The body is the ‘bad machine’ of George Szirtes’ latest book of poems. The sudden death of his elderly father and of his younger friend, the poet Michael Murphy, remind him how machines – sources of energy and delight in their prime – go so easily wrong; and that change in the body is a signal for moving on. But language too is a body. Here, politics, assimilation, desire, creatureliness and the pleasure and loss of the body, mingle in various attenuated forms such as lexicon, canzone, acrostics, mirror poems, postcards, and a series of ‘minimenta’ after Anselm Kiefer whose love of history as rubble and monument haunts this collection. George Szirtes is one of our most inventive – and constantly reinventing – poets, and Bad Machine shows him developing new themes and new ways of writing in poems which stretch the possibilities of form and question language and its mastery.
Philip Fried’s Squaring the Circle is humorous and yet also mysterious in its evocation of esoteric physics and theology. The title poem presents a mystic/scientific quest for an impossible geometry as both a vaudevillian historical catastrophe and a way of understanding God. Throughout, Fried uses pastiche and the mashup of texts to explore historical moments and personal history. Behind its many forms and approaches, however, the book conveys the strong sense of a “persona”—the feeling, as Stanley Kunitz once said, that the poet has imagined a person who could write these poems.
Courting Katie explores tenuous notions of what it means to be Irish. This is a collection about drunken nights, about cranes, outbound flights, and confirmation parties. Situated within a range of pre- and post-Celtic Tiger contexts, it examines social and cultural crises, both local and national. These poems engage with the experience of Ireland, not simply in a grandiose manner, but through the individual, and the many disappointments that have been suffered on this island.
Winner of the 2018 Shine/Strong Poetry Award
This powerful debut collection takes us back to ‘the hatchling, nestling, fledgling grounds’ of Finglas where Rachael Hegarty was born and reared. Portrait of a working class community, portrait of a dispossessed and politically betrayed community, portrait of a self-reliant, proud, and supportive community — ultimately it is a portrait made with love and gratitude, to family, to neighbours, to friends of her youth, feral and otherwise, to teachers and to her own students, by a sophisticated and knacky literary artist of the highest integrity. This is a joyous and clear eyed book that draws on and augments the song tradition of an artistically rich area of north Dublin, a lyric tradition that encompasses Bono and Dermot Bolger; it opens that tradition to the critique and edge of contemporary poetry practice, and to the winds of Japan, Boston, Walden Pond, Emily Dickinson’s Garden. Compassionate to the living and to the dead alike, this poet stakes her ground, as mother, as lover, as artist, as link in the eternal and marvellous chain of being. – Paula Meehan
Are we corrupt or innocent, fragmented or whole? Are responsibility and freedom irreconcilable? Do we value memory or succumb to our forgetfulness? Application for Release from the Dream, Tony Hoagland’s fifth collection of poems, pursues these questions with the fierce abandon of one who needs to know how a citizen of 21st-century America can stay human. With whiplash nerve and tender curiosity, Hoagland surveys the damage and finds the wonder that makes living worthwhile. Mirthful, fearless, and precise, these poems are full of judgment and mercy. Tony Hoagland’s poems poke and provoke at the same time as they entertain and delight. He is American poetry’s hilarious ‘high priest of irony’, a wisecracker and a risk-taker whose disarming humour, self-scathing and tenderness are all fuelled by an aggressive moral intelligence. He pushes the poem not just to its limits but over the edge.
Eamonn Lynskey’s poems live on the edge of things – people’s ordinary lives as much as global concerns – and like all edges they can be razor-sharp. His is a voice unafraid to speak about political urgencies but also well sourced in everyday language and available form. A thought-provoking, unsettling collection of questions rather than answers.