Maurice Riordan

1953- ; b. Lisgoold, Co. Cork; ed. St. Colman’s College, Fermoy, UCC (NUI) and McMaster University, Ontario; briefly taught at UCC; teaches at Imperial College and Goldsmiths College; issued A Word from the Loki (1995), poems, shortlisted for T. S. Eliot Prize; awarded Society of Authors’ travelling scholarship; issued Floods (2000), shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize; selected as one of the “Next Generation” poets by the Poetry Society, 2004; dir. of Tower Poetry; ed. of Poetry London, 2005;

issued trans. of the Maltese poet Immanuel Mifsud in Confidential Reports (2005); a new collection, The Holy Land (2007), incorporating 18 “Idylls”; issued The Holy Land (1007), winner of the Michael Hartnett Award; lives in London; taught at Imperial and Goldsmith Colleges, London; appt. editor of Poetry London, and teaches at Sheffield Hallam; The Water Stealer nominated for the T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize, Oct. 2013.

BBC3 ) - Ian McMillan presents The Verb with poet Maurice Riordan; writers Ben Masters and Chloe Aridjis; and singer-songwriter, Lisa Knapp. (Friday, 29 Nov. 2013 at 22.00 and podcast.)

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Poetry collections
  • A Word form the Loki (London: Faber 1995), x, 50pp.;
  • Floods (London: Faber & Faber 2000), 53pp.;
  • trans., Immanuel Mifsud, Confidential Reports (Cork: Southword Edns. 2005), 63pp.;
  • The Holy Land (London: Faber & Faber 2007), 64pp. [ded. to his father].
  • The Water Stealer (London: Faber & Faber 2013), 64pp.
  • ed., with Jon Turney, A Quark for Mister Mark: 101 Poems About Science (London: Faber & Faber 2000), xiv, 208pp. [echoing Joyce’s Wake phrase and Gell-Mann’s adaptation of same in naming the newly discovered sub-atomic particle];
  • ed., with John Burnside, Wild Reckoning: An Anthology Provoked by Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” (London: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 2004), 254pp.;
  • ed., with Colm Breathnach, The Best of Irish Poetry ( Southword Edns. 2006), q.pp.;

Also, The Moon Has Written You a Poem, [children’s stories] after José Letria [Portuguese] (2005).

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James Scruton, review of A Word from the Loki, in Irish Literary Supplement (Fall 1995), p.8; Fiona Sampson, review of The Holy Land, in The Irish Times (3 March 2007), Weekend, p.13 [‘a fine and serious book, which deserves a wide, non-specialist audience’].

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Tim Dooley, review of A Word from the Loki, in Times Literary Supplement (26 May 1995) [starting points are Ireland and scenes from the dissolution of a marriage. ]

John McAuliffe, review of The Water Stealer, in The Irish Times (13 July 2013) ‘Riordan is a thoughtful, enquiring poet and an impressive storyteller. “The Lull”, typically, freezes the frame of a particular and disorienting moment which shatters the veneer of daily routines [Quotes: “The Lull”]:

  that lull [when] no one can enter the world,
or leave it; the cars stand on the motorway,
the greyhound’s legs are knotted above the track,
a missile is framed in mid-flight, no sound
can come from the child’s mouth, the open beak

Even as he conjures such a moment Riordan allows that the opposite is true, that there will be no “time out”’:

  [When] the punching fist can be opened, the egg slipped back
under the nesting bird, and each of us could scurry
to forestall one mischance, or undo one wrong choice
whose thorn of consequence has lodged till now,
before whatever it is keeps the world scary
and true breaks loose.

Riordan puzzles over the recurrence and significance of certain feelings and events, but he also does more than simply register what happened. [He] invents other possibilities in poems which bear his very particular stamp and poise, with archaic words and philosophical ruminations slipped into a more conversational idiom. [...]’ Remarks that Gregory O’Donogue, Michael Murphy and Michael Donaghy are all remembered in elegies. [Note: McAuliffe’s sentence above is quoted in The Irish Times report on Riordan’s shortlisting for T. S. Eliot Prize, 31 Aug. 2013.]

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Aingeal Clare, review of The Water Stealer by Maurice Riorda, in The Guardian (9 Aug. 2013): ‘Like Bernard O’Donoghue, and to a lesser extent Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Riordan practises a pastoral style all too easily mistaken, not least by British readers, for escapism, conjuring a world as distant-seeming from Anglo-Irish Bank and the demise of the Celtic Tiger as a John Hinde postcard or The Quiet Man. Riordan satirised these misconceptions in “Indian Summer” from his first collection A Word from the Loki, where an Ann Summers sales assistant comments: “It must be gorgeous! Ireland, / the countryside, in this heat." / Modernity and tradition have an awkward encounter in “The Flight”. Due to board a flight but minus his passport, a youthful Riordan shouts down the line at his mother: “How come you cannot use a phone?” Switching to the present, he is once again in need of assistance with a flight and imagines all will be well if “Mammy now would ring me on my mobile”. In “The Age of Steam”, Riordan charts decades of wanderings between Ireland, Canada and Britain before circling back to the experience of loss, and “the hissing thumping piston – 14 years on – of grief”. As in O’Donoghue’s elegies, the dark core of grief is skirted round for much of the poem before obtruding with sudden, and all the more poignant, force. [...] More often, loss occurs on a banally everyday level, as when the poet feeds his toenail clippings to a Venus flytrap and discards his nose-pickings in the cactus. Just when we suspect Riordan has made his peace with old-fogeydom, he mouths the word “asshole” through the window at a passing youth, and the picture of abjection is complete. [...] Readers of Riordan’s first books might be forgiven for detecting an impulse in his apprentice efforts to creep into bed with their influences, principally Seamus Heaney, but the poems of The Water Stealer make their own bed and lie on it too. This doesn’t prevent feverish night thoughts in “Gone With the Wind”, a beautiful meditation on memory and forgetting. This is a strong, wise and enduring work: The Water Stealer shows Riordan coming fully into his own.’ (For full-text version of this review, go to Library > Criticism > Reviews - via index or as attached;

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Greg Delanty [with Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill], ed., Jumping Off Shadows (Cork UP 1995), incls. poem[s].

Patrick Crotty, ed., Modern Irish Poetry: An Anthology (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 1995), selects “Milk” [384]; “Time Out” [385]; “A Word from the Loki” [387].

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