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. Four poetry collections by Dónall have been published by Dempsey & Windle: 'Sifting Sound into Shape' (2012);' 'The Smell of Purple' (2013); 'Being Dragged Across the Carpet by the Cat' (2013) and 'Gerry Sweeney's Mammy' (2017).
“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.
Gerry Sweeney's Mammy
Praise for "Gerry Sweeney's Mammy"
(Full reviews are here)
'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.'
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 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.'
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
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.
“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
Sifting Sound into Shape is out of print now but copies are available at a discounted price from this site (see below)
In Dónall Dempsey's first book of poems and prose pieces he first explores in lyrical prose his process of writing poems about memory, birth, death, loss and love. His work is inspired by his experiences as a member of a large family, as a care worker with the elderly and ill, as a carer of children and a lover of women, and as an admirer of innocence. Dónall treats his chosen themes with characteristic tenderness and humanity. With their rich imagery, these poems are meant to be heard as well as read: Dónall Dempsey is a poet who firmly believes in the aural power of words. This is a book to be read and reread, that always offers new insights and opportunities for meditation on the complexities of life and love.