JIMMY NAIL sang about ‘Crocodile Shoes’, Ian Dury had New Boots and Panties, but in his fourth collection of poems, Galway writer Gerry Hanberry ponders What Our Shoes Say About Us.
The title poem is both poignant and humorous, reflecting much of the nature and tone of the collection. It is an affecting ode where footwear symbolises different personalities, from the author’s father (“Shiny shoes were only for the Sabbath/Six days of the week my father wore/the heavy boots of a working man.”) to a popes sporting shoes “fashioned today by the cobbler from Novara/for the feet of ‘the fisher of men’.”
Yet, no matter the difference in time, position, or historical era, between the people portrayed in these verses, none escapes the fact they share a common humanity, the last verse quoting a Canadian historian on the oldest show ever found: “She told the interviewer that/going by the style of the antique loafer/not a lot had changed in five millennia.”
Gerry is also the author of the acclaimed biography of the family of Oscar Wilde, More Lives Than One, and What Our Shoes Say About Us features a series of verse called The Wilde Poems, including two which deal with Wilde’s last years in France, “shambling through the boulevards”. The poet’s affection for the great Irish writer is clear in the conclusion of ‘Oscar Wilde’s Last Absinthe’: “What a life of thorns./He is welcome in my café anytime/Ah! Monsieur Melmoth, bonsoir...”
What Our Shoes Say About Us, published by Salmon Poetry, will be launched upstairs in Richardson’s Bar, Eyre Square, on Saturday July 5 at 2.30pm. The event will also see the launch of new collections by Celeste Auge and Knute Skinner.