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out of emptied cups / Anne Casey

out of emptied cups

By: Anne Casey

out of emptied cups explores what it means to be human—a consciousness contained within a shell that dictates so much of what our experience of life will be. Including internationally award-winning and shortlisted pieces, these strongly felt poems interrogate what it means to be a woman in a world where the female body still preordains so much for the person it contains. Deli...
ISBN 978-1-912561-74-2
Pub Date Saturday, July 06, 2019
Cover Image ‘Powder Flower’ by Cezary Korsieko, October 9 Arts, Poland –
Page Count 100
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out of emptied cups explores what it means to be human—a consciousness contained within a shell that dictates so much of what our experience of life will be.

Including internationally award-winning and shortlisted pieces, these strongly felt poems interrogate what it means to be a woman in a world where the female body still preordains so much for the person it contains. Deliberately weaving in and out of, and cross-referencing, each other, these poems reveal multiple perspectives on the same or related narratives.

At times unabashedly political, this book plumbs the poet’s own experiences of birth, death, loss, treatment/mistreatment and place in the world—as a woman, as an immigrant, as a parent, as a former environment journalist/author depicting the decline of our planet, as a human being questioning our treatment of others based on lines on a map and ‘so many lengths/of slick red tape’.

Collectively these poems strive to cross the boundary between body and soul. To be filled to overflowing. Emptied. To be simultaneously half-full, half-empty. To drink deeply of this one precious cup and find meaning in the traces of what remains—“lifting our hearts/out of emptied cups/and away with them/into the heavens”.

“Reading Anne Casey’s poems, I want to ‘embrace the world with a desperate love’.”
Luka Bloom

“In poems often formally playful, Anne Casey looks hard at human experience—sex, love, vulnerability, danger—and refuses to look away; the poems display resilience and speak back against shame. out of emptied cups explores not only what it is to be a woman in this world, at this time, but what it is to be alive, body and soul.”
Maggie Smith    Poet

“From the mystery and grace of language to wry humour and a delicate ability to lay the self open, from unflinching grimness to eloquent notes of lamentation, pointed political satire and an enthusiasm for the shape-shifting play of words, this collection gives us the sustained sense of discovery that is poetry at its best.”
Peter Boyle    Poet and translator

“This is very powerful work, and very timely. It doesn’t flinch at telling the difficult stories, but it also does so in a controlled, crafted manner: this is skilful writing.”
Kerry Featherstone & Carol Rowntree-Jones     Overton Poetry Prize (UK)

“A heartbreakingly beautiful exploration of human consciousness, Anne Casey’s out of emptied cups is masterfully conceived and holds the reader to the page. This is poetry full of sorrow and wonder, of souls at spiritual thresholds, lit from within, language as pure enchantment, at once startling and liminal, ‘lifting our hearts/out of emptied cups/and away with them/into the heavens’.”
Hélène Cardona   Poet, actor and translator

“The poems in Anne Casey’s out of emptied cups remind us that we live in a figurative not a literal, world. Her musical, inventive syntax harnesses memory as image-maker and family as cornerstone, where the spectral and the grounded are given equal weight. Craft and technique are a major feature of this work, and can be seen in the detail woven through wide-angle landscapes or the minutiae of the domesticity. Imagination is the driving spark that lights ‘the infinite possibilities of the here and now...’ (Observance).”
Anthony Lawrence    Poet and author

“Anne Casey’s second collection is a haunting journey through the natural world, contemporary marriage, motherhood, and the experience of the migrant aching for family and birthplace. She also delves into the fraught and heartbreaking territory of the Catholic Church’s treatment of women and children in Mother and Baby homes in her native Ireland. This is fine work, both delicate and brave, a kind  of libation poured, paradoxically, out of the ‘emptied cups’ of the title.”
Melinda Smith    Poet

“One of the most poignant and surprising takes on family life since Akhmatova, rooted in lived experience that many share but few have the combination of courage or skills to articulate in poetry, this is the work of a poet at the full measure of her powers, successfully realizing Yeats’s goal for his own work, of giving serious study to sex and the dead.”
Eddie Vega    Writer, poet, W.B. Yeats Society of New York

“The ancients once said the stars made music which no one can hear – but it is there – real, speaking to our souls. The music of Casey's poetry we can indeed hear. Her poetry sings with honesty, striking at the reader's heart. This is a brave, beautiful body of work. The power of Casey's poems reminded me of what the poet Muriel Rukeyser once said: ‘What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open’. Casey's truth confronts us in her poetry, and challenges us to gaze through her eyes. Her poems tell a woman's truth, the truth we all need to listen to, if we want the world to change.”
Dr Wendy J Dunn  Novelist and poet

