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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The Note for Grief

The Travels of Sorrow, by Dermot Healy, Gallery Press, 9781852356415  €11.95 In the RTÉ Arts Lives documentary about Dermot Healy, “The Writing in the Sky” (2011), Healy describes a stone wall that he used to build each year on a beach near his home on the Sligo coast, only for it to be subsequently destroyed by the tide. This act, recalled in the title poem of The Travels of Sorrow (“I built up / a wall of stone / against the sea”) could be seen as a physical enactment of much of what his poetry achieves on the page. There is no line, it says, between us and the laws of the natural, physical world in which we live. Or if there is one, it is illusory, futile – a thing we create for ourselves to feel less defenceless in a world where grief and loss are as inevitable as that tide, where ultimately everything and everyone must perish. The Travels of Sorrow is no exception. Healy’s posthumous final collection, shaped by his editor, Peter Fallon, out of a draft manuscript sent him by Healy and out of poems Healy wrote in the months afterwards, echoes with painful losses. In the title poem, an angry brother throws his household’s china into the sea. “A thousand, thousand / high tides” later, and “with a terrible / sadness, / these broken remains / of an old argument on the alt / are coming in amongst the gravel”. In “Dry Eyes”, a banished cat tears “the sea salt / off the windows / with her claws / to watch us within”; when she dies, she is grieved for in turn by the poet. “Friend” recounts the death of two friends within a short space of time. “Without John / there’s no sense in carrying on”, says one when they find John in bed “dressed as if he were taking a nap”. A month later, “Can we stop for a whiskey on the way?” the other asks the ambulance driver, before he “stood to get up, / then shook and fell to the ground.” At the funerals, the silence is “like a wound / not healed” as “some of the same spades / went into the same earth / and you felt the men were burying / the same man twice.” In “The Mirror”, two babies that were joined at birth cannot stop crying following the operation that separates them,…

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