Sexing up Greek myths and facing down the bank

New books by Mary Madec and Angela T Carr

Poet Mary Madec.

Poet Mary Madec.

THERE ARE those for whom being a poet is, to paraphrase Angela Carr’s fine poem ‘Occupied’, “the new black”. If you are young and fit, all you need do is write long poems about what is going on at street level and wave your arms around when you read them.

If you are too weather beaten to pull that off, then find a major issue - cultural or political - and pretend to be anguished about it. The poses adopted may change but the emptiness inside remains. Such types are useful, though, because their prevalence enables one to immediately recognise the real thing, when one sees it.

Demeter Does Not Remember is Mary Madec’s second collection from Salmon Poetry. It is an ambitious work in that the entire collection is based, loosely, on the myth of Demeter, her daughter Persephone, and Persephone’s moody sometime boyfriend, Hades.

This is a book about the clash of generations. Though based on a myth that is a few thousand years old, it describes the eternal mother/daughter clash that is no doubt going on in Renmore and Knocknaccarra as I type.

Demeter “is jealous of those pert little breasts,/those eyes, reminding her of another bed/where she was desirable as a wife”. Many wrongly think of the Greek myths as being dry and austere; but in Madec’s hands this story gets erotic indeed: “Persephone is wet with smiles/her soft legs parting for Hades.”

Those suffering from heart conditions should make sure they have their medication taken before reading some of these poems. As we grow old we both envy and fear the young because of the reminder they are of our own all too soon demise, on days when we can barely “struggle across the river/to the other side of the kitchen.”

These are well put together poems that ask the reader some hard questions.

Angela T Carr’s debut collection How To Lose Your Home & Save Your Life (Bradshaw Books ) is a book born of unbearable reality. Carr’s case against the financial institution that is attempting to repossess her house is to be reviewed by the Supreme Court, where she will represent herself.

Carr reminds me of Wilfred Owen who was a lyric poet, in the manner of Keats, until the First World War intervened. Carr also writes beautifully about love, as in ‘Butterfly Kiss’: “One on each eyelid, soft as a sunrise;/tender offerings, made in the pink of love”.

However the economic blows she suffered, losing her job and then facing the possible loss of her home, forced Carr to confront the big political issue of her day in all its dirtiness. The result is a collection crammed with poems what will speak to anyone who has had to fight one of our beloved financial institutions.

For me, the aforementioned ‘Occupied’ is the best poem written about the angry isolation so many have faced: “I’ve been in my foxhole for three years now…/…you, with your placard,/the ironic slogan, where the fuck were you?”

The Dáil should pass legislation forcing the banks to give every applicant for a mortgage a copy of this book.


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