The Last Pool of Darkness
In the second volume of his beloved Connemara trilogy, cartographer Tim Robinson continues to unearth the stories of this rich landscape—weaving placelore, etymology, geology, and the meeting of sea and shore into the region’s mythologies.
From the northern fiord waters of Killary Harbour to the southern sea-washed islands of Slyne Head, western Connemara awes with a rugged landscape: sloping cliffs, towering mountains, and the ever-present thudding of the Atlantic. And here, within the earth, resides the record of the past; stones with ash-grey centers reveal volcanic episodes, a series of mysteriously arranged quartz boulders reminds us of the ancient secrets held in the soil, and a long-disappeared lake filled in by sand lies beneath a golf course, waiting to be rediscovered.
Mapping more than geography, Tim Robinson charts Connemara’s deep relationship to those who have inhabited its surface. The Last Pool of Darkness brims with tales of ghosts, centuries-old land disputes, periods of religious and political upheavals, philosophers entranced by the isolating landscape, poets, mathematicians, artists, fantastical smugglers, the discovery of botanical rarities, trickster fairies, and the delicate balance between humans and nature. Not merely a “certain tract of the Earth’s surface” but “an accumulation of connotations,” Robinson’s Connemara offers readers an opportunity to travel across space and time.
A work of great precision and tenderness, The Last Pool of Darkness is an enchanting addition to the Seedbank series and next chapter in “one of the most remarkable non-fiction projects undertaken in English” (Robert Macfarlane).
Like this book? Sign up for occasional updates
Praise and Prizes
“Combining detailed descriptions of Connemara’s history, folklore, artistry, geology, and nature, Tim Robinson’s The Last Pool of Darkness is a sprawling, joyful romp along Ireland’s western coastline. [. . .] Told in the gossipy tone of a confidante, there are adventure stories about sea captains, balladeers,priests, farmers, and artists, as well as seances, drownings, unsolved murders, the potato blight, and islands that disappear in the mist. Sweeping and authoritative, The Last Pool of Darkness is an astonishing, immersive view of the people and places of Ireland’s Connemara region.”
“[Robinson] is one of the finest of contemporary prose stylists. . . . An astonishing and almost infinitely provocative work.”
“The reader of this wonderful book will learn about the natural history, folklore and topography of the area from one of the great polymaths of our time.”
“Many landscape writers have striven to give their prose the characteristics of the terrain they are describing. Few have succeeded as fully as Tim Robinson.”
“[Robinson’s] work is reminiscent of that of some early explorers and geographers in its painstaking exactitude. But instead of bringing back the record of a hitherto unknown terrain, he is resurrecting the ignored or forgotten from under our feet. He attends to wildflowers, heathers, pollens, and to phenomena ranging from the cemeteries of unbaptized babies to the mythology of hares. His scientific rigor is suffused by a marveling poetry.”
“Visitors to Connemara, that expanse of stony beauty in the west of Ireland, are often struck by its stillness. One of the most eloquent readers of that silence is the Yorkshire-born writer Robinson, whose new collection of essays succeeds in the difficult task of staying true to the verities of a place on to which so many fantasies have been projected. . . . Robinson writes with lapidary precision about a landscape so frequently shrouded in cliché that its unmediated truths are often invisible.”
“Robinson is a stylist of exceptional cadence, tact and ingenuity. . . . At their most intricate, measured and exalting, his sentences sound like the sermons of John Donne, or the elaborate essays of Sir Thomas Browne. And yet: there is nothing antiquarian about this style; it may echo the voices of the great writers who have passed before him—Roderick O’Flaherty in the 17th century, Thackeray in the 19th—but Robinson’s is a medium woven as much out of modern environmental science, land art and fractal geometry as it is from the sonorous periods of the past.”
“Milkweed’s Seedbank series is one of the most exciting and visionary projects in contemporary publishing. Taking the long view, these volumes run parallel to the much-hyped books of the moment to demonstrate the possibility and hope inherent in all great literature."