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Osada’s presentation of the calendar year through plants and weather is both immediate and also layered in memory and questions: on seeing a fox at mid-day ‘… we all rubbed our eyes at what we’d seen.’ In ‘Last Reunion’ the geese whose annual visit marked the year leave, only to be replaced - ‘… men came with plans:/ Theodolites cast shadows over land.’. The then/now continuum/contrast is a unifying feature — childhood memories confronted by present-day reality. In ‘Shards’ Osada shows us men, working by hand, fitting a plate glass window into a local store, and then the modern version: machines, vacuum suction cups, and glazing that seals life inside city tower blocks. This layering of time works particularly well in ‘Monuments’, - ‘Immortalized in bronze, he’s caught mid-fight,/ rushing to catch the Hull to London train/ as if it were that Saturday in May/ when what he saw and wrote secured his fame.’ No need to name the poet or the writing here; Osada trusts his readers.
This collection answers its own question: ‘How do we keep alive what once we were?’ (from ‘Lost Boy’). Attention to changes and the continuing work of transforming these into words hold everything together.
D A Prince (SOUTH Magazine No 56)
Falla has become part of the islands' distinguished literary community. She writes restrained yet vivid accounts of family life, she creates quirky vignettes of domesticity and she lays out the drama of the German occupation in the 1939-45 War. Falla bears witness, in a number of ways, to the idiosyncrasies and resilience of an island people. The geography and history of Channel Islands are in effect mapped out by the poems which, in their freshness and deep sympathy, conceal their considerable artistry. This is a tremendously good debut collection.
Dr Julian Stannard has a PhD from the University of East Anglia and before coming to the University of Winchester, where he teaches English and Creative Writing, he taught English and American Literature at the University of Genoa.
His work was represented in the Faber Anthology First Pressings (1998) and the Oxford Poets/Carcanet Anthology (2004), and he writes for the Guardian, TLS, PN Review, Poetry London, Poetry Review and Nuova Corrente (Italy). He has read at festivals and literary venues throughout Europe and the United States and he was awarded The Troubadour Prize in 2010.
His work has been nominated for both the Pushcart Prize for Poetry (USA) and a Forward Prize (UK). His film poem 'Sottoripa', in collaboration with Guglielmo Trupia, appears on http://vimeo.com/81617966.
He has published four books on writing and writers and four volumes of poetry. For more about Dr Julian Stannard go to the Winchester University website, here.
The first poem sets the tone of this collection and bears out the dedication of the book to the loving memory of the poet’s parents. His mother speaks directly to the reader here, with her words wrapped in the colloquial language used throughout the book: ‘Ya’d wear the heart out of a stone!’. Early on we are introduced to other family influences on the writer: an aunt and a grandmother. In ‘Talking with Granny’, the stabilising presence of elders in the life of the young is well said: ‘She gave you back / your self / but a much better self / than ever you could be.’ This poem, and many others, shows how the support and love so necessary in the formation of the growing child was readily available to the writer throughout his formative years. Many of the poems are written in a sense of gratitude for this early support.
In a book of so many well-executed poems there are many contenders that one might choose as an outstanding piece, particularly because such care has been taken to present them in such a fashion as to involve the reader in the development of the family, and the writer, through the years and to ensure that each event or emotion does not eclipse other, perhaps less dramatic, moments. And so it is that while a poem on the experience of revisiting the old, and now ruined, house of his Aunt Nelly is a memorable one, and therefore produces a memorable poem (‘Sweetnesse Readie Penn’d’, with its reference to George Herbert), the collection is replete with lighter, equally memorable, pieces. There is great fun in ‘A Thin Slice of Ham in the Hand Is Better Than a Fat Pig in a Dream’ (apart from the title itself!): ‘Never bolt your door / with a boiled carrot!’ / as Uncle would say / with a wink – tongue in cheek. / It didn’t always make sense / as our door was always / open’. Poems like this ensure that the collection never assumes that rather maudlin, treacly tone which is the fate of many works that strive to recreate family history. A piece like ‘In the Mythology of Foxes’ ensures that the earthiness of rural life is always present to pull the collection back on track if there is any danger of its contents heading in that direction. Incidentally, that particular poem with its evocation of the killing of a fox and how it affected the poet (‘the boy / carries her / death cradling it / in his mind / trying to comfort her / with human tears’) is strongly reminiscent of Seamus Heaney’s poem, ‘The Early Purges’ where a similar shock of farmyard reality proves a distressing experience for a youngster.
Finally, the very accessibility of Dónall Dempsey’s writing must be mentioned. Not alone are the poems themselves full of a welcome for the reader but the way they are presented is also very reader-friendly (or, as we say these days, ‘user-friendly’). Throughout the book the poet steps back from the poetry to sketch out a little of the history behind the poems. These prose insertions are never turgid or long-winded – they give just enough to add to the understanding and enjoyment of the poems. Perhaps this is a method that other poets might use more often? Especially in these day when so many readers can find poetry an obscure and forbidding medium? Certainly, they would find Donal Dempsey’s collection a welcome change.
