his poetry in a typical artist’s journey towards healing and wholeness.

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