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Showing posts from August, 2011

The freshness of what happens

Reading Pearse Hutchinson:Review of collection of essays on PH edited by Philip Coleman and Maria Johnston, published by Irish Academic Press.

Reading Pearse Hutchinson: From Findrum to Fisterra. Editors, Philip Coleman and Maria Johnston. Irish Academic Press. 286pp. €50 hb.

By Peter Sirr

Reputation is a funny thing. Some writers are richly garlanded from the outset, and as they develop, their work attracts a growing body of secondary apparatus – casebook studies, festschifts, conferences, honorary degrees. Others might as well have a ‘Do Not Disturb’ placard hung about their necks for all the attention they attract. It’s odd to think that the volume under review is the first collection of critical essays on a poet of such vitality and distinction as Pearse Hutchinson. With its chronology, bibliography, an interview and  fifteen essays on all all aspects of the work, the book shines a very welcome light on the achievement of a fine poet whose imaginative openness and deep immersion i…

Education by Stone: João Cabral de Melo Neto

Two poems, taken from the recent The FSG Book of Latin American Poetry

O Fim Do Mundo

No fim de um mundo melancólico
os homens lêem jornais.
Homens indiferentes a comer laranjas
que ardem como o sol.

Me deram uma maçã para lembrar
a morte. Sei que cidades telegrafam
pedindo querosene. O véu que olhei voar
caiu no deserto.

O poema final ninguém escreverá
desse mundo particular de doze horas.
Em vez de juízo final a mim me preocupa
o sonho final.

The End of the World

At the end of a melancholy world
men read the newspapers.
Men indifferent to eating oranges
that flame like the sun.

They gave me an apple to remind me
of death. I know that cities telegraph
asking for kerosene. The veil I saw flying
fell in the desert.

No one will write the final poem
about this particular twelve o’clock world.
Instead of the last judgememt, what worries me
is the final dream.

Translated by James Wright

Elbow Room

A letter brings me to my teenage father,
unpicks his bones and calls him back
from his week of boarder’s rations, his years
of darkness and silence, to where he sits
in the depths of winter in his cousins’ kitchen
and wolfs his Sunday lunch.

What does he say? He lifts a fork and vanishes
until now, how many winters
later, and his father, too, lifted and returned
to drive his hackney down the narrow roads
flat capped and with his elbow out the window
so close I can reach my hand across –

as if that casual elbow opened a portal,
poked through time to graze the city air
or as if I might somehow reach in to raise
these always resisting bones, always
unfinishable journeys. How much can you stretch
from lunch to dinner, from headstone to hearth

and back again? But the engine is running
in the unkillable car, my grandfather changes up
as he leaves the bend
and accelerates from the letter.
Around the corner, my father drains his cup,
pushes back his chair. After lunch

comes nothing, unm…

Valerio Magrelli

Age of the duck-hare: the poetry of Valerio Magrelli

published in Agenda Vol 45 No.4 / Vol 46 No. 1, May 2011

Valerio Magrelli is one of the brightest stars of Italian poetry, widely acclaimed since the appearance of his first collection Ora Serrata Tesserae when he was twenty three. The title of that collection gives a hint of the kind of poet he is — it’s the irregular, serrated demarcation between the retina and the circumferential tissue inside the eye. So specialist is the title that when he went to the optician some months after the book came out, the optician remarked ‘I didn’t realise we were colleagues, I see you’ve written a book . . .’

The scientific term directs us to a poetry preoccupied with visual perception of the world, and the forensic attention applied simultaneously to the gaze. The blank page is ‘like the cornea of an eye’ where the poet ‘embroider(s)/an iris and in the iris etch(es)/the deep gorge of the retina’:

A gaze then
sprouts from the page
and a chasm …


Back from the blogging dead. Has The Cat Flap been filled with cement? someone asked. Pretty much, for the last few months, but it will now be re-activated. To begin with, a piece published in the Dublin Review for Winter 2010-11. The piece led to a documentary on RTE Radio, produced by Bernadette Comerford, available for download here

Poems, prose and who knows what else to follow...

When I started falling, I didn’t think much of it. I took it as something the body naturally did, a way of testing itself, maybe, or a kind of trick. I’d get up in the morning and go down to the bathroom on the first landing, splash water on my face, and immediately lose consciousness. A few seconds later I’d find myself on the red lino of the bathroom, haul myself up, and go back to the sink. And then it would happen again, and again I’d pick myself up from the floor and return to the sink. (I might not have been so quick to return if I’d known that water was one of the triggers of the falling, or rather…