At the heart of James Harpur’s The White Silhouette is a meditative poem inspired by the Book of Kells – a poem that follows threads into themes such as the nature of the divine, the efficacy of sacred art, and the way of silence. The title poem – described in the TLS as a ‘compelling spiritual memoir’ – is a haunting journey of ‘missed encounters’ in the landscapes of Wiltshire, Tipperary, and Patmos. Elsewhere, Harpur writes about pilgrimage, the Perseids, mystical experiences, and icons and iconoclasm – from Rublev’s golden images to decapitated angels in Galway. He complements his explorations of the sacred with more directly personal poems, including elegies and elegiac translations from Homer and Horace.
Harpur’s poetry is distinguished by its lyric grace and mythohistorical resonance. The musical texture of his lines conveys the warmth, clarity and intimacy of a voice exploring the mysteries of natural, human, and metaphysical worlds. The White Silhouette is the richest summation of his spiritual journey to date.