Anne Casey

Originally from west Clare in Ireland, and living in Sydney, Australia, Anne Casey is an award-winning poet and writer, and author of two previous, critically acclaimed poetry collections—where the lost things go (Salmon Poetry, 2017) and out of emptied cups (Salmon Poetry, 2019). She has worked for 30 years as a journalist, magazine editor, media communications director and legal author. Senior Poetry Editor of Other Terrain and Backstory literary journals (Swinburne University, Melbourne) from 2017-2020, she serves on numerous literary advisory boards. Anne’s writing and poetry are widely published internationally and rank in The Irish Times newspaper’s Most-Read.
She has won/shortlisted for poetry prizes in Ireland, Northern Ireland, the USA, the UK, Canada, Hong Kong and Australia, including: the American Writers Review Contest; The Plough Prize; ACU Prize for Poetry; Henry Lawson Poetry Competition; Women’s National Book Association of USA Poetry Competition; 25th Annual Melbourne Poets Union International Poetry Competition; Hennessy New Irish Writing; Cúirt International Poetry Prize; Overton Poetry Prize; Bedford International Writing Competition; Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest; Tom Collins Poetry Prize (Fellowship of Australian Writers, Western Australia); and, Fellowship of Australian Writers Queensland Literary Competition. 
Anne passionately believes that every poem, like all art, should leave us changed by the experience. Her poems feature internationally in newspapers, magazines, journals, anthologies, broadcasts, podcasts, music albums, stage shows and art exhibitions—The Irish Poetry Reading Archive (James Joyce Library, University College Dublin), The Irish Times, The Canberra Times, Australian Poetry Anthology, Griffith Review, Atlanta Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Tahoma Literary Review, Quiddity, Entropy, apt, The Murmur House, Barzakh (State University of New York), DASH (California State University), Connecticut River Review, The Stony Thursday Book, FourXFour (Poetry Northern Ireland), Westerly Magazine, Cordite Poetry Review, Voices of Women and Plumwood Mountain among many others. 
She holds a Law Degree from University College Dublin and qualifications in Media Communications from Dublin Institute of Technology (Technological University Dublin). She is the recipient of an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship for her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Technology Sydney. 

Website:   Social Media: @1annecasey

Author Photo: David Clare, First Light Photography

out of a thousand cups

one warm morning when my soul
defies all twenty-one
of its grams
carried away like a whispered prayer
on a sunburst, flimsy-radiant
drifting high on all-but-still air
into green-golden crowns
of softly swaying boughs
to wonder
at the unknowable—
what if
i had first poured forth
into another cup
a different skin
other sex
alternate state
or into a tiny egg
swelling in the soft round belly
of a feathered form
spearing through the clear
blue air of
one warm morning in
some other time

I will arise and go
(After William Butler Yeats)

My people are a migrant clan
Prospering not by hook or crook or craft
But by diligent labour and an easy charm
Flung from one small corner
Across every wind-tossed sea
Mountaintop to valley floor
To lay a thousand roadways
Or stand on pavements grey 
To explore wild tropical outposts
Hold fast to frozen plains

My people are an itinerant tribe
A heathen spirit tamed
Not by bonds or shackles or shekels
But by music and by elegant words
Though alongside our wanderlust
Cohabits a want in us—
That surges in each nomad breast—
To journey back again, top the last crest
To that first wide view
Across a childhood shore

To feel the heart leap 
Like a salmon returned to familial waters
If only—in our dreams

All Souls

A citrus swirl of myrtle crosses my path
as three skulking brush turkeys scatter dramatically
into the understory
Crushed sandstone scrapes under flagging sandals
blending with
the tick-tick distant and more insistent chitter and chirrup
perpetual Trisagion against
the far-off clamour of trucks and cars morphing
this second day of November into
the roll and thunder of mist-capped surf on distant shores

And there’s the sharp salt catch at the back of the palate
My mother standing
arms thrown out against the Atlantic’s roar
embracing the world with a desperate love
like Jesus
after the delivery of her death sentence
and before her crucifixion
Too far away too long ago
but still the piercing and the gush of water
The salt rub of old wounds crossing time and space

The quick chirp
of a message from my father
eleven hours behind but instantaneously dispatching
me to the fiery pits of hell where
starched sisters must surely be burning
Pharaohs in their hooded head-coverings shepherding
the little children and their unmarried mothers
through famishment into lightless catacombs
saving an anointed few borne nameless
in Moses baskets unto the Promised Land

A kookaburra laughing
carries me home through the clearing
where the wattles are bursting
their golden crowns dancing
against a brooding backdrop and
rainbow lorikeets will swoop
in later lifting our hearts
out of emptied cups and
away with them into 
the heavens 

All poems © copyright Anne Casey 2019

Review: out of emptied cups reviewed by Devika Brendon for Rochford Street Review,  Sept 24th 2020

Shimmering with exuberance: Devika Brendon reviews ‘Out of emptied cups’ by Anne Casey

This collection of poems is charged with electric musicality, full like a glass at a wedding or a wake – and the cover equates the human being, arms extended, with a chalice which evokes the human spirit itself. The elixir this work contains is spiked with anger and despair, but it also shimmers with exuberance, and the draught it offers is addictive. Anne Casey’s work opens up issues of war, of degradation, of disrespect, covetousness and harassment, which drain us of hope, and dignity. She shows that the compulsive reaching and releasing which shapes our lives makes us weigh the cost of our human greed and grasping materialism, and leaves us empty in a world which was given to us in an abundant condition. Yet from that emptiness, and in our drained state, we must still generate the will to live, the energy to surge, to rise and renew ourselves. 

