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Torching the Brown River
April 2008

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Witness Trees
June 2011

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Lark Water
September 2021


Lorna Shaughnessy

ISBN: 978-1-910669-22-8

Page Count: 80

Publication Date: Saturday, November 14, 2015

Cover Artwork: Martina Gardiner Photography –

About this Book

Full and various, Anchored establishes Lorna Shaughnessy’s range and power.  From meditation on the landscape of the West of Ireland to the exploration of memories, personal or communal, treasured or pathological, to myths of sacrifice and betrayal, the various topographies are intimately connected by an authentic voice and feeling.  The language is precise, on occasion subdued or suddenly adventurous: starlings rise ‘in a calligrapher’s upward stroke’, while the capacity of words to convey their own opposites makes a defiant cacophony in ‘Iphigenia unwritten’. This is a book with shadowy depths and bright enlargements of our many worlds. 
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

At times beguilingly personal and story-driven, at times warmly and meditatively elusive, the poems in Anchored reflect Lorna Shaughnessy’s discovery of a deepened artistic resource. This beautiful book resonates with the sense of a commitment to wholeness by a writer whose gifts include the ability to unite the roles of teller and singer, and the courage, whatever the subject, to marshal the reader towards the heart of poetry.
Martin Dyar

Author Biography

Lorna Shaughnessy was born in Belfast and lives in Co. Galway, Ireland. She has published two poetry collections, Torching the Brown River and Witness Trees (Salmon, 2008 and 2011), and her work was selected for the Forward Book of Poetry, 2009. She is also a translator of Spanish and South American Poetry. Her most recent translation was of poetry by Galician writer Manuel Rivas, The Disappearance of Snow (Shearsman Press, 2012).

Read a sample from this book

The Limestone Bowl

Scant winter rains are not enough
to flood Carran's limestone bowl.
No swans this year, but a flock of starlings
that rise in a calligrapher's upward stroke.

The turlough is empty but my cup is full
of gifts to mark another year:
a pair of hands steady at the wheel,
the yellow sun of a freshly-baked cake.

The new season enters in the wake of death,
discreetly tip-toeing behind the mourners.
No rain, ice or snow, just the silent thrust
of white tips unobserved until today.


The injured past comes back like a mangy dog.
It hangs around, infecting my doorstep with its sores
and the smell of neglect, trips me up when I venture out,
circling my legs, ready for the next casual kick.

If I feed it, it'll never go away.
If I ignore it, it'll never leave
but press its scabby skin against the door-pane,
crouch in the corner of my eye, licking its paw,

or cower in the wing-mirror as I drive away
and limp out to meet me when I come back,
loyal and unwelcome as disease.

The Watched Phone

Her son is out there somewhere
the rain beats his jacket seeps through his jeans
runnels of water travel from nape to chin

somewhere out there her son in seeping jacket
beaten from nape to chin
travels through runnels of water

out there the rain seeps nape to chin
water runnels down jeans and jacket
her beaten son is travelling

he seeps through jeans and jacket
runnelling out somewhere
rain beats

water seeps and her son
travels rain-runnelled nape to chin
beaten out

Copyright © Lorna Shaughnessy 2015


Review:  Anchored by Lorna Shaughnessy reviewed by Kevin Higgins for The Galway Advertiser, Thurs 7th January, 2016


Anchored is the third collection Shaughnessy has published with Salmon. It is, to be polite about it, an absurdity that her work has not received more widespread critical attention and the audience which would come with that. In particular, it is incredible her work was not considered for inclusion in the somewhat notorious, Cork dominated, by invitation only, recent special Irish issue of US based magazine Poetry. But it is their loss, and a symptom of that magazine’s decline. A major theme she interrogates here, in poems such as ‘The Dark Topography’, is the undercurrent of loss running not very far beneath the surface of Northern Ireland’s patched together peace: “There is a country known only to the bereaved of that time,/a place not seen through the car windows of passers-by…”

Review: Anchored reviewed by John McAuliffe, The Irish Times, Saturday February 27th, 2016

Formal and structural experiments mark out the latest work of two Belfast poets

Most poets learn their trade by using “forms”: to write a sonnet, or a poem written in regular stanzas, is a sign of having studied the art and the ways in which line breaks and rhythms can generate interesting sounds and tones. Poets soon develop characteristic ways of turning a line, or stopping a poem, or reaching for image and metaphor. Then, formal choices act less like a vessel the poet fills and more like a divining rod or prospecting tool that poets use to bring them to the places they will find their material. But the material – historical, autobiographical, philosophical – will be altered and, the poet hopes, brought to poetic life by the way it has been mined. Sometimes, though, the formal choice, the sonnet or the stanza, is so insistently present that the reader may see hardly anything else in the poem.

... Belfast native, Lorna Shaughnessy, lives and works in Galway, and her third collection, Anchored (Salmon, €12), is comprised of five sequences. The book’s long central section, ‘The Injured Past’, recounts a series of well-known incidents and places from the Troubles as it attempts to tell its story of murder and bereavement and remembering. The material has been the subject of so much writing and film-making that Shaughnessy’s poems call to mind her poet predecessors as much as the events, as when The Chosen (January 1976) begins:

He thought he’d breathed his last
when they asked his religion
And told him to step forward.
A workmate’s hand urged caution
but they hadn’t come for him.

But Shaughnessy’s poems do fresh imaginative work as well; they do not set out just to record what happened, and this sequence’s closing poem sets up intriguing images: “Behind us, / the words we have left on the shore / like ownerless clothes. // Before the heave to the other side, / terra firma, the hope of a new tongue, / the anchored tug and its cargo.” (The Crossing)

Anchored is a disparate book: other sections retell the story of Iphigenia, or focus on music and musicians, while illness is the subject of the section ‘The Dual Citizen’. Taxol, for example, turns illness into a striking story, ending “I am yew-burnt, / yew-red, new”.

And the book’s first poem, Crystal, begins with an image which thinks carefully about the difficulties of finding the right form for a poem: “The blower adds breath to heat, / turns and blows within the mould / until he finds precise form.” Fourteen lines long, the poem’s closing lines discover that “Mistakes pile up / waiting for the furnace, / a second chance, / instability anchored / by the weight of lead.”

John McAuliffe’s fourth book is The Way In, published by Gallery Press. He teaches poetry at the University of Manchester

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