published with our thanks
Extracts from reviews are also included on individual authors' pages.
Scroll down to find full reviews, as well as extracts, which are posted in chronological order.
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
Here we publish comments by readers and reviewers about our books, as we receive them. If you want to send us a comment on a particular book, for possible inclusion on this page, please send it to us through our CONTACT page.