I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Down among the Greeks

Down among the Greeks

Gaudent Angeli, by Mary O’Malley, Carcanet, 96 pp, £9.99, ISBN: 9781784107956 We return to the charge. Or, subjects that had it seemed been made to give up their vital juice, to have been pinned down as the material for poems, are observed to be twitching where they lie, the hangover dispelling; they stagger to their feet and once again demand attention. Any poet’s career is likely to involve the discovery (willed or not) of new themes, but the old ones tend to hang on, never finally dealt with. This is partly the consequence of the poetic culture. We inherit too much in literary terms, and it is too various, bears the signs of much handling before our fingers get near it. I don’t expect the engineer finds herself downstairs at three in the morning trying to re-draw her diagrams which looked quite satisfactory at three in the afternoon. For the poet, the shifting about of allusion and reminiscence seems never to finish, and the places one has visited in the past can suddenly reappear with all their allure but from a new perspective. Even those subjects that have been mauled only by ourselves still keep resurfacing. It seems that since so much of what we can be said to know belongs in the past – our own, our culture’s, the world’s – the refusal to stay in the past belongs to all of them. Mary O’Malley’s new collection, Gaudent Angeli, includes versions of undead themes from her own work, and others’. A subject I’ve never seen treated elsewhere belongs to her West of Ireland inheritance: the normality of bloody fights between young men at dances, and the effect on the young women. It appeared in Asylum Road (2001): “an arc just like a reaping-hook and deep / opens across a dancer’s cheek” (“Violation”) where the women respond with “fear / and excitement” but end with “their giggling dreams in rags around their breasts”. In the new book “Women / screamed, one fainted in the direction / of the knifeman. Up on their tricks / the lads ignored them …” (“Once”). We cope with the personal perceptions; they seem unique, while our strategies for dealing with them do not stay valid, we have to return and try again. In the new version, the men’s dismissal of the women’s reaction is important. The moment has again become part of poetry but has also acquired another…

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