All four of these poets are exponents of the primacy of the image. This approach certainly has broadened poetrys scope, but poses problems of form, the poem as a shape cut in time. Tom MacIntyres new work, for instance, tests us with the tension between image and form, and rewards us with his tireless sensual and psychic energy.
He raises language and form above the banalities of current usage, with many archaic allusions to carry us along mysterious streams of consciousness, funny and fearsome by turns -
- in the Joycean manner, attacking the facile surfaces of language to get to where experience and dream conjoin. A delightful, rambunctious, and much too slim volume.
Kerry Hardies humane, generous voice is quite restrained in comparison with Tom MacIntyres hectic surrealism. This substantial offering has five sections: Of Harmony, Of Strife and Conflict, Of the Middle, Of Love and Longing, and The Way Things Are. These headings add a mildly ironic effect; a prose-poem, Burrowing Creatures, acts as preface, ending with a verse quatrain:Wait, its coming again,
This reviewer must in all honesty confess to reservations about prose-poems. Visiting Eastern Europe , for example, with its in-medias-res opening, has a dramatic content that might have been better served by a verse form. In prose or verse, however, her sharply observant, intimate persona engages us with direct, economical language and understated lyrical rhythms.
Flood is a key poem, each stanza a sharply focused scene - swans in a sedgy field, And the little hills, circling./ And the sag of the sky. Then A slow file of cows/ threads through a gap in the thorns . . .. Then More swans, more water./ The coil of their necks . . .. Thence to the big-bellied sky, great with rain.
This poets readers become fascinated companions as scenes and aperçus unfold, quietly, fatefully.
Some of Paul Perrys new work, meanwhile, appears on the page as if texted to the reader -
- though most of the 21 poems in this fascinating second collection are closer to the orthodox, often playfully so. Towing an Iceberg to Belfast takes up four pages with one-line, one-word double-shifted stanzas with a couplet or two, then six staggered lines, then a set of quatrains, then all of the above in a mix - cunningly contrived to suggest comic exertion, until At last / The city/ Exhales an icy breath.
In The Lady with the Coronet of Jasmine, the first-person speaker is Gladstone. The struggle between Christian orthodoxy and the Freudian libido is a strikingly successful use of the dramatic monologue. At 81 tercets, it is also courageously long in the era of the short personal lyric. Although Perry also includes a pair of epistolary prose-poems - arrgh! - most poetry readers will savour this slim but rich offering, and will likely read it through again before leaving it down.
They will also welcome Robert Welchs fourth collection. On the surface, these poems are relaxed, low-key; but they are carefully composed to serve their imagery and quietly cadenced tones. As befits the editor of The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature, who has also written fiction and drama, he is adept at shaping experience into lyrical and narrative forms, alert to the value of sharp focus and tonal moderation:
The content ranges from this type of neo-pastoral imagism to the personal lyric; from the adaptation of a passage from the Aeneid of Virgil in rollicking hexameters to The Heat, a loss-of-innocence poem in panting dimeters. Several poems address or are dedicated to other poets, reflecting fellowship rather than the usual bunkum of literary rivalry. His readers are carried along by the cadences of common speech, the quiet irony, and the unfolding narrative. This academic poet is associated more with Adrigole and Leamagawra than the groves of Academe.