THERE IS no more appropriate way for this column to celebrate the New Year other than by reviewing the first collection of a young Galway poet who had come to notice while still at school.
A pupil of Coláiste Éinde, Luke Morgan’s poetic talent was noted by English teacher Gerry Hanberry who, being a published poet himself, recognised the young man's undoubted talent and gave it every encouragement. For the last number of years Luke’s work has been appearing in several reviews and poetry magazines and, almost inevitably, just before Christmas, his first full collection, Honest Walls, was published by Arlen House. Not surprisingly the collection carries the dedication “For Gerry”.
Opening the pages of this collection is a little like opening a Pandora’s box: there is a deep sense of anticipation and trepidation as to what will be found therein. The first poem, 'Artefact' soon dispels any such trepidation: “Inside the small boutique/across the road from the cafe/ an old woman wants to be beautiful./She sits on the tall stool,/eyelids gently closed,/while a Blond make up girl/Moseys about her, excavating precisely and efficiently/the surface of her skin all cracked and lined/ - brushing here, scraping there -/tools held between the fingers/ of her other hand,/glancing every so often/at the reference diagram/ of what she hopes to find/but what may not be there."
It is immediately evident we have a new young poet who not only 'knows the business' but who shows a maturity and poise way beyond his years. From that first poem, the collection becomes a voyage of discovery as the poet struggles to set out his stall and in doing so, presents the reader with a collection of small gems, some paths showing more promise than others.
While Luke is constantly probing, he also demonstrates a sardonic sense of humour. In 'Real-Life Stuff' he satirises himself as a poet, as well as the art of poetry in general: “There’s one in the shower/somewhere, singing. And/in the supermarket’s/ fruit and veg aisle, one/has picked up a mango/ and is holding it up in front/of his eyes/as if it were a vial,/or a skull.”
In the book’s blurb Niall Monagle writes: Here is a lively voice, a voice alive to ideas and language. Whether he is imagining a cafe in lift-off, remembering a drive with good his mother, plating with a skeleton in a Science lab, standing naked before his bedroom window or capturing fragile relationships, Luke connects us to the moment, maps it, brings us beyond it and changes the way we might look at the world."
That Luke, thankfully, is a committed poet, is shown in the final lines of the last poem in the collection: “and I frown, open my mouth to ask Why/ and instead say Yes/ Yes I Will Dance/And all I can do is dance."
Luke Morgan is a poet here to stay.