Skip to content

Guy Gavriel Kay – Beyond This Dark House

February 28, 2009

24. Beyond This Dark House by Guy Gavriel Kay (2003)

Length: 108 pages
Genre: Poetry

Started: 18 January 2009
Finished: 25 February 2009 (reading a poem a night, more or less)

How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 02 January 2009
Verdict? Keeper

Writing a haiku
for a book of poetry…
Apropos? Or strange?

Summary: A collection of poetry by an author primarily known for his fantasy novels. The poems are more contemporary, although they do draw from mythology and legend, as well as Kay’s travels, loves, and life. I think the one word to best summarize the tone of the book as a whole would be “nostalgic”, although individual poems run the gamut from love-struck to bitter, from bleak to humorous.

Review: Well, if there’s one thing staring at my computer screen for the last half hour has proved to me, it’s that I don’t know how to review poetry. Heck, I barely know how to read poetry without a high school English class backing me up. Nevertheless, here goes nothing…

Guy Gavriel Kay is one of my favorite fantasy authors. He’s not just a writer, he’s a wordsmith, and his ability to stir deep emotion with one perfectly turned phrase is part of why I love his novels so much. So, I guess it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that his poetry shows the same careful craft and power of imagery and emotion.

I will admit that I was not crazy about the format. This is absolutely a subjective thing, but free verse poetry is just not my favorite, and free verse is all that’s to be found here. However, looking past that, the poems themselves were beautiful and lyrical, not the same as Kay’s prose but clearly springing from the same brain. Some I loved, some made me wistful and some made me smile, and some were totally opaque to me, even on repeated readings. I kept looking for interconnecting threads to bind each of the sections (there are five) together, and I think I can see them… but darkly. Overall, this was a departure for me, but an interesting one, and it might actually have convinced me to keep reading poetry, so that’s all to the good. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Readers who come to this because they like Guy Gavriel Kay’s fantasy and are looking for more of the same are going to be disappointed. Readers who come because they love the lyricism of Kay’s writing, and his facility with turning the perfect phrase, or because they’re interested in contemporary poetry will enjoy it much more.

An Excerpt:


Of you in the slowly dark I’m thinking,
feeling the twilight as music
marred by the chord of your absence.

One afternoon
you lamented the curl of your hair
and the shape of your toes.

I told you I couldn’t possibly love
a freckled woman. And you
were laughing. My finger found

a blue vein running along
your throat and followed it down,
though I had said that if you ran

I would not follow.
And so I am entangled
in a promise I may break,

because I would have you want me,
at the very least, enough to take
these offerings for what they are:

craftings in the hollow of a sleepless night,
shot through with the discord
of your being far away, and not mine.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links: Guy Gavriel Kay’s website

Other Reviews: SF Site
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 82: “Moonlight is on the sea outside but / the wind is like the mistral in Provence / (the tell me); it puts everyone on edge.” – a cold, dry, northerly wind common in southern France and neighboring regions.
  • p. 106: “I launched myself, / without preparation or evident purpose, / into a paean of praise, a lyric panegyric / discoursing upon Toronto’s many / and varied virtues as the boat got underway / and the towers neared, rising.” – a lofty oration or writing in praise of a person or thing
7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 28, 2009 3:49 pm

    I always have trouble writing about poetry too. But I think you did an excellent job. I really like the poem you shared, and what I’ve heard about Kay’s writing is one of the main reasons why I’m looking forward to reading him so much.

  2. February 28, 2009 7:34 pm

    Thanks for this review. I, too, love Kay – his books are amazing. But I’ve been hesitant to pick this one up, because so often I feel like I don’t GET poetry. This made me feel like it might be okay.

  3. February 28, 2009 11:36 pm

    Nymeth – Poetry’s such a subjective thing that writing a review of it seems totally meaningless, so I feel like sharing a poem (one of my favorites of the collection) was the best way to go about giving a feel for the volume. (p.s. Tigana‘s in the mail. :)

    Elizabeth – I don’t GET poetry either… it’s been so long since I’ve had to talk about poetry that I wasn’t even sure that “free verse” was the term I wanted. Still, I think there’s probably at least a few poems in this collection that will say something to you… even if they’re not the same few that said something to me.

  4. March 1, 2009 9:44 am

    I’m REALLY picky when it comes to poetry and I’m not crazy about that format either :( Good job on the review though (I doubt I would have been able to manage it!)

  5. March 1, 2009 9:07 pm

    I really love poetry, so this is a volume I wouldn’t mind checking out…thanks for the review.

  6. March 2, 2009 9:20 am

    Ladytink – I think part of the reason that I don’t like free verse is that it seems easier than anything with a rhyming structure to it. I don’t write poetry (or at least haven’t since my angsty teenage terrible-poetry phase), so that’s probably a gross oversimplification and condescending to all of the free-verse poets out there, who I’m sure work very hard, but it just seems like it’d be easier to find the words to say what you want them to say when they don’t ALSO have to rhyme.

    Serena – The more people reading Guy Gavriel Kay the merrier!


  1. Beyond this Dark House by Guy Gavriel Kay « The Vinciolo Journal

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: