Dónall Dempsey's fifth collection – Published 21st November 2019 under our VOLE imprint
"Dónall is a poet as bard who reminds us of the pleasures of the imagination; who invites us to look up from the white noise of our busy lives. The poems tell of an individual who could not help but follow his own path which may not be the life others respect or even understand but where the rewards are richer and less material. Here is a man who does not live a life of quiet desperation but follows his calling with its rewards and pitfalls and is a happier man for it."
– Fiona Sinclair (London Grip)
A new review of "Crawling Out and Falling Up"by Carla Scanaro, published on 17/3/20: WriteOutLoud.net https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=100292
Dónall Dempsey’s exuberant personality and imagination unfold throughout his latest collection. His poetry is inspired not just by romantic views or existential themes; clocks, baking, songs, animals, nature, as well as family, love and death, can all be the subject of poetry. His poetry is in constant conversation with the reader, with nature, and with himself. The title of the collection comes from the first poem that recalls memories of his daughter when she was a little girl:
Her first puddle.
‘There’s rain lying dead
in a hole!’
She’s only ever
seen rain fall
not trapped in a pothole.
‘Why doesn’t it
and fall up?’
I see it happen
in thought if not in deed.
(‘Crawling out and falling up’)
Her imagination triggers a fantastical upside-down world similar to Lewis Carroll, and yet it is connected to everyday life in its apparent simplicity. Time is one of the themes developed in this collection:
Irish alternates with English, and Italian, in some poems, as in ‘Dónall O’Diomsiagh is Anim Dom!’ (Dónall Dempsey is my name):
Dónall meaning WORLD
MIGHTY SPEAR POWER.
And Dempsey itself meaning
THE PROUD ONE!
(‘Dónall O’Diomsiagh is Anim Dom!’)
His own name is rich with meaning and seems to expect commitment and success, nomen est omen (the name speaks for itself). But there is humour and a sense of lightness in the tone of the poem - self-knowledge as well as self-indulgence. Birds, skies and cloud are recurring symbols that are intended to express a sense of boundless freedom. It may never be utterly achieved but always longed for:
lifted its arms
to the sky
and prayed for hours.
It offered up
all its leaves
that lay at its feet
like a woman
stepping out of
a yellow dress
The poet is capable of dreaming, though temporarily, through the disenchanted eyes of an adult that wishes to go back to childhood. As Dempsey says in the final notes:
"my child was always teaching me ways to see and to treat the world seriously as the sacred thing it is. She had love for everyone and everything … I did my best to learn from her … she was my mentor."
The sudden death of his brother inspires a meditation on the inevitable frailty of being human, and also triggers a conversation on poetry. What is poetry and how do poems ‘happen’? In a dialogue with his dead brother, the poet says that a poem is “an organic becoming rather than any planned thing. Like a human spider web spun from your self”. Poetry is a physical and mental creation, involving both the body and the mind. Writing poetry is also a way to feel yourself “beloved on the earth”, that is, appreciated, that you count for someone, that you are not a zero.
There are frequent references to William Carlos Williams, Wilfred Owen, Dante, John Donne, and Walt Whitman. Dempsey reflects on these poets and their works from a witty angle, highlighting different themes such as futility, the tragic consequences of war, the contingency and unpredictability of life and love.
He revisits classical myths such as Leda and the Swan where Leda takes the lead, plucks the swan’s feathers, and cooks the swan. In a final twist, “she dines upon//the subtle delicate/breast of swan//served in a creamy/pepper&garlic sauce.//She even has/an extra helping.” The shift of point of view is an intriguing interpretation that undermines the god and vindicates the woman. Special mention must be made for the collection’s untitled haiku, true “gems amongst the titled poems”, as the collection’s introduction has it. Here are some examples:
he felt like an isolated
isosceles triangle amongst
a bunch of squares
she sleeps like a fish
turning and turning
in a river of dreams
The haiku reveal and hide, hinting at the themes of the collection that are more extensively developed in the longer poems. Time passes but affections remain and as humans we have the incredible gift and power to give, to empathise with others and to connect with nature.
Dónall Dempsey is a prolific, multi-layered poet who maintains a constant conversation with himself and the world around him. His poems have a sensual, physical approach and provide insights into fundamental questions of life and poetry.
A new print edition of 'The Smell of Purple' (VOLE Books)
also available as an ebook on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
The Smell of Purple
A collection of eighty-five of Dónall Dempsey's poems about his step-daughter's early years exploring the world and her own perceptions. Tilly's early awakening awareness of herself and her surroundings were a constant delight to Dónall and in these poems he has recovered that feeling of surprise and privilege that he felt when watching his little daughter develop her unique sense of reasoning and connection with her world as she grew up beside him. These poems are moving, funny, spiritual and observant, by turns and sometimes simultaneously. This is a collection to read over and over, to experience with Dónall and Tilly the sense of discovering the world anew.
Binding: Perfect-bound Paperback
Interior Ink: Black & white
Weight: 0.2 kg
15.24 wide x 22.86 tall
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John W Sexton (poet, lyricist, scriptwriter and reviewer) writes:
'One of Dónall Dempsey’s great intuitive strengths as a poet is his empathy with the people of his childhood ... Some of his strongest poems work as they do because they nail down the immediacy of the universal experience of being young and innocent. But in all those poems he also fully realises the minds and perspectives of the adults around him. ... Imbued with life, they step out of the poetry and into the mind’s eye of the reader; until the reader is blind with the seeing of the poet.'
Heather Moulson writes about "The Smell of Purple":
'Such a detailed and authentic description of a child’s world... the crayoned house, and what a little girl really sees....Very sharp and in the present.,,, Those short poems are a real joy and say such a lot ... Feelings. They jump out at the reader.
Love parts like the dolls being sewn up. That meant so much to a little girl. Also, the introduction of the animal sounds and her fascination with them. And the endless world that opens up to a child. How it becomes Their world.... Many Children Ago is so sad and poignant. A doll in a joyless existence....Newborn is very emotional and Numero Uno was enthralling....Story time is almost chilling. The way these dolls judge you. So insightful....
My personal favourites are the short poems, Sticks and Box of Memories. They’re stunning....'
Gerry Sweeney's Mammy
Now also available as an ebook
from Amazon.co.uk (Click the link to see it)
“Gerry Sweeney’s Mammy” is packed with memories of the author’s childhood growing up in the Curragh Camp where his father was stationed for forty years and where Dónall himself served in the Irish Defence Force for six years as a young man. His poems also recall holidays in Co. Cork, where his father’s family come from, and range beyond memory to deal with every aspect of family: birth, loss, family anecdote and inevitably, the fun and humour that exist in all families.
21cm wide x 15cm tall
Comments on "Gerry Sweeney's Mammy"
(Full reviews are here)
'This is a book of great clarity. Its poems draw strength from the twin securities of family and place before striking out boldly to engage with themes of death and loss. Dónall Dempsey’s new collection deftly shows readers how: ‘[t]he flag of self unfurls / snaps into the lost moment.’ (‘Walking from the Rising Sun to Kildare Town’). This is especially apparent in poems like ‘Follow the Leader’ where the writer’s daughter prompts this unfurling, teaching him not simply to recognise but: ‘to be / the world that she / can see / (half invention / half discovery) …’ Many of Dempsey’s poems take up this ontological challenge, asking us to consider how our being in the world is shaped by complex interaction with close relatives and friends. In short, Gerry Sweeney’s Mammy celebrates our fundamental interconnectedness, the strength of that human chain outlasting the home place or family tree.'