Casey is sensitive to the texture and shape of words, and their placement in sequences which resonate. Several of the poems are typographically shaped structures, in the forms of a cocktail glass (‘heat’), a dance (‘in their scores, by sixes and sevens’) , a heart (‘darkness’), and fruit (‘persimmon and rose’) . Alternation and intermittency are embodied in these structures: the poet allows the grace of conceptual and emotional emptying and filling to occur in the process and progress of the poems. The particular and specific positioning of each word becomes visually acute and precise, and as readers our imaginations sharpen as we follow and respond to the symmetry of precision. 

The myriad cups referred to in the poems refer to the capacity of human beings — particularly women — to create, to produce, to generate life, amidst the constant shedding and draining experiences the world brings.

The cup takes many forms. It is the belly, which ruptured when children were brought forth in ‘if I were to tell you’:

when i stretch to parting-kiss the soft pink cheek
of my son now twelve towering
over me i feel again the wrench as they pulled
him from my ruptured belly
It is the bivalve oyster shell and the emptied sacs of ‘awash’:

i might never have
emerged from the shell
clinging still to the 
illusion of some submerged
labyrinth where my
air-deficient sacs

might drift weightless forever
in that unending blue
and the champagne flute in ‘nothing happens in the burbs’:

we split a cider
yours straight from the bottle
mine from a champagne flute
making an occasion out of nothing

The cup is the speculative gaze of an onlooker rendered like an accordion narrowing and expanding in ‘Portrait of a woman walking home’; the opening and closing of the scathing labyrinthine mind in ‘Please do not feed the animals’. 

The remarkable nature of Casey’s versatility is shown in her range and her generosity of theme and stylistic exploration. ‘Burnt offerings’ evokes the pervasive sensory nature of grief, the very taste of it:

and my mother in a box too small
to hold her all
laid in a field with all the others
when she could have flown
with the four winds
so I could taste her again
the sharp tang of her loss
married to the rest
‘Leonara is grieving’ evokes the: 

Holes they tried to fill in
with forgetting and shallow shiny sands
slipping through their hands. 

The surge and the swell of human desire, and the urges of life recede and ebb in these lines, creating rhythms which reverberate, and evoke a mise-en-scene of emotion and thought which, like a gritty, glamoured residue, stays with us and prompts a continual re-reading. 

The collection reminds me of the ‘Five of cups’ card in Lisa de St Croix’s Tarot de St Croix. Three goblets of blood-red wine are seen spilled in the foreground, and the grieving querant walks, with her head in her hands, towards a small bridge in the distance to cross to the two cups that remain upright and full of promise, on the other side of what she is experiencing. 

These poems evoke an emotional courage which is inspiring. They replenish the reader. To contain ourselves, to hold the forces of life against the inevitable losses and harms inflicted on us, is the message of the glorious ‘Cup in hand’. The brusque poems which overtly critique the mad leaders of the world are tangential in effect, in comparison to the multi-foliate blooming and unfolding of the imagery of religious ritual and the divine symmetry of the poems detailing the natural and social environment. 

Devika Brendon is an editor, reviewer, and teacher of English literature, and a writer of poetry and fiction. She was awarded the Henry Lawson Memorial Prize for Poetry and The Adrian Consett Stephen Prize For Fiction in 1989 at The University of Sydney. Her doctoral thesis examined Jonathan Swift’s use of the epistolary mode in poetry and prose satire. Her short stories, poetry, reviews and opinion pieces have been published in anthologies, journals and print and digital publications, in Australia, India, Sri Lanka and Italy. 

Review: out of emptied cups reviewed by Martina Evans for The Irish Times,  Jun 1st, 2019

Anne Casey’s Out of Emptied Cups ranges far and wide both in subject matter and sheer distance. Casey, who is originally from Co Clare, now lives in Australia, and her visual poems are infused with intense heat and Australian flora and fauna. In A Sunburnt Country is a lament for the kangaroo:

shot through
at sunset – their sorry hides
blanching over bleaching
bones for
daring to outrun
the culling gun
this new battlefront
where parched and starving natives
are run
aground swarming from
new deserts carved out
by men
busily at work where wild
boronia once grew
rivers running rapidly through
and wallum frogs once croaked
in their thousands

In A Sunburnt Country is one of several stirring eco poems but gender politics dominates here, with Donald Trump casting his shadow in more than one poem, although he is never actually named. I wasn’t sure if the amusing sideshow was about Trump:

an orangutan walks on two legs
wears a suit, learns a grimacing smile
to form words that make people follow
in awe and fanatic adulation

Although if it is about Trump it hardly seems fair on the orangutan. Sexual abuse is faced down in more than one poem, although the neat understatement of for all the #MeToos might be more powerful, “i can’t help but feel/ there should/be a #MeaCulpaToo”. The ugly unfairness and double standards of the “world of men” is passionately expressed in M Is for Monster – “it took him a year/of persistent single assaults/ topped by one allied attack/to teach her his place/for a woman…” and each stanza is a fierce bite leading up to the final disturbing unanswerable question:

what’s in their heads, these men –
as they let go their daughters
each day – do they pray
that someone won’t show them his place
for a woman, in a world of men?

