2 minute read

Eithne Lannon

‘through the syntax of skin/so many unhatched mysteries waiting/delicate in their shells’; results in a recognition of ‘the lost alleluias’ and ‘the dark forest of your heart/where the wild birds sing’.

Of ‘Everything Gathers Light’ Maurice Davitt says: “Anchored in the rivers and seascapes of North County Dublin, the precision of the language sets a spark of recognition that is universal, reinforcing the sense that one of the primary ambitions of outstanding poetry must be to take the reader home.”

Davitt is accurate in his claim. ‘Everything Gathers Light’ works as a journey through time, place, memory. Each poem hangs one to another in a seamless way, like the branches of a greening tree. Titles act as spiritual guides, You turn / towards shadow take direction/from light. ‘the body leaves its island’, (Sometimes). There is wisdom here, old soul knowledge, sacred pathways beyond the tangible. In Mysticism for beginners, ‘When the new moon is by itself you can be/ with what has gone’. I find Lannon’s world view comforting, her poems bring consolation. She is aware of adverse forces also and how necessary shadow is. In Homecoming, the flight of an Arctic Tern over the ocean is thus described ‘And though she flies beyond/the unchartered sky, we are brushed/by the same breeze, she and I,/shaken by the same uncertain/winds.’ Homecoming, like all of the poems in this collection, has such awe inspiring descriptions that this reader continues to savour them, descriptions such as ‘in the scalloped shell of dawn, clouds coral-spun/and crumbling. ‘Everything Gathers Light’ is without doubt a necessary bible for lovers of poetry everywhere. www.eithnelannon.com not a mouse gets dropped into a poem but a tiger (sometimes multiple ones). ‘Flirting with Tigers’ is Barry’s wonderful, life-affirming debut collection. It carries traditional debut material i.e. mother/father poems, homeland, rites of passage and daily life rituals. Jane Clarke hails Barry as “A distinctive new voice in Irish poetry, a poet who evokes people and place in rich sensuous detail.” There’s no argument there. This poet, although delivering her debut, has served her apprenticeship over a number of years, evidenced by her impressive list of acknowledgements. Originally from Penang, Malaysia (now living in Athlone), Barry’s poems are filled with sensory, sensual details. The Breath of the Rainforest, her opening poem, tells of ‘slithering snakes’, ‘The ash glow of the sky’, ’the cinnamon air,’ ‘the echoes of jungle creatures -/tarsiers, toucans, tigers.’ There’s also mention of an encounter with another wild animal, ‘and I am squatting eye to eye with a boar./Its skin is shiny-black, rough and thick,/designed for fighting’. Yet, tigers feature and often. They arrive into these poems, in various guises.

In I Unfold My Own Myth tigers appear as divine forces in unexpected moments of terror. As when ‘one sweltering afternoon, my uncle/a twenty-year-old soldier, surrounded/ by three Japanese from the Imperial Army.’ The tigers rush to her uncle’s aid ‘to send them running for cover’. There are other events evoking tigers (Barry clearly adopts them as her muse and spiritual totem) except for some strange reason in Ireland when ‘no tigers appeared when my brother was assaulted,’ (I Unfold My Own Myth). The tiger however, also provides Barry with poetic inspiration. Thinking of ‘A handsome Malayan tiger,/eyes amber, irises black as burnt clay’ puts Barry in the mood to ‘Turn the pages of my notes,/and write hormonefuelled dreams’ (Music Flows on the Marble Island). In the same poem, she announces ‘I flirt with tigers’, a jungle cat prepared for in the opening domestic scene where ‘Pablo, my tuxedo cat’ is referenced. A memorable phrase among many in this collection, ‘tuxedo cat’ perfectly capturing Pablo’s monochrome markings. Barry’s poems, for all their fluidity, are nicely organic, they converse with each other, creating a medley of mood and atmosphere.