Tuesday, 10 November 2020

The Skylark's Call

A box of books has arrived on my doorstep. It contains my new collection of poetry, The Skylark’s Call, published by Dempsey & Windle. I’m delighted of course. And I think it looks great. But I am a bit biased. It’s almost ten years since my first collection, Latch, was published by Lagan Press. That seems an absolute lifetime ago. So much has happened to me over the past decade. The negatives are clear: three large cancerous tumours and four major operations. The positives, similarly so: being together with T for seven happy years and being clear of cancer for almost four.

The theme of the book is the vitality and impermanence of everyday life. This is a subject I know intimately. All of the poems were written during my years of treatment for and recovery from cancer. The poems don’t seek to address my cancer experience directly, but reflect on the memories and meanings that surround a cluster of places, people and artefacts. Together the poems explore the fragile and often invisible boundary between life and death. In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, this is a territory we are all now having to deal with.

The manuscript was in development for the best part of two years. In particular, I’d like to acknowledge the debt of gratitude I have to the late Ciaran Carson. He read and commented on an early draft of the manuscript and led the Queen’s Writers’ Group in his own inimitable fashion, where early drafts of all of the poems in the book were discussed.

The Skylark’s Call has received endorsements from Moyra Donaldson, Kevin Higgins, Damian Smyth and Ian Sansom. I’m grateful for their well chosen words and generous comments on my poetry. The book does contain my best work to date. Individual poems have been published in well regarded journals, such as, Agenda, The Honest Ulsterman, Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Interpreter’s House, Magma, Orbis, Oxford Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Stony Thursday Book and Vallum.  In the book are fifteen poems that have won awards in Ireland, the UK and the USA. There will be a launch via Zoom in December, to which you will all be invited.

The front cover photo is of Machrie Moor on the Isle of Arran. Many thanks to Stuart Waugh of www.jaggythistlephotography.com