Review: out of emptied cups reviewed by Dr Wendy J Dunn in Backstory Journal (Swinburne University, Melbourne)

A kookaburra laughing
carries me home through the clearing
where the wattles are bursting
their golden crowns dancing
against a brooding backdrop and
rainbow lorikeets will swoop
in later lifting our hearts
out of emptied cups and
away with them into
the heavens.

As the Manager Editor of Backstory and Other Terrain, I could not be more proud of the team making our two writing journals a reality. We not only have a very talented and hard working student team, but also three extremely talented and stellar Senior Editors who help steer the smooth sailing of producing these journals twice a year.

One of our Senior Editors is the extraordinarily gifted poet Anne Casey. I had come away reading ‘where the lost things go’, Casey’s first collection of poetry, in awe of the power of her words and the perfection of her poetry. ‘out of emptied cups’, Casey’s new work left me equally in awe.

The ancients once said the stars made music which no one can hear – but it is there – real, speaking to our souls. The music of Casey’s poetry we can indeed hear. Her poetry sings with honesty, striking at the reader’s heart. Casey is an amazingly skilful poet unafraid to experiment with rhyme and meter. Her poems become art on the page as their message is not brought home by words, but often through word shapes depicted like hearts or chalices.

‘out of emptied cups’ is truly a courageous, beautiful body of work. Reading Casey’s poems reminded me of what the poet Muriel Rukeyser once said: ‘What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open’. Casey’s truth confronts us in her poetry, and challenges us to gaze through her eyes. First world women will recognise the world they face and must surmount everyday in so many of the poems in this work – like in this poem, ‘A portrait of a woman walking home’:

I know you are making extreme efforts to lessen the sway there is a certain gait

you cannot ameliorate in this corporate get-up—skirt over heels over female pelvis

and it is so obviously more-than-a-little inadvisable for you to have placed yourself in

this delicate position where you might be seen to provoke a certain reaction in an onlooker

of a particular disposition—it being late and you quite clearly under-dressed for the hour and

with every breath you take wondering why it is                                              we have to watch

ourselves like this

Casey’s poems speak her truth, a woman’s truth, the truth we all need to listen to, if we want the world to change. They are indeed the cry and call of the brave.

Leaving behind nights of secrets and dread, I rise.

Into a daybreak that’s flushed fulsome red, I rise.

Bringing the rage that my fine sisters gave,

I am the cry and the call of the brave.

I rise, I rise, I rise.

Interview: US poet and writer Maggie Smith in conversation with Anne Casey on what makes their writing tick - published in The Irish Times newspaper on 24 June 2019

Poetry and panic: Anne Casey and Maggie Smith

‘It’s easier to write a hard truth than to speak it’
US poet and writer Maggie Smith in conversation with Irish-Australian poet and writer Anne Casey on what makes their writing tick
ANNE CASEY: I had one of those electrifying moments recently. You know, when every hair bristles with recognition? Since very early in the process of writing my second collection, Out of Emptied Cups, I’d been having this on-off internal battle. It was nothing I could name. Just this slow current of unease rippling beneath the skin.

I’d known from the beginning what I wanted from this book – to probe what it is to be human, born into a body which preordains so much of what our life experience will be – the good, the bad, the ugly, the transcendent.

But as the pieces began to emerge, each time I’d finish a poem, there would be this surge: “Can I do this? Can I really say this?”. Then off that little piece would go into the world (with a few sweaty-palmed moments) and, most of the time, nothing seemed to explode.

As the collection started to really come together, there were moments of mild to moderate panic. There were poems emerging that I knew I would never be able to read out loud. It was only when I read this comment by poet and writer Chen Chen that I realised what was happening: “my poems are braver than I am/ but I am constantly trying to catch up”. There it was in ten-foot-tall blinking (lower case) letters: the writing was pushing me out of my comfort zone. But it was something I felt, and still feel, compelled to do. It’s something I’m trying to fathom.

For some reason, my poetry seems to want to reveal often very intimate details. But I’m actually a very private person, so this can be more than a little terrifying. Just naming that now, makes my pulse start to race.

Do you ever feel like that Maggie? Much of your work is vested in the deeply personal. You don’t shy away from the difficult moments in your poetry or essays. I feel though, that you do this as a means to shine a light for us? Is that what we’re doing do you think? Is there a personal cost to that? What is driving it?

