Cloquet author writes a novel unlike any otherAuthor Séamas Cain may live in Cloquet, but his subject matter ranges far from the small northern Minnesota town where Cain was raised. In his latest work, “The Dangerous Islands,” the experimental poet and performance artist has written a lyric novel which he describes as a “non-classic coming-of-age tale.”
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Author Séamas Cain may live in Cloquet, but his subject matter ranges far from the small northern Minnesota town where Cain was raised.
In his latest work, “The Dangerous Islands,” the experimental poet and performance artist has written a lyric novel which he describes as a “non-classic coming-of-age tale.”
Although he grew up in Cloquet and graduated from Cloquet High School, Cain spent a substantial amount of time in Ireland in his younger years and he was active in the Civil Rights Movement, People’s Democracy, and later the Peace Movement, he said.
On his website – www.freewebs.com/seamascain – Cain’s new book is described as “a moral history of the Irish and Irish-American activists of the generation of the ’60s. Or, more accurately, it is a history of their emotions and their enthusiasms.”
“It’s based on my own experiences in Northern Ireland during the time of civil war there,” said the Cloquet native, whose Irish immigrant grandparents immersed him in the Irish language and culture while he was growing up. “Visits, long periods of time I was there. The novel is more of a metaphorical treatment of all that.”
Metaphorical is right. Reading Cain’s book – even perusing the pages of the paperback – is a unique experience.
Irish author and composer Raymond Deane had this to say about Cain’s latest work:
“Don’t read Séamas Cain’s ‘The Dangerous Islands!’ – if you think that a novel without plot or psychology isn’t a novel, if you prefer Knocknagow to Ulysses, if you believe prose and poetry are incompatible, or if you are unwilling to be bewitched, bothered and bewildered by a writer who unapologetically plays Cain with language and form.”
When asked to describe his book, Cain said most of his sentences “could have been written by [Honoré de] Balzac” and likens it to early short stories by Dylan Thomas or Virginia Woolf’s “The Waves.”
Author John Bennett, who is curator of “The Avant Writing Collection” at Ohio State University, said he’s never read anything quite like Cain’s
“‘The Dangerous Islands’ is an intensely lyrical work, at times becoming more ‘poetry’ than ‘novel’ but always thoroughly integrating the constantly shifting voices, points-of-view, characters, and visionary passages into what might be thought of as a long poem couched in an enriched prose broth or aura,” Bennett wrote. “… Reading it is like reading several different narratives or discourses at the same time. The book is thus not only a delight to read for its language but compelling for what it suggests about how we understand and know ourselves.”
“The Dangerous Islands” was actually published in Ireland by The Red Jasper Press, although copies are available in this area at the University of Minnesota Duluth book store and at Magers & Quinn, the Twin Cities’ largest independent book store.
For those willing to travel to meet their hometown poet/author, Cain will read from “The Dangerous Islands” at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23, at Magers & Quinn in Minneapolis. All are welcome. The book will be available for purchase as well. “The Dangerous Islands” is not available as an e-book.
Cain was interviewed Tuesday by Lynette Reini-Grandell of KFAI-FM Radio in the Twin Cities for the station’s “Write On Radio!” program. The show will be archived for two weeks online at www.kfai.org/node/39386.
Editor’s note: Keep your eye on the Pine Journal for news of any local readings by Cloquet’s best known Irish voice.