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 The Power of Nine

The Power of Nine

Geomantic, by Paula Meehan, Dedalus Press, 100 pp, €12.50, ISBN: 978-1910251157 In an interview as Ireland Chair of Poetry with the scholar and author Jody Allen Randolph in April 2014 at the National Library (https://dedaluspress.com/paula-meehan-reading-and-in-conversation/), Paula Meehan spoke of the many influences, formal considerations and hauntings that fed into her making of Geomantic. The book cover notes that the title derives from the Greek: “earth divination – a method of divination that interprets markings on the ground or the patterns formed by tossed handfuls of soil, rocks or sand”. Meehan cites Yeats’s interest in the occult and magic, in “traditions of meditative practices, of symbols, of tarot” as nurturing intuition over reason, generative of abilities to “make an event in language”. She mentions coming across the I Ching, a frequent occurrence as a young student. No surprise then to find the language of mystical practice in the titles, “The Grimoire”, “The Querant” or “The Hexagram”. The influence of quilting, of watching friends work out patterns, was a source, and the cover image of the collection, a mosaic of nine squares, “similar but not the same” is quilt-like. “It was a simple affair ‑ nine squares / by nine squares, blue on green spots, stripes, bows / alternate with gold on red chevrons: / my grandmother’s quilt I slept under / the long and winding nights of childhood.’’ (“The Quilt”). The collection includes a sequence of seven poems commissioned to commemorate the Easter Rising by Poetry Ireland, originally published as “Doing the Past”, in a fine art edition. Their inclusion here among lyrics that reflect on the community living, or dying on the very streets where the Easter Rising took place raises questions as to how we as a state have honoured that legacy. The idea is not to use form for ornamental purposes, but to take something “handed down” and employ its power “to stop time”, to carry experience in language. Seamus Heaney’s “Postcard from Iceland” provided a nine-line pattern, one that is close to a sonnet form but has greater compression and openness. Meehan’s discovery of countercultural influences has long been a strategy of her poetic process, and the idea of divination is the holding pattern for this collection. The first poems in Geomantic are love songs to the moon and sea, to “the earth’s patterning”; the last to a sense of home, on an Aegean island, Ikaria, (that takes its name…

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