This book of poems is a sustained adoration of the beloved which recalls the work of Dante—what the Vita Nuova might have been had Dante lived on the bare watered rock of Newfoundland, rather than in the ermine-cloaked decadence of Florence. The unnamed Irish woman of this collection, “the complicated jewel of the Burin Peninsula,” leads the narrator through the streets of St. John’s and the seemingly impenetrable evergreen thickets of Ireland on a spiritual odyssey of love and savagery. Unlike its model however, this book also occasionally provides the reader with moments of breathtakingly comic relief.
Made into a $6.5-million feature film (released fall 2009) by Montreal-born John N. Smith, (who also helmed the television series The Englishman’s Boy and Random Passage), and set in 1968, the movie’s visual and dramatic interpretation of Love and Savagery is a lyrical story of an impossible love. Geologist and poet Michael McCarthy (played by Newfoundland native Allan Hawco) travels from his native Newfoundland to the west coast of Ireland to study the intricate and stunning landscape of the Burren. The beauty Michael encounters there is Kathleen O’Connell (played by Irish actress Sarah Greene), and although she is about to dedicate her life to the Church, Kathleen is inescapably drawn to Michael. In a community torn between its traditional roots and its aspirations for the future, the growing affection between the young couple is deeply unsettling and forces the woman to face a seemingly impossible choice.