MAGGIE SMITH: I think sometimes it’s easier to write a hard truth than to speak it. At least I know I won’t be interrupted, and I don’t have to stand there watching someone’s expression as I divulge something painful. Advice I received very early on was “write what scares you”. I think I do try to take whatever is troubling me – whatever is busying my mind in ways I don’t enjoy – and drag it to the page. I don’t mean to say that writing is therapy; to me, it’s not. I don’t feel better after I write something painful; I haven’t exorcised any demons. No, that’s not how it works. But I do enjoy working with difficult material and allowing my mind to bat it around. If I can’t wrap my mind around the experience itself – if I can’t “master” it – at least I can do my best to master the formal possibilities in the piece of writing.

I’m grateful for what you said about shining a light. Yes, this is part of it, too. I think that writing about one’s struggles can make other people feel less alone, and making those connections through our writing, in turn, makes us feel less alone. I realise how terribly earnest that must sound, but that’s where I’m at right now, in writing and in life.

I spent so many years thinking I was alone when I wasn’t, leaning toward the darkness when there was so much light all around me. I find myself leaning toward the light now, in part out of necessity: there is so much wrong in the world that I feel the need to pile some stones on the other side of the scale. I think your new book, too, allows for both darkness and light. I’m curious: how you would describe your relationship to the word “hope,” as a writer and as a woman, in the current moment?

AC: Now, see Maggie – there you go crystallising things so perfectly in that nonchalant way of yours! “Write what scares you” is challenging and brilliant advice. And I agree with you about writing the hard stuff not being “therapy”. It’s not for me either, but writing definitely helps me to process things.

Your comment about people responding to your pain absolutely rings true for me too. Poetry had, for many years, fallen by the wayside for me as I pursued writing as a career in other directions. It was the loss of my mother that drove me back to poetry. Laying that out in a poem – which ended up being my first published poem as an adult (The Draper in The Irish Times) – I was overwhelmed by the response from people in sharing their own stories of loss. I really did feel that two-way exchange you mention in allaying the “aloneness”. Grief is, in so many ways, a lonely experience as people can feel awkward and there is a shying away from broaching it.

As to your question on hope, as a writer, I worry about gravitating towards the bleak. I’m conscious that often the strongest emotions, and drivers to write, for me can be negative. As a mother, I worry about the shape of our world – the climate crisis, humanitarian emergencies, ongoing assaults on democracy, the future for our children.

Over the past year, particularly in piecing together Out of Emptied Cups, I’ve written a lot on women’s issues – driven to some extent by the horrendous revelations around the mother and babies homes in Ireland, coupled with the #MeToo and #TimesUp disclosures, my own experiences of sexual assault and ill-treatment, and growing apprehensions about the erosion of women’s rights globally. These are topics I wrangled with in the article Marked women, unmarked graves in The Irish Times, eliciting some interesting responses. When I went on to the newspaper’s Facebook page and read the first few comments, I closed it and never went back. As I discovered, there are strong views on both sides.

Naive or not, I do truly believe that the written word has power. And poetry can be an extremely potent medium – armed as it is to efficiently deliver pithy facts, juxtapose positions, make pointed observations and strike at the heart. So, in that sense, I think poetry offers hope – the ability to tap into the deeper self very quickly – both for the writer and the reader – and the exciting possibility of shifting attitudes, which in turn can feed into action.

I do also feel a kind of responsibility, I suppose – and maybe this is just me – a need to celebrate the positive, the beauty, the possibility of transcendence in the everyday. I think people want and need that. And of course, Maggie, you are the living proof of that – how your extraordinary Good Bones went viral – with its tough questions but underlying positive message. I love that bewitching ability you have to drift so seamlessly from the personal to the universal. So what are you “dragging” to the page lately? Your recent New York Times article talked of “unblurring”. I’ve been following your daily wisdoms for a while now – any thoughts of assembling them more formally?

MS: You are so kind. I love what you say about poetry offering “the ability to tap into the deeper self very quickly” – and I admire how you’re doing that in your new work. I do think, as a genre, poetry is particularly well-suited to surprise, discovery, epiphany. Its metaphor-based centre of gravity is certainly part of it. As a mother, I worry about the same things you do – and I’ve often brought those worries to my poems, especially my most recent collection, Good Bones. The world is a beautiful, terrible place – it’s both, always both – and my job as a parent is to help my children navigate it the best they can and wring as much joy from it as possible.

Taking pain and building something useful from it – useful to me, useful to others – feels important to me
As you say, I’ve been dragging some heavy things to the page lately – and making deep furrows in the ground as I drag them! I’ve written poetry since my teenage years, but lately I’ve found that there are stories and ideas that require a different sort of container. I’ve been writing essays primarily since my marriage ended for this reason – I needed room to be more expansive, more discursive, less strictly concise than I am in poems.

