New poetry collection from Mary O'Malley is worth rejoicing over

Gaudent Angeli by Mary O'Malley, published by Carcanet

Poet and writer Mary O'Malley. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Poet and writer Mary O'Malley. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

THE POET Dave Lordan has argued that, in an age when poetry is more effectively transmitted over the internet, rather than through traditional book sales, the poetry collection belongs more to the heritage end of the poetry business.

There is truth in what he says: I devour poetry anthologies, but these days when I discover a new poem by a living poet, I more often do so online. The changed manner in which new poems are typically consumed, combines with the tempestuous political, economic, and environmental waters, in which we are currently being forced to navigate.

They call into question the broader relevance of the well made lyric poem which, in book form, will be read, in most cases, by no more than a few hundred people. The danger is the poem can go straight from poet’s pen/computer, to the literary equivalent of the museum, without ever having lived in the world. It is a challenge for all.

Gaudent Angeli which translates as 'angels rejoice' is Connemara born Mary O’Malley’s ninth collection, and confirms her as a sublime practitioner of the short lyric, all the more so because she so often strives to push lyric niceties to their breaking point.

‘Question’ is O’Malley at her punch-in-the-stomach best: "When you have gone so low/that you would bend down and pull/grass with your bare fingers, bow/your head into the winter muck to dull/what cannot be borne, surely it is time/to look up from the ruins of this future/and ask were they in on this/from the start, the Weird Sisters?..."

'Gaudent Angeli is a significant addition to the opus of a poet serious about her art'

Another excellent, potentially politically resonant poem, is the unblinkingly stark ‘Irony’: “We didn’t expect them back so soon –/the idols, with the gods leaving brusquely./It seemed, we expected a new dawn/Or a cool intelligence to rule. We forgot/about hunger and want, that men/over war and blood sacrifice...”

It speaks to the dark side of the internet age, and the idols it has thrown up, Facebook etc, and its closing lines lay bare the more mediaeval impulses which are still out there: “They will look inside/your dried-up soul and count your sins,/which they’ll publish on the web.”

A little less successful is the light verse satire ‘The Pope And The Queen Take Tea’ in which the aforementioned rest “their rears/under fine chandeliers.” It could have done with a little more absurdity and venom, but this is a small thing.

O’Malley excels when she combines the high with the low, such as in ‘Little Dazzler’ which manages to include Odysseus, a sorceress, condoms, smartphones, and “a supermodel in a green tube dress”. To cap it all, the final line has the words “Holy Moly”. Gaudent Angeli is a significant addition to the opus of a poet serious about her art.

Gaudent Angeli will be launched in Charlie Byrne's Bookjshop, Middle Street, on Friday October 11 at 6.30pm. The guest speaker is Rosita Boland. Admission is free.

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