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 Memory and Echoes

Memory and Echoes

Florence Impens
A Quarter of an Hour, by Leanne O’Sullivan, Bloodaxe Books, 64 pp, £9.95, ISBN: 978 1780372228 Inspired to a great extent by her husband’s grave illness a few years ago, Leanne O’Sullivan’s fourth collection, A Quarter of an Hour, takes the reader on a moving and surprisingly life-affirming journey, with slow-burning poems that stay with us long after the book is closed. The starting point of the volume is a dark and difficult one. In 2013, the poet’s husband suffered from a severe brain infection that saw him spend three weeks in a coma. When he finally woke up, his long-term memory had been almost completely wiped out. Gone were most of the details that are central to one’s sense of personal identity. As we learn from the back cover, “he didn’t even know his wife”. A Quarter of an Hour, whose title hints at the very limits of short-term memory, traces the poet’s and her husband’s journey in three sections from the sudden onset of the infection, through to recovery and to their new life together. Some of the poems focusing on the illness haunt the reader for a long time, notably those written from the carer’s perspective and evoking the terrifying moment when a loved one becomes gravely ill, the long hours at the hospital hoping for a positive outcome, and the arduous process of accompanying someone on their journey back to health. “Ghost” for instance powerfully conveys the silent work that the carer accomplishes and their continuous presence that at the same time seeks to be invisible: I saw then. In your own sickness I had become my own ghost, half sensed in the light that draped beneath the curtains; obliterated softly on the landing when you passed by. (…) Still, the water glass on the table filling itself, over and over. Plates and cups cleared away. Elsewhere in the volume, “Tracheotomy”, “Prayer” and “Leaving Early”, all set in the hospital ward, beautifully evoke the poet’s helplessness as her husband fights for life. Like many others in A Quarter of an Hour, the poems are addressed to the latter, like hushed attempts to keep the lines of communication open and to keep him alive while he cannot respond. However, despite this narratorial focus, the collection is much more varied and surprisingly not as dark as might be expected for such a difficult topic. Often, the world of the illness…

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