The essay you mention, which I originally titled Unblurring, was published in the Modern Love column of the Sunday New York Times in January as “Tracking the Demise of My Marriage in Google Maps.” It was the first piece I published about my divorce, and to have it appear in such a prominent publication was both daunting and exciting. The response to that piece was incredible. And yes, I’ve been posting daily notes-to-self on Twitter and Instagram since last fall as a way to keep myself in a positive headships in a time of traumatic upheaval. I hear from people every day that my words seem to have been written just for them, and that means a lot to me – that I’m speaking to myself, giving myself a daily pep talk, but that I’m also giving pep talks to other people, too. Taking pain and building something useful from it – useful to me, useful to others – feels important to me right now. And yes – please stay tuned. I’m building something bigger with those that I hope to be able to share soon.

AC: Oh I hear you on the world being a “beautiful, terrible place”. It reminds me of Yeats’ “a terrible beauty is born” and it does somehow seem as if we are again in a present where everything has “changed, changed utterly”. I feel the same parental responsibility as you, but I also have a growing understanding of just how much we learn from our children. They seem to have so much awareness and capability. I see a new hope burgeoning – the emergence of a more politically astute and vocal youth. This is where I also feel the power of words shining through. Spurred in part by Swedish teenager and school strikes leader, Greta Thunberg’s mandate to “call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency”, The Guardian recently changed its policy on terminology around the environment. Out of the mouths of babes…

Interesting that you are reaching beyond poetry for broader forms of expression. I am doing the opposite – having moved away a little from writing longer articles and books (although of a duller kind!), I am loving the concision and deftness of poems. I am excited to hear that your “notes-to-self” are finding their way into a new form, and look forward to hearing more. It has become a daily pleasure to parachute in and have that instant high-voltage hit from these!

Thank you also for your very generous words and for this chat – somehow I’m feeling a small bit less panicky about my new collection stripping me somewhat barer than I may be comfortable with! As you say, it is part-challenge, part-epiphany and mostly about trying to make something useful from the struggle.

MS: Thank you, Anne! You’ve given us – and, I suspect, yourself – a gift with Out of Emptied Cups, having given voice to difficult experiences with such care and precision. I have so enjoyed your insights here and spending time with you on the page. I hope that our paths may cross off the page one of these days, too. Until then, I’m toasting you from here!

Anne Casey’s latest collection, Out of Emptied Cups is published by Salmon Poetry. Read The Irish Times review here. Maggie Smith’s Good Bones is published by Tupelo Press

Interview: 'Planet in Peril' Anne Casey interviewed by Siem Bruinisma  - Fly on the Wall Press, June 2019

Read the interview here>>

Interview: What I Don't Talk About @BBQs: Anne Casey - Poet & Author interview by Ken Ward - June 2019

Listen to the interview podcast here>>

Report on the launch of Anne Casey’s ‘out of emptied cups’ - published by K. S. Moore in July 2019 here>>

Review: 'out of emptied cups' by Anne Casey, reviewed by Rochelle Jewel Shapiro  - published in Empty Mirror in July 2019.

The title of Anne Casey’s second collection of poetry, out of emptied cups, is drawn from the pseudo-scientific experiment that tried to weigh the human soul by calculating the mass lost by patients after death. Casey’s award-winning poems not only plumb the soul, but stagger at the weight the soul must bear.

Her subject matter ranges from climate change “our slowly simmering one small blue planet,” to gender politics, the sins of the clergy, of international politics (Trump, unnamed, lurks in a couple of poems), the immigrant’s longing for home, spirituality, and the celebration of family, both the living and the dead.

It’s no surprise that Casey rarely uses capitalization. Her “i” is never consumed with self. In “Drive-through nation,” while she, in her air-conditioned car, drives past starved, bloated kangaroos and their rotting carcasses in a landscape of “skeletal trees and bleached-out fields,” she confesses that her life is “entitled” as she gags “behind the glass / on the unsmelt stench.” In “bull market,” she transforms an economic market in which share prices are rising into an actual raging bull that smashes children of the third world. She forces us to witness “boys with bleeding fingers sitting cross / hatched on warped boards knees / knocking elbows bumping in the / steamy dimness of some third world slum / nearby crypto-coin miners herding / mercurial figures ever onward,” and nine-year-old girls “sold for less than the price / of a return phonecall to a scam number / from your ivory tower mobile phone.” The poem ends in solidarity with “my slum / sisters and / and brothers.”

Casey, originally from Ireland and now living in Australia, has an ironic sensibility that packs a kangaroo’s wallop. One of her ecological poems, “THANK YOU FOR SHOPPING WITH US,” is in the form of an actual itemized supermarket-type receipt for the sale of our natural resources to industry. “Recipe for a Giant Pickle” instructs readers to “add in large quantities of unique fauna – particularly Black-Throated Finch / Add Wallum Frogs and Sugar Gliders for colour and sweetness.” The same sensibility comes into play as she writes about gender politics. You feel the rip of anger in “If wallets were skirts” when a man who lost his wallet is grilled by authorities with the same questions they would ask a woman who was raped.

what were you wearing
at the time
your wallet was stolen?

