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.

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Necessary Things

Richard Hayes
Mickey Finn’s Air, by Gerald Dawe, Gallery Press. 48 pp, €10, ISBN: 978 1 85235 607 1 The opening poem in Gerald Dawe’s latest collection, “Déjà vu”, establishes both the territory of Mickey Finn’s Air and its method. The territory is memory; the poem enacts memory in its loose-limbed, tumbling lines, reminisces of a lost friend (“Now, a short life later, at the drop of a hat, / a mere seventy years on, you go and bow out on us”) and of a lost city: I should say first of all that the Bank of Ireland on the corner of North Street next to where your pal Carly’s mother ran the photographic studio we all went to for annual portraits until that stopped, in the ’60s, that that wonderful art deco building, is closed and boarded up, the doors scrawled over ‑ what would you expect after all the mayhem? This is replicated later, to even greater effect, in “Shortcuts”, a delightful poem that recollects Joe Brainard’s I Remember in the accumulation of detail. Walking home dead late from Melrose Street sometime in the early nineties, the city fast asleep and the light peeled back from the sky ice-blue; looking out the top window in Skegoneill Avenue one Sunday, the street lamps shrouded in mist and the foghorns sounded; lying in the bath at the top of the house as a plane appears in the Velux and makes its final descent into Dublin airport; seeing the ice tundra of Greenland en route to Vancouver, hearing the snow thud outside my window perch in Mill Street, Newtown, Mass., snow ploughs flashing lights; hearing the church bells from Monkstown carry on the wind. The poem’s thirty-one stanzas layer memory on memory so that by the end ‑ where “the cock pheasant astride the dry / stone wall in Corandulla one morning early” is described ‑ it conjures something marvellous. There are a number of such poems in Mickey Finn’s Air, Dawe’s eighth collection. It is notable how many of the poems in the book concern themselves with landscapes or at least with place ‑ cityscapes, house interiors, suburbs, the world seen from a plane window. “I work at an old complaint,” Dawe writes in the second section of “The Bells of St Nicholas”, telling myself and friends that we must listen to what is said on the streets where we once lived—yet, like now, when love contracts,…

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