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 Poetry, Exile, Homecoming

Poetry, Exile, Homecoming

Keith Payne
Poems 1980-2015, by Michael O’Loughlin, New Island Books, 200 pp, €14.95, ISBN: 978-1848405431 Michael O’Loughlin’s Poems 1980-2015 opens with a Dedalean dream of exile, of casting off the nets of ‘Finglas / the grey eroding suburb / where you squandered the coin of your youth’ –something many of us have worried over while worrying the poetry line. He continues with what can only be described as a Beckettian aisling, in “Medium”: “lone     oh     lonely,” // “oh     fair     beauty” // “fairvan     van     woman,”, calling to mind from the start the exiled Irish writers that O’Loughlin would soon follow. At twenty-two, just as Stalingrad: The Street Directory was being published, O’Loughlin left Ireland for what would become a twenty-year spell abroad. Many of these poems are of the everyman in the city variety; poems written from the city’s shades, poems that witness from the dark of a bedsit hallway or the kerb in front your well-lit suburban home in Dublin. They then begin moving east, as hitchhiking into the dark night of the Continent “we followed / a grey rainbow through / faceless green countryside / kicked our heels in parking lots / a sentimental distance/ from the road.” (“The Journey”) And distance, whether physical or the arguably clear-eyed distance afforded the poet at one remove from himself, is what O’Loughlin is heading for in his journeying, or as the Machado quote included has it “In order to write poetry you must first invent a poet who will write it.” But the poet, invented or no, is then faced with the challenge of creating a distance in order to see clearly while at the same time maintaining the intensity of what is seen from the air (to stretch the Dedalean metaphor). O’Loughlin’s early sorties into Irish and European history –natural terrain for a journeyman elegist– are often forced, as his ars poetica, the Heaneyesque The Diary of a Silence acknowledges with “Everything living its posthumous existence / Hungering in me for an image / That is not mere archeology / The casual coupling of history and self.” But are such couplings really that casual? Do the clear-eyed poet and History really just fall in together casually, or are they thrown together, the one thrust upon the other? And if it really is casual, and if this be the case, and so “be the verse”, what then does the poet do? Does he write History as it speaks to him, or,…

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