In “for all the #Metoos,” Casey writes:

I can’t help but feel
there should
be a #MeaCulpaToo

In “crush,” named for an instrument invented by a veterinary surgeon in 1910 to crush testicles, Casey writes of her own rapist:

i didn’t wish him killed
only crushed just enough
that he would learn to exhale
the same stale breath of despair
he had filled me with over time

You can see how Casey comes up with an original way to exorcise her grief, her rage. “crush” is a three-for-one title standing for the instrument, the romantic crush she might once have felt for her attacker or he for her, and the emotional and physical experience of being crushed. Talk about economy of words! And look at how Casey unspools the phrases slowly, forcing us to stop by the space between phrases. She is directing the reader on how the poem is meant to be read—with the gasps of someone who experienced trauma.

Casey brings her music to the direst situations. Rhyme gives her emotional control and forces her to reach for surprising images, such as in “Lament for Aleppo”:

Even the buildings beat and bent
Have given up their allied front—

All the facades have fallen in
To crumpled spines and shattered shins;

Casey is both daring and playful. Her shaped poems are no mere decorations. “darkness,” shaped as a heart, is so menacing that some words are fractured as if we are stuttering through this nightmarish interior and exterior landscape where darkness is alive, a monster. I wouldn’t dare attempt setting it on the page the way she did, but here is the ninth line of “darkness”:

swallowing      whole rooms    in a single   gulp

The long-stemmed cosmo glass shaping the poem, “heat,” gives Casey the structure to write an unpunctuated sibilant seduction.

suppressed surges swelling rising tides of unslaked desire
      sweet wet slippage sliding into sublime simpering

Casey’s love poems have too much humor to slide into sentimentality. What a delightful burble of hyperbole is “Changeling,” a poem to and about her son, Jack:

Intoxicating breath-stealer, like those far-off
stars and love unfathomable
beauty, your radiant youth
standing aloft in this ice
-lit star-field…

Reading either Casey’s first book, where the lost things go, or out of emptied cups, you return to the deep pleasure of language, image, metaphor, music, what we all come to poetry for.

About Rochelle Jewel Shapiro: Rochelle Jewel Shapiro’s novel, Miriam The Medium (Simon & Schuster), was nominated for the Harold U. Ribelow Award. She’s published essays in NYT (Lives) and Newsweek, and in many anthologies. Her short stories, poetry, and essays have appeared in many literary magazines such as The Iowa Review, Los Angeles Review, The MacGuffin, Memoir Journal, Moment, Negative Capability, Pearl, Pembroke, Pennsylvania English, Peregrine, Ragged Sky Press, Rio Grande Review, RiverSedge, Schuylkill Valley Journal Of the Arts, The South Carolina Review, Stand, Studio One, and Thema. Her essay, "Eulogy for My Mother,' won the Branden Memorial Literary Award from Negative Capability. She teaches writing at UCLA Extension. Find her at and on Twitter @rjshapiro.

Interview: 'Life as a poet between Miltown and Sydney' - an interview with Anne Casey by Austin Hobbs, published in The Clare Champion newspaper on 19 July 2019 here>>

Article: Eleanor Hooker launches out of emptied cups by Anne Casey - published in Mascara Literary Review in July 2019 Here>>

Article: Rave reviews for second book from Miltown-born poet - interview by Gavin Grace with Anne Casey on Clare FM Radio in July 2019. Read here>>

Review: Dr Wendy J Dunn on Anne Casey's latest book - published in Live Encounters in August 2019.

One of our Senior Editors (Backstory and Other Terrain) is the extraordinarily gifted poet Anne Casey. I had come away reading ‘where the lost things go’, Casey’s first collection of poetry, in awe of the power of her words and the perfection of her poetry. ‘out of emptied cups’, Casey’s new work left me equally in awe.

The ancients once said the stars made music which no one can hear – but it is there – real, speaking to our souls. The music of Casey’s poetry we can indeed hear. Her poetry sings with honesty, striking at the reader’s heart. Casey is an amazingly skilful poet unafraid to experiment with rhyme and meter. Her poems become art on the page as their message is not brought home by words, but often through word shapes depicted like hearts or chalices.

This is truly a courageous, beautiful body of work. Reading Casey’s poems reminded me of what the poet Muriel Rukeyser once said: ‘What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open’. Casey’s truth confronts us in her poetry, and challenges us to gaze through her eyes.

Dr Wendy J Dunn is a novelist and poet, and Manager Editor of Backstory and Other Terrain Journal.

Review: Jeff Santosuossa, Managing Editor, Panoply literary magazine reviews Anne Casey's 'out of emptied cups'  published in ReviewForward in August 2019.