Gerry Sweeney's Mammy is a study in memory; beautifully and movingly suggests the divides of our life (as the book is in sections) the "then and nows" of our reality. For Donall the death of his brother creates such a high watershed between "then and now". But each reader exploring this pages will discover their 'then and now'. They'll puzzle about what they remember or have been unable to forget.'
Paul A W Sutherland
'This is a tender and touching collection of poems. It is at times sad but as a counterbalance there is much humour. Above all these poems are excellently crafted with exquisite use of language. Divided into sections, it broadly deals with the narrator’s childhood in Ireland, the death of a much-loved sister, the love felt for the narrator’s own daughter and the loss in adulthood of his beloved brother. Yet the driving force behind the collection is a zest for life, a passion for language and literature and a genuine interest in people...
Throughout the collection, Dempsey makes us see that after the initial acute sense of loss, the death of a loved one continues to reverberate across the years. I don’t think I have encountered poems that so fully and honestly deal with death and its aftermath.'
'A poetry collection which deals, among other things, with the author’s childhood in Ireland, the deaths of siblings and older relations and his fascination with words and reading. It contains numerous references to and quotations from famous writers of the past from James Joyce to Emily Dickinson.
Sounds familiar, even commonplace? Forget it. These poems and this collection transcend all expectations of a volumes of sensitive, sly, self-conscious backward looks. Instead this one sparkles with originality, vitality, and the love of life and language.'
Being Dragged Across the Carpet by the Cat
(3rd Edition, includes poems from 'Sifting Shape into Sound.')
ACROSS THE CARPET
BY THE CAT
You fall on the floor.
Carefully I brush you up.
Returned to your urn
you sit upon the mantelpiece
gazing at the setting sun.
15.24mm wide x 22.86mm tall
Weight: 0.23 Kg
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"Being Dragged Across the Carpet by the Cat" is a collection of 91 poems and prose pieces by Dónall Dempsey. It includes all of the poems from the first and second editions of "Being Dragged Across the Carpet by the Cat", together with poems and prose from Dónall Dempsey's first collection, "Sifting Sound into Shape" (now out of print). Many of these are poems in celebration of Dónall's childhood holidays with his uncles in County Cork.
“Once again we become blind with the seeing of the poet ... become, essentially, children ourselves in the perfectly-visioned childhood perspective of this delightful collection. “
– John W. Sexton
Born in the Curragh of Kildare,, Ireland, Dónall Dempsey is now living in Guildford, England, with his wife Janice. He was Ireland's first Poet in Residence in a secondary school and appeared on RTE with John Cooper Clarke and Paul Durcan. His poems have been published widely in anthologies and online magazines in Europe, England, the USA, Canada and India. He is host of 'The 1000 Monkeys', a regular monthly poetry event in Guildford. He has four earlier poetry collections: 'Sifting Sound into Shape' (2012, now out of print);' 'The Smell of Purple' (4th edition 2020); 'Being Dragged Across the Carpet by the Cat' (3rd edition 2014) and 'Gerry Sweeney's Mammy' (2017)
TALKING WITH GRANNY
From "Gerry Sweeney's Mammy"
Granny reached up and
stroked the words
as they they floated in the air
handled each vowel
as if it were precious
held all the consonants
as if she wouldn't let them go
she could see
what I was saying
with her blind hands
even more so
plucking words from the air.
She could see your thoughts
before you could think them.
She gave you back
but a much better self
than you could ever be.
I closed my eyes
sharing her dark
watching the words
come into being.
Her voice and my voice
mingling in the air
like a music
that could be seen
stretching far far
Mandy Pannett reviews "Gerry Sweeney's Mammy"
in SOUTH Magazine #58, September 2018:
'I defy anyone not to be moved to laughter and to tears by these poems that celebrate life, language, love and loss for the memories they bring... This is an outstanding, memorable collection.
(Full review here)
Eamonn Lynskey writes about "Gerry Sweeney's Mammy" on his website, http://eamonnlynskey.com/posts-2/
Price: including p&p to UK only: £7.99