Sara Berkeley


Life
1967- [Sara B. Berkeley]; b. Ireland; ed. Manor House, Raheny, and TCD (BA English & German); discovered and published at 16 by Dermot Bolger and published by Raven Arts Press in first collection, Penn (1986), a poetry collection, short-listed for Irish Book Awards and Sunday Tribune Arts Award; issued Home-Movie Nights (1989); studied for one year at Univ. of California; completed MSc in Technical Communication and Human Computer Interface with Digital, at South Bank Polytechnic, London; travelled to America on Morrison visa; writes manuals for Autodesk, a San Francisco computer company;
 
accompanied partner, then studying for a PhD, to London but continued working for Autodesk using e-mail; returned to San Francisco at the end of the relationship; and The Swimmer in the Deep Blue Dream (1991); issued Facts about Water (1995), from Bloodaxe; published a novel, Shadowing Hannah (1999), a novel about incest; issued Strawberry Thief (2005), a new collection looking back on a failed marriage and the birth of a daughter. ATT OCIL FDA
 

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Works
Poetry
  • Penn (Dublin: Raven Arts Press; Saskatchewan: Thistledown 1986);
  • Home-Movie Nights (Dublin: Raven Arts Press; Saskatchewan: Thistledown 1989);
  • New and Selected Poems (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe 1994);
  • Facts about Water (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe; Chester Springs: Dufour 1995), 96pp.;
  • Strawberry Thief (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2005), 64pp.
  • The View From Here (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2010), 70pp.
Stories
  • The Swimmer in the Deep Blue Dream (Raven Arts/Saskatchewan: Thistledown 1991);
  • Facts about Water (Newcastle: Bloodaxe; Chester Springs: Dufour 1995), 96pp.;
  • Shadowing Hannah (Dublin: New Island Press 1999), 288pp.
Miscellaneous
  • “To Prevent Rust, Weeping and Bleeding”, in Irish Short Stories, ed. Steve MacDonogh (Dingle: Mounteagle Press 1998).
See also poetry reviews in The Irish Times poetry including collections by Noelle Vial and Rita Ann Higgins.

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Criticism
Rebecca E. Wilson, & Gillian Somerville-Arjat, [interviewers and] eds., Sleeping with Monsters: Conversations with Scottish and Irish Women Poets (Dublin: Wolfhound 1990), pp.158-64; Katie Donovan, ‘Poetry in Motion’, The Irish Times (12 Oct.1994), p.12; Michael Smith, ‘On the Side of Life and Love’, review of Facts About Water, in The Irish Times [Weekend Books section] (14 Jan. 1995), p.9.; Selina Guinness, review Strawberry Thief, in The Irish Times (14 Jan. 2006), Weekend, p.13.

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Commentary
Katie Donovan, ‘Poetry in Motion’, [interview article], Irish Times (12 Oct.1994), ; cites The Swimmer in the Deep Blue Dream (Raven 1991), her New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe 1994), and a new book, Facts about Water [1995]; Berkeley writes computer manuals in San Francisco but does not have a computer at home, and does not use one to write poetry because ‘you lose the stuff you erase. I like the sensation of pages turning and having a book full of notes’; Berkeley tells that Neil Astley encouraged her to use short, terser stanzas, with some rhymes; ‘it was Neil who recommended the breaking up the poems into stanzas in order to emphasise the rhythm’; concern loneliness, exile, or end of intimacy; speaks of a sense of leaving and arriving in her recent work; values sense of objectivity in foreign country; writes on the prospect of the San Andreas fault earthquaking again; not part of the Irish poets’ reading circuit. (p. 12.)

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Michael Smith, ‘On the Side of Life and Love’, review of Facts About Water, Irish Times [Weekend Books section] (14 Jan. 1995), p.9: ‘technical expertise ... when so of that ‘rage’ and ‘fury’ gets into [her] poems I think she will be a considerable poet indeed’.

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Selina Guinness, review of Strawberry Thief, in The Irish Times, 14 Jan. 2006, Weekend, p.13: speaks of the ‘rich pleasures of this fourth collection [which] derive from the skill with which Berkley internalisess this natural landscape as an emotional territory’; quotes as infra. Further, ‘[...] Occasionally, Berkeley’s desire to find a sacramental significance in the passing moment leads to arch diction (e.g., “where my hunger for fight is appeased”) but mosty her abstractions read as hard-won and justified by the complexities of her material.’

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Quotations
Being in the cave of time”: ‘I caught a glimmer of you on the wet walls/lit with a triple wick, wax going up in smoke,/and I sketched you with the burnt end of my stick [...] and I let your touch cool my weather veins/and I let you press a greenstone in my palm,/turning and turning the amulet of calm/as the moon slid out her reddened eclipsed eye./I could have lived like that in the dark.’ (The Irish Times, 23 Oct. 2001, Weekend Sect.)

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Smoke from Oregon Fires”: ‘Up north of us the firemen are losing ground / to fire; their smoke comes down this far / and smudges out the still October air, // and in our car I’m listening, / and I’m noticing her hair, / the way it’s still so fine and fair, / and I am listening to her breathe / and I am / listening to breathe, / and I am listening to her breathe.’ (Quoted in Selina Guinness, review of Strawberry Thief, in The Irish Times, 14 Jan. 2006, Weekend, p.13; the poem speaks of the poet’s infant daughter.)

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References
Rebecca E. Wilson and Gillian Somerville-Arjat, eds., Sleeping with Monsters: Conversations with Scottish and Irish Women Poets (Dublin: Wolfhound 1990), gives a selection of Berkeley’s poetry, pp.158-64: “Crossing I”; “In St Ethelreda’s”.

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3, pp.931-31, gives Cathal Ó Searcaigh’s poem “Súile Shuibhne” in the original Irish, and Berkeley’s translation: “Sweeney’s Eyes”.

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