Colette Bryce

Quotations

Life
1970- ; b. Derry; received Eric Gregory Award, 1995; issued The Heel of Bernadette (Picador 2000), winner of Aldeburg Best First Collection Prize; also winner of Eithne & Rupert Strong Poetry Award (Dun Laoghaire Arts. Fest., 2001); issued The Full Indian Rope Trick (Picador 2004), 48pp.; lives in London.

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Criticism
Selina Guinness, review of The Heel of Bernadette, in The Irish Times (4 Nov. 2000) [infra]; Clair Wills, review of The Full Indian Rope Trick by Colette Bryce, in The Irish Times (20 Nov. 2004), Weekend [infra].

See also interview in John Brown, ed., In the Chair: Interviews with Poets from the North of Ireland (Galway: Salmon 2002).

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Commentary
Selina Guinness, review of The Heel of Bernadette, in The Irish Times (4 Nov. 2000), writes of an ‘impressive first collection’; gives account of “Footings”, the opening sonnet, in which one lover dismisses the other’s efforts in getting off a wall and ends by supporting the injured partner on her shoulder (Guinness detects a Trimble / Adams parable); remarks, ‘intimacy is itself an estranged condition in these accomplished stanzas which describe the process of demarcating emotional and / or geographical territory, whether addressing lover, sait or a caged griffon in Spain.’. Cites “Father, in the Face” (girl notices ageing in her father through binoculars); “Form” (‘I’d been feeling / strange, somehow encased, the hollows rush / of my own brath like ties in the shell / of my own heard. A woman passed / and I say myself in her glance, / her expression blank as a future’); “Nevers”; “Young”, “Departure Spanish Irish Time”, and “Itch”, all ‘bear[ing] the hallmark of an assured poet who has defined the terrain in which the uncertaintiies of self-identity are made happen.’

Don Patterson (awarding the Rupert & Eithne Strong Poetry Award / (Dún Laoghaire Annual “Poetry Now” Fest., 2001): ‘The Heel of Bernadette (2000), is a book of songs: of kinship and desire, Ireland and Spain, of myth and belief. Whether it addresses political divide, a microscopic Jesus, or a queasy encounter with a Christmas turkey, Bryce’s poetry is ultimately a celebration of singing and of singing out, for its own sake. Colette’s humane intelligence, her faultless ear and her wholehearted dedication to the craft mark her out as something very special indeed.’ (Go online.)

Clair Wills, review of The Full Indian Rope Trick, in The Irish Times (20 Nov. 2004), Weekend: ‘[...] Colette Bryce is always saying yes, always responding. Her world is a tissue of signs to be read and interpreted. Whether it’s the tally of deaths chalked up in Derry town centre during the hunger strikes, the harps and royal heads on the jumble of coins her father brings home from the bar, or the message silently mouthed by a goldfish, the poet’s task is to decipher and clarify. Charmed by and wary of the miraculous in almost equal measure, she takes her soundings on the borderline between trickery, technology and magic, as when a mobile phone connects by accident but doesn’t answer. [Quotes as infra.] Like a stethoscoped doctor listening in, Bryce diagnoses from afar, conjures intimacy out of distance. / The Full Indian Rope Trick opens with a sequence of poems evoking Bryce’s youth in Derry, their technique often recalling Medbh McGuckian’s early poised and sexy-strange lyrics. The “rope trick” apparently marks the moment of her departure, her dissolution into “thin air” up “a braid / eighteen summers long”. / She has left behind the strangled messages speaking of violence and division, but she has carried with her a habit of listening hard for the mysterious, and of exploring in rhyme and rhythm what Elizabeth Bishop once called “the surrealism of everyday life”.

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Quotations
‘Hello, I said. Hello … hello? / and heard from underneath your clothes / a sound like breakers / olding into foam / on shifting stones, / on a stretch of shingle’ (Quoted in Clair Wills, supra.)

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