Hawaii Five-O and streams of consciousness

DRIFTING UNDER The Moon, published by Dedalus Press, is the second book by Westport’s Ger Reidy. Unlike most poets, Reidy has a proper job – he is a civil engineer with the Mayo County Council.

This perhaps accounts for the long gap between the publication of his debut in 1998 and this book’s appearance. Reidy’s territory is the smalltown nearly rural landscape that was most of Ireland until the 1970s.

He is the poet Patrick Kavanagh might have been if Kavanagh had grown up watching Hawaii Five-O and become a civil engineer rather than opting, if indeed there was any other option at the time, for the altogether more exalted occupation of professional bar-stool ranter.

‘Winter Evening’ is a poignant but unsentimental poem about the young Reidy observing his parents: his mother pulls “weeds from around the roses/hands sprawled in a valium haze.”

Later, it’s “time to feed silage to the shorthorns/in the limekiln field, to study the Punic Wars/and tie a shivering dog to a railway sleeper./Father watched Hawaii Five-O.” My favourite is the wonderful ‘Lame Dogs’ with lines like “A News of the World pinup looks down him/but he decides to turn on the kettle.”

The Day of The Three Swans (Doire Press ) is Edward Boyne’s debut collection. Boyne has a a great knack for a startling line. In ‘Bangkok’ “night is an electric panic of cars”. Class is one of Boyne’s big subjects and there are a couple of particularly interesting poems about the relationship between class and health.

Poems on this subject usually leave the reader feeling as if s/he has just been beaten about the head with a collection of Fintan O’Toole’s columns, but Boyne is no usual poet. In ‘Missile’ he captures well the strange world of the HSE: “a flunky in faded green overalls,/sweaty on overtime, wheeled my trolley/along disinfected corridors with locked doors/that led into life.”

‘Mushatt’, about a Dublin pharmacist in the 1920s, and ‘Consumption’ are poems in which the ghost of health service past rises up to haunt. Boyne is perhaps the perfect poet for a country in which so many people can no longer afford to go to the dentist.

In ‘Knowing’, a poem full of “known knowns”, “known unknowns” and the like, Boyne pays homage to perhaps the greatest poet of the 21st century thus far: Mr Donald Rumsfeld.

Dave Rock’s collection A Single Unstruck Match is published courtesy of a grant from NUI Galway, and is on sale in Charlie Byrne’s; Bell, Book & Candle, and the University Bookshop.

Rock’s poems are streams of consciousness which can seem like coded messages from another planet. In ‘Nightfall’ “there’s a screaming like nothing ever known before like mountains tumbling down like billions of atoms being pounded into place by tiny hammers…”

Rock’s poems may sometimes lack focus but he has a keen eye for an image. Unlike some of his contemporaries, who go about the place endlessly bellowing the same one or two poems into every available microphone, he is no mere bag of wind. He workshops his poems and is clearly more interested in the act of writing than in the idea of ‘being a writer’.

‘Never In My Mouth’ is a startlingly original love poem: “I was never in my mouth ‘till I kissed you;/Never knew my tongue was another animal”. Sometimes his poems are overwhelmed by their big philosophies. For this reviewer, a little Buddhism goes a long way. That said, it’s great to read a young poet who knows there’s more to the world than himself.

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