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 Mending, after the Fall

Mending, after the Fall

Enda Wyley
Bindweed, by Mark Roper, Dedalus Press, 80 pp, €12.50, ISBN: 978-1910251249 Mark Roper’s poetry has always been deeply rooted in an attentiveness to nature, and his precise and often thought-provoking lyricism has been impressively sustained throughout his many collections, from his debut, The Hen Ark (1990), through to Even So: New and Selected Poems, published in 2008. Having moved from England in 1980 to the countryside of Kilkenny, where he has since lived, Roper has become, in the words of the poet Carol Rumens, “an extraordinarily distinguished ‘nature poet’ – or perhaps the better term, ‘poetic naturalist’”. His love of birds, in particular, is instantly apparent in the opening poem of his fine and most recent collection, Bindweed, where the “tiny travelling circus” of long-tailed tits is celebrated in nine joyous couplets. There are other memorable poems in this first section of the book, some of them inspired by the poet’s trips to the Natural History Museum in Dublin. In “The Wader Cabinet” he ponders the sight of an eskimo curlew, now extinct, and then philosophically concludes: a last likeness, a bird extinct – whatever we might have promised denied, whatever might have bound us, untied. Particularly appealing to me is his poem “Carving”, where the poet’s intricate detailing of a European Bison sculpted from a mammoth tusk some twenty-two thousand years old, on display in the British Museum, concludes with the powerful lines: “We keep going, though we are / all in some way wounded.” And it is these two lines, it seems to me, which are the emotional core of Bindweed – a book of poems which is persistent in laying bare both the pain and happiness of being alive, while always looking to the forces of the natural world for guidance – and not just in Ireland. “Water and Stone” is an intriguing sequence based on a trip to Namibia, and the poem “Andean Cocks of the Rock” is inspired by a challenging walk down into a ravine in Ecuador, while “Never to Run Out” details an arduous trek on Vancouver Island and the poet’s unrelenting desire for the path to continue on, “for distance which when reached / would open to become again distance”. There are poignant elegies in this book too. I particularly enjoyed the poem “Anniversary”, where the poet takes a freezing swim and remembers his dear friends Joe and Eilis who made the lake, “filled by the stream off…

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