"Breda Sullivan's third collection of poetry is a testament to the continued grace she exercises over subject matter of the most difficult nature. Her poems resonate with an unnerving elegance and honesty and her voice is a trustworthy and intimate one. She writes about family and loss with ceremonial care. Her language is lucid, her images stark and striking. Indeed, her poems explore the life of the heart with an unflinchi...
"Breda Sullivan's third collection of poetry is a testament to the continued grace she exercises over subject matter of the most difficult nature. Her poems resonate with an unnerving elegance and honesty and her voice is a trustworthy and intimate one. She writes about family and loss with ceremonial care. Her language is lucid, her images stark and striking. Indeed, her poems explore the life of the heart with an unflinching integrity. Sculpture in Black Ice is a tremendous collection of lyrical bravery and beauty."
"Breda Sullivan writes from the heart. She writes poetry which is both well-crafted and accessible. Like Patrick Kavanagh, she is a poet of the people. She elevates the mundane by exploring the rich and varied threads of domestic living but she also indulges herself and takes us on flights of fantasy and imagination."
Gearóid O'Brien, Midland Magazine
Breda Sullivan was born in
Athlone and now lives in Streete, Co. Westmeath where, before
retirement, she taught at the local primary school. She is the mother
of four and grandmother of three. Her poetry has been translated into
French. She has poetry included in The Field Day Anthology of Irish
Writing, Volumes IV and V. To date she holds twenty-two awards for
poetry including the National Women's Poetry Competition, Boyle Arts
Festival, Hopkins, and KISS. Her two previous collections of poetry, The Smell of Camphor (1993) and After the Ball (1998), were also published by Salmon.
Review in The Stinging Fly - Spring 2006
US Author Stephen Dobyns has suggested that a poem should enable the reader 'to experience what you have experienced with a kind of specificity and depth that is not possible in casual language'. This appears to be Breda Sullivan's aim in Sculpture in Black Ice. In what might be an Ars Poetica, she says of a dead child that she wanted to 'open him like a Russian doll, // discard shell after shell / until I held on my palm // the innermost nut: / the seed of his breathing' ('Baby Breath'). Throughout this collection, unwieldy emotions are distilled in moments or images that are as sharp and clear as black ice. The pain of a dying friend manifests itself in a knee-deep drift of July snow through which the poet must trudge ('Roses and Snow'). A grown-up child's departure from home is felt in one perfectly captured moment of dismay:
has too many
a stupid thing
the Sunday after
went away. ('Sons')
If pure poetry conveys something that could never be said in prose, Sullivan provides it often. We all know what it feels like 'when the exit seizes,' but perhaps could not have said; here it is expressed ('Escape Routes'). There is a tendency towards a jarring childhood nostalgia in the opening poems, which dote on 'goldgrain biscuits', tin can telephones and 'Lydon's cake', but in all Breda Sullivan has produced a brave and tender collection whose gaze is varied and above all, feels accurate.
Salmon Poetry / The Salmon Bookshop & Literary Centre, 9 Parliament Street, Ennistymon, County Clare, Ireland