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Her Father's Daughter
September 2014

The Hollow Woman on the Island

Nessa O'Mahony

ISBN: 978-1-912561-63-6

Page Count: 74

Publication Date: Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Cover Artwork: “Generational Form” by Kim Sharkey

About this Book

Nessa O’Mahony’s fifth volume of poetry explores many of her signature themes developed over a 20-year period. She writes with renewed urgency about life and love, continues her preoccupation with history (the hidden and overt), questions cultural identity and demonstrates her keen affinity with nature and landscape as well as exploring the liminal areas between loss and gain.  At the heart of this new collection is a central sequence, the Hollow Woman poems, that explore O’Mahony’s recent scrape with ovarian cancer, an experience that provoked profound questions about the essence of womanhood and female identity when faced with existential threat. But more than this is O’Mahony’s enduring exploration of the human condition in a poetic voice that is quiet, subtle and occasionally devastating.  

Author Biography

Nessa O’Mahony was born in Dublin and lives in Rathfarnham where she works as a freelance teacher and writer of poetry and fiction. She was awarded an Arts Council of Ireland literature bursary in 2004, 2011 and 2018, a Simba Gill Fellowship in 2005 and an artists’ bursary from South Dublin County Council in 2007. She has published four volumes of poetry, edited and co-edited anthologies and has co-edited a book of criticism on the work of Eavan Boland. She also writes crime fiction. She presents The Attic Sessions, a literary podcast, which she produces with her husband, Peter Salisbury. 

Read a sample from this book

1st March 1965
When I was one they resurrected him,
dug up the scraps of bone from Pentonville quicklime,
packed them in oak, draped flags, slow-marched
the gun-carriage through sleety 60s streets.

Snow-flickered images on our TV screens,
huddled crowds signing as the carriage passed
to the beat of Charles Mitchell’s sonorous tones  
requiem in pacem.
Did it come from this, that first terror?
Did I confuse Casement with the Michan’s Mummy, 
think his Glasnevin tomb must be visited, 
a crusty hand shaken?
Was it he who made shadows darken 
on the landing, exert a gravitational pull 
through the door of the upstairs bedroom,
towards the wardrobe where the bogeyman hid 

till displaced by whatever fear du jour
gripped me bonily?
In the 70s it was ‘Tubular Bells’ 
that lowered temperatures, raised sheets.

In the 80s it was whatever blood carried
illicit through veins and dangerous apertures.
Each decade found its own vortex
of imps straddling chests, white mares snorting.
It ends with the banality of a waiting room:
a dead celebrity waving from the cover of an old Hello,  
a raised bump beneath skin, a white-draped man 
scanning penumbras on illuminated screens.
The Hollow Woman on the Island
The hollow woman sits in her car
watching the sea lick its lips
at the edge of the pier.
till the sides of the car disappear
and the windscreen dissolves
into waves and grey crests
drawing her into depths 
she has dreamed of nightly.
She does not float ,
(despite the vacuum inside her)
            she rolls.
Edges rounded off
by the water’s oscillation
till she’s smooth, buffed
into ovoid shape, 
tide-tossed onto damp sand 
to be plucked up, 
pocketed, placed with care
on a mantlepiece, a grave-top.

Copyright © Nessa O'Mahon 2019

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