Irish poetry is performing magic tricks

The Nov/Dec issue of Books Ireland contains a complete guide to books for Christmas. In this extract, Vona Groarke, former editor of Poetry Ireland Review discusses recent poetry books.

‘You could give a puppy, but you won’t be thanked. You could give jewellery, to lurk in a box. You could give socks, but they’ve a funny way of making themselves scarce. Or money that doesn’t last as long as even perfume would. Or you could give a poetry book and find you’re liked for the gift. Because it will have dogs, jewels, socks and perfume in it, almost certainly, but it will also have sense and feeling, mystery and delight. Because Irish poetry is, at the moment, performing magic tricks. Because your gift will stay not only fresh but also new each time it’s used. And you can’t say that for socks.’

The Rag Tree Speaks. Emma McKervey. Doire Press; 79pp; €12/£9 pb; 21cm; 978-1-907682-55-1. The début collection from this award-winning County Down poet is concerned with a sense of place and identity, interrogating the accepted notions of Irishness in particular.

Transmissions. Elaine Cosgrave. Dedalus Press; 68pp; €12.50/£11/US$15 pb; 22cm; 978-1-910251-25-6. The first collection from this widely published poet, whose work touches on a variety of themes with the ear of a musician and the energy of youth.

Fuaim na Gaoithe Aniar. Paddy Mhéime Ó Súilleabháin. Coiscéim; 64pp; €7.50 flapped pb; 21cm. This is Ó Súilleabháin’s first collection and it follows the established tradition of poetry from a sense of community. His poems received high praise at the Oireachtas in Canada.

The Tragic Death of Eleanor Marx. Tara Bergin. Carcanet Press; 87pp; £9.99 flapped pb; 21cm; 978-1-784103804. Marx’s daughter’s suicide in 1898, imitating Madame Bovary, prompts Bergin to explore themes of imitation and translation in these poems of intense love and grief.

Poetry Ireland Review, 122. Eavan Boland (ed.). Poetry Ireland; 128pp + 8pp of photos; €12 pb; 23cm; 978-1-902121-65-9. The latest issue of this collection of poetry and prose under recently appointed editor Eavan Boland, who has decided to addresses the idea of the ‘conscripted poet’.

Sadie and the Sadists. Paul Muldoon. Eyewear Publishing; 63pp; €10/£8.50/US$10.99 pb; 20cm; 978-1-911335-90-0. The amusing title is misleading, as the poems here are the lyrics of songs written by Muldoon and performed by his (amusingly named) band, Rogue Oliphant. Still requires serious attention.

Collected Poems. Dennis O’Driscoll. Carcanet; 541pp; £19.99 pb; 23cm; 978-1-78410-511-2. The complete poems of the late Dennis O’Driscoll are gathered together here, ranging from his first in 1982 to the last, published posthumously, in 2014.

Second Childhood. John Montague. The Gallery Press; 80pp; €11.95 pb; 978-1-85235-692-7. Montague’s collection of new poems circles back to familiar subjects, his childhood in Ulster and his recognition that a family fracture was reflected in divisions within his surrounding society. Published on what would have been his 88th birthday.

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The Doctor Who Sat for a Year

By Brendan Kelly

The twelve-month project of a self-confessed ‘Zen failure’

for a chance to win:

The Doctor Who Sat for a Year
By Brendan Kelly
ISBN: 978-0-7171-8457-6
Publisher: Gill Books



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