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The Salmon's Tale / Jessie Lendennie

The Salmon's Tale

By: Jessie Lendennie

A Silver Salmon Disrupts the April river Smiles into the rain The Salmon’s Tale merges the poet Jessie Lendennie’s narrative poem alongside a visual journey through her 40 years at the helm of Salmon Poetry, one of Ireland's leading poetry publishers. This collaboration with Salmon book designer, Siobhán Hutson, is a unique project in the history of Irish poetry. For J...
Pub Date Saturday, September 11, 2021
Page Count 92
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A Silver Salmon
Disrupts the April river
Smiles into the rain

The Salmon’s Tale merges the poet Jessie Lendennie’s narrative poem alongside a visual journey through her 40 years at the helm of Salmon Poetry, one of Ireland's leading poetry publishers. This collaboration with Salmon book designer, Siobhán Hutson, is a unique project in the history of Irish poetry. For Jessie, this offers the rare opportunity to emerge from her role as publisher and highlight her own creative work. It also showcases the broad range of Salmon Poetry’s work, its huge creative output, and its major influence on the world of Irish and international poetry.

To mark Salmon Poetry’s 40th Anniversary, the cover of The Salmon’s Tale pays tribute to the cover design of the first ever book published by Salmon – Gonella, the debut collection of poetry by Eva Bourke, with artwork by Jay Bourke. 

Praise for The Salmon's Tale:

The Salmon’s Tale is one of the loveliest, truest books about poetry and the life of publishing I’ve read. Well done Jessie Lendennie and Siobhan Hutson Jeanotte for making something so beautiful and so true. I’m very proud to be part of the Salmon school.  Nessa O'Mahony

The SALMON'S TALE is the song of a poet and a primordial muse singing back and forth to each other. Jessie Lendennie is that poet, and the Great Salmon is the muse. This tale of creation and inspiration relates the birth and history of a poetry press, a remarkable press that has – for forty years – published the work of both Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean poets. Yes, this is the story of Salmon Poetry of Ireland! With her rich lyric voice, Jessie Lendennie, Salmon Poetry's founder, tells us the press' history in this visually lovely book designed by Siobhan Hutson. And I--lucky, lucky me--am one of the Pacific Ocean poets, along with my dear friend Lex Runciman, who appear in The SALMON'S TALE. Thank you, Jessie, for including this Oregon poet in your press' history. When, in the tale, you tell us "Rain is an upside-down sprinkling of sea and shivering of rivers, a mirror of our place, our suspension in time," I can hear your lyric voice linking rainy western Oregon and Ireland! Yes, Atlantic Salmon and Pacific Salmon are siblings. Atlantic poets and Pacific poets are members of one splendid clan. This book is a history of a poetry press told in an artfully crafted narrative poem. Hosannah! The SALMON'S TALE and hundreds of other noteworthy titles are available at  PAULANN PETERSON

The Salmon’s Tale is part origin story and part myth resulting from the past forty years of Salmon Poetry’s contributions to the world of poetry. With vivid photographs and intricate design work by Siobhan Hutson, this delightful medley of story and song by Jessie Lendennie is a thing of beauty! This book is a reminder of Salmon Poetry’s impressive contributions to the world of poetry— its diverse poets, wonderful community, and impressive catalog of books! 

Jessie Lendennie

Jessie Lendennie was born in Arkansas, USA. After years of travel, she settled in Ireland in 1981. Her previous publications include a book-length prose poem Daughter (1988); reprinted as Daughter and Other Poems in 2001. She complied and edited: Salmon: A Journey in Poetry, 1981-2007Poetry: Reading it, Writing It, Publishing It (2009) and Dogs Singing: A Tribute Anthology (2010).  She is co-founder (1981) and Managing Director of Salmon Poetry. Her poems, essays and articles have been widely published and she has given numerous readings, lectures and writing courses in Ireland and abroad, including Yale University; Rutgers University; The Irish Embassy, Washington D.C; The University of Alaska, Fairbanks and Anchorage; MIT, Boston; The Loft, Minneapolis, MN; Café Teatre, Copenhagen, Denmark; the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville;  The Irish American Cultural Centre, Chicago and The Bowery Poetry Club, New York City. She is currently working on a memoir To Dance Beneath the Diamond Sky.

