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Donall Dempsey’s collection, Gerry Sweeney’s Mammy explores his childhood in Curragh, Ireland, growing up with the love of family and friends and the lessons they have taught him on his journey to becoming a man who can "smile my 60 year old smile/perfected by now." ('NOW WE IS 60!').
Dempsey’s poetry fights to keep the child inside alive and words are his weapon, honed by reading the greats from Chaucer to Emily Dickinson. 'MAKE WORDS BREAK FROM ME HERE ALL ALONE, DO YOU!' recounts how being able to recite Gerald Manley Hopkins' poem 'The Windhover' by heart enables him to crush bullies during his first year in Secondary school.
Many of the poems are preoccupied with what time steals away, but done with energy, charm and insight. Despite facing the tragedy of losing his sister, Dempsey's poems are life-affirming with a unique expression, and are sometimes surreal provoking laughter as well as pathos. His ear is tuned to idiosyncratic expression, which works especially well in poems about his daughter Tilly when she was young. "For my little skeowsha/language is lava" ("HITHERING AND TITHERING WATERS OF..') often giving rise to neologisms such as Thundersday when "The thunder scares her/on Thursday."
Several of the poems have dedications, and people in Dempsey’s life jump off the page, their characters and expressions resurrected. Language is used in a dual strategy of preservation and defence against the toll of time, "allowing this 60 year old child/to somehow survive." (‘STICKING ONE'S HEAD OUT OF THE UNIVERSE’).
Lisa Kelly - Poet, Torriano Host and Magma Chair and Creative Writer Tutor.
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