Eamonn Lynskey's poetry has been published widely since it first appeared in the 1980s in the Irish Press ‘New Irish Writing’ page edited by David Marcus. Publications in which his work has appeared include Poetry Ireland Review, Cyphers, SHOp, The Stinging Fly, The Stony Thursday Book, Crannog, The Irish Times and Orbis (UK). Eamonn was nominated for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award and was a finalist in the Strokestown International Poetry Competition. He holds an M.Phil in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin. He took part in a reading organised in association with the University of London’s Human Rights consortium and the Keats House Poets at the Stanza Festival in St Andrews in Scotland in March 2014.
He has published three collections: 'Dispatches and Recollections' (Lapwing, Belfast) in 1998, 'And Suddenly the Sun Again’ by Seven Towers (Dublin) in 2010 and recently 'It's Time' (Salmon).
His website is at: www.eamonnlynskey.com
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.
As Dónall writes in the poem 'Sticking one's Head out of the Universe'
“the words haul it all
from that There to this Here.
. . .
allowing this 60 year old child
to somehow survive
so that he can
all over again
a forever first time.”
It is this freshness in the use of language, form, quotations which makes this collection so fascinating. The past is where all our poems begin but Dónall manages to sculpt chunks of his past into wonderfully exuberant and original creations which dance on his pages.
The list of poem titles is itself fascinating, not a dull one in sight, each promising fresh joy. Examples include:
His Wooden Leg Stares at Me
Walking from the Rising Sun to Kildare
A Thin Slice Of Ham in the Hand is Better Than a Fat Pig in a Dream
Eat Your Alligator, Tilly!
The Tree Walks Home with me
I Wish You were Old and Weathered
Ahh Horatio I Hardly Knew Ya!
In Bed with Emily Dickinson
The range of the author’s reach is impressive. He can describe the mundane in brilliant concrete terms as in the poem Much Ado About Something:
“All is well
in this my make-shift
made from Kellogg’s
See the great cock crow
under the proscenium!
construct the wings.
Rows of nightlights
serve as footlights.'
He can move to the use of surreal language which is convincing in its starkness, as in The Always a Forever:
'The lake pulls the sky down
holds it tightly to itself so
it cannot escape
fish swim from cloud to cloud
the sun a hole burnt
in the sky's blue silk
. . .
time nailed my soul
to this one and only summer
the day a once upon a long long ago
that now lives always a forever.'
The style of the poetry, the frequent use of short lines, generally mimics the way his mind and memory jump back and forth through various episodes in his past and through history and literature. Running Through History (for Grandfather Sheedy), dealing with the Curragh of Kildare where he grew up, illustrates the effectiveness and liveliness of this:
“St. Brigid casts her cloak
it covers the entire plain.
. . .
I recite Tennyson to
startled furze bushes.
‘Furze bushes to the left of me
furze bushes to the right of me...’
into my mind rides
the 17th Irish Lancers
leading the Balaclava Charge'
The collection is divided into six sections and each is introduced by a quote from a famous writer. Section One has ‘O words are poor receipts for what time hath stole away…’ from John Clare’s Remembrances, a fitting motto for the work. This, Dónall Dempsey’s latest collection, dealing as it does with 'what time hath stole away' is much more than a poor receipt; its words constitute a fascinating reimagining of what has been stolen but also of what has been learned, remembered and retrieved.
The collection is peopled with memorable characters, the eponymous Gerry Sweeney’s mammy 'like having a spare mammy'; Uncle Michael, 'He looks like/ he’s a dream/ made of summer'; Uncle Seanie 'feet planted firmly in this field' and the dead sibling who haunts the collection:
“Almost 5,000 acres
could not contain my grief.
The Curragh blazed yellow
The world was as beautiful as
it could ever be.
But not for me.” (ALL THE WAY FROM 1967)
His father is also fondly remembered:
' . . . the ordinary
magic of my father
in his arms
gathering up the littlest
of my scattered dreams
stroking my hair
& tiptoeing backwards
out of the room' (SCATTERED DREAMS)
An unusual aspect of the collection is the inclusion of prose pieces here and there. Some act as notes or glosses to poems but others function more as standalone prose poems or even flash fiction. Some, one imagines, would be perfect as introductions to the poems when read in public. Indeed you can imagine the poems in this collection as great spoken word poems but this is not to take away from their impact on the page.
This is a substantial collection at over 130 pages and promises more joys and flashes of revelation with each reading.
Michael Farry is a poet and historian, a founder member of the Boyne Writers' Group, Trim, N. Ireland and was editor of the group's magazine 'Boyne Berries' from its beginning until summer 2014. He has had poetry published in magazines and anthologies in Ireland and the UK, including Acumen, The Frogmore Papers and Prole; in Regime in Australia; in the Soliloquies Anthology Canada and in the Imagination and Place Anthology, USA. He has won awards in a number of poetry competitions: most recently in 2016 he won first prize in the Robert Monteith Poetry Competition, the WOW Poetry Awards and the Goldsmith Poetry Competition. His first collection, 'Asking for Directions', was published by Doghouse Books, Tralee in May 2012. His website is at http://www.michaelfarry.com/poetry-1.html
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