Review: Lex Runciman reviews The Salmon's Tale (September 2021)

An intricate collaboration, The Salmon’s Tale is prefaced by two preliminary texts. The first evokes the literally wonderful Fionn Mac Cumhaill story of how the salmon became The Salmon of Wisdom, with its affirming worldview of all the parts partaking of a whole – an entirety of plants, birds, animals, fish, land, people, and weather. Robert Graves “Song of Amergin," which follows, becomes stirring in its inclusions, including these lines: "I am a salmon: in a pool, / I am a lure: from paradise, / I am a hill: where poets walk,…" 

With such mythic contexts in place, The Salmon's Tale works as a dialogue, a back and forth between the Salmon of legend, and the textual person easily identified with Jessie Lendennie herself. It’s the intertwining of these two voices that becomes so compelling, including that sense of the timely and the timeless, the mundane and the all-encompassing. Early on, the Salmon is disturbed by an effort to inquire into its affairs, and, like a crow, none too happy about it. Yet permission is given, “…tell the story,” despite what is “the saddest thing [namely that] I cannot give my knowledge, no matter how much you poets may want it.” As the dialogue proceeds, T. S. Eliot (of all people) comes into it, and later, Yeats. And so it goes, two voices, each insistent. 

Eventually the Salmon's voice shifts from acquiescence, acknowledging "…Eva. So beautiful with her shining hair.” And it is Rita Ann Higgins who at last turns the Salmon’s voice to something like a fuller appreciation: “…So much of my dark humour is in her laugh and in her words.” From then on, the Tale become Whitmanesque, as the telling moves to include the Pacific, and Alaska, and so on and on. What’s fascinating is the way that Salmon Poetry's publication history is woven in, the way the documentary elements become a third part… an insistence of something fundamental: namely that the effort to write and the effort to publish are parts of the same driving wish. “Poetry is the appreciation of what is!" 

Overall, The Salmon’s Tale makes an astounding journey, not least due to its design and presentation, the placing of photographs, the artwork at the bottoms of many pages, all the decisions about what makes a page. Such elements combine in ways that had to have been worked on with great care and love, worked on and eventually worked out so as to culminate in this very large, eloquent, and gorgeous little book.

The Salmon’s Tale is one of a life-work ongoing. A story of many individual voices and deep collaborations, and always a story of pursuit, a pursuit that as much an effort to listen, to hear, as to it is to chase after. Ultimately the driving force in The Salmon’s Tale is that profound, enduring impulse to act on one’s experiences, one's emotions and thoughts, one’s abiding, ever-thirsty curiosity. It is an impulse to understand, even as it is also an impulse to align oneself with something large, something that the Salmon voices and represents, at once natural and profound. 

Review:  Liam Murphy reviews The Salmon's Tale for The Munster Express, January 2022

Last year Salmon Poetry celebrated forty years of publishing poetry from their Galway and, later, Cliffs Of Moher location. They have produced 630 books from 300 poets and contributed to the emergence of women poets and American Pacific poets. 

The driving force and co-founder of Salmon is Jessie Lendennie from Blytheville, Arkansas, who settled in the early eighties in Galway. Galway was the gateway to Connemara and the wild imagination of an elemental place, where for many the pace of life was not as frantic as the rain and the wind that lashed in over Rahoon, as some poet eloquently said.

Back in the Eighties, I visited Galway regularly to see plays, the emergence of Druid and the Irish plays at the Taibhdhearc - National Irish Language Theatre. The Galway Arts Festival was a wonderland for visiting American and English theatre companies. The artistic and festival life extended about six streets that led from Eyre Square and crissed-crossed down to the Claddagh. I saw work that I wouldn't see anywhere else in Ireland. I saw art exhibitions to blow your consciousness and still remember a Joni Mitchell exhibition of her paintings.

At poetry readings, there would be small Salmon collections, and I never imagined this publishing effort would survive and become a vital literary force in Ireland and much further afield. My senses were alive and open for further experience - raw, creative, pretentious, provocative and often powerful.

Last year as part of the celebrations, Jessie Lendennie brought out a poem - The Salmon's Tale, a book designed by Siobhan Hutson. It was for me, filled with memories, as Jessie wove a tale of wonderment. The photographs touched a deep nostalgia that I usually fight against.

There was the poet, Fred Johnston, a fierce activist for writing. Michael Allen was at Jessie's elbow. Some of the early covers were recognisable, and I only wished I had saved them. I first heard Rita Ann Higgins read from her first collection, Goddess On The Mervue Bus, at the Quays Pub, and I went with others to journey on that Galway bus.

There is a photo of Ray Bradbury whose books and plays I loved. He came to Ireland to work on the script of Moby Dick for John Huston and wrote a crazy book about that experience. Salmon published Bradbury's collection I Live By The Invisible.

The Salmon's Tale is a leap of faith, a shimmer of scales from the invisible, and this Salmon returns again and again with more poets and more wild imaginings.

Other Titles from Jessie Lendennie

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