Born in Ireland, poet Anne Casey now lives in Australia. Here's my review: Implied by its title, Anne Casey’s “out of emptied cups” is a volume of flow, of pouring out. Her topics flow from place to place, field to city to country, continent and beyond, yet she manages within and among these geographies to map a deeply personal voice and impact. Her language resonates with rhythm and rhyme, motif, imaged, and theme. Longitudinally, the reader can hear the voice, a call-and-respond, to and from the reader and speaker. Often, it feels as if the speaker revisits herself, shading a theme, revealing more than the original. The pieces reverberate and echo in this way, a sort of release, both a departure and a liberation. The cup is a common image, a vessel, filled then emptied. Casey personifies and personalizes this image via the process of childbirth, both an emptying and a liberation, a vacancy and an emergence. This metaphor permeates the work: things are within, growing and becoming, then released, permanently and undeniably transformed. She expresses the ambivalence and melancholy of letting go something truly internal, harbored there in preparation for something greater. I this way, she transplants the personal to the universal, the local to the global, in song and image and voice.

Review: A review of 'out of emptied cups' by Anne Casey by Magdalena Ball in Compulsive Reader in August 2019 

Anne Casey’s poetry manages to be nurturing, fiercely angry, exquisite and confronting all at the same time. Politics and activism are like a burning thread throughout her latest collection out of emptied cups, but the poetry remains warm, accessible, and inclusive, even as it rails against injustice and bullying. The call to action is maternal, encouraging us to our best selves, and calling out the worst. The work slides smoothly between the deeply personal and the universal. There are poems of such intimate loss that it’s impossible (for me at least) to read them without crying:

Did you get my message?
I might say
Can I take back. Every unkind word.
Every impatience. Un-presence. Every hurry-on.
Every tenderness misheard. (“Long distance”)

The effect is an immediate intimacy that is powerfully moving, and energizing, even at its most sorrowful, because instead of poison there is recognition. The poems use concrete structures to excellent effect, with poems shaped to represent their themes, and structures that create innate rhythms to drive the reading flow. Casey uses a variety of styles to produce sonic elements like staccato, staggered call and responses, typographical transitions, visual representations that mimic the theme (wine goblets, hearts, flowers and receipts), and sometimes counter it, abstracting semantics. The multifunctional nature of the work is enriched through alliterative rhythms, selective rhymes, and intensely sensual imagery, so that the overall effect is often more visceral than intellectual:

ice melting point hot steam rising
off sizzling surfaces sucking
on ambrosial lusciousness
moist pout testing
the rigid
edges (“heat”)

The notion of “cups” runs like a continuous theme throughout the book. This begins with the title, which references research conducted by US physician Duncan MacDougall, who attempted to measure the weight of the human soul by calculating the mass lost at the moment of death. MacDougall’s work was folly, not just because of the small sample size, unscientific and unethical methods, but also because of its flawed premise, but Casey uses his 21 gram soul weight perfectly. The metaphoric meanings of the word ‘cup’ unite the poems in this collection. Cups can be containers which are full, empty, or emptied, and can provide or withhold sustenance. There are teacups (with their attendant storms), there are cups that involve the pouring of one thing into another – a transfer of self, of states – the sharing of intimacy (“my cup is fully emptied”), cupped hands, drunk (“in your cups”), cupped breasts, a child’s sippy-cup, or simply the rounded shape of a cup:

when i spy the upturned cup of a ghost-moon plump
in a deep blue pillowed afternoon i think i must call my Mum
though i clasped her hand while she passed such a long time since
as the tide rasped its shallow symphony over our last goodbye (“if I were to tell you”)

Though Casey employs silence and space perfectly in this work, she doesn’t shy from political engagement, tackling subjects like Australia’s treatment of refugees, the airstrikes in Aleppo, ecological disaster, sexual assault, harassment, misogyny, trauma, forced (and unforced) migration, dislocation, and rape. There’s an intensity in these poems that cuts deeply, and yet never comes across as indulgent – the pain always becomes greater than the moment of hurt, moving into a collective awareness that draws the reader in, towards anger, catharsis and healing:

i used to
hark at the creak of the
door, shiver at
the straw
caught on

the spill of
eyes after
warming the chill night
his shrivelling truths (“crush”)

Casey manages the perfect tension between interior and exterior and perhaps that’s why this work is so engaging and warm, even with all of its sadness and warrior energy. There’s so much beauty here. The natural world is present everywhere, and often appears at an atomic level: flux, entropy, change, loss, growth, death, life, pain and love come together because we are all made of the same material:

as space drifts in a speck
as a leaf releases its tree
as its contents hold a cup
as a body sustains the earth
as the sky takes in a bird (“to be at once within & outside of oneself”)

out of emptied cups is a gorgeous rich collection. Despite how dark it sometimes gets as it explores the injustices of humans towards one another; men towards women; leaders towards their constituents; people towards nature and the earth; the strong against the weak, the work always leans into a shared wonder of the deep complexity of life. Sorrow is something to be shared, along with outrage, and a subsequent strength (“still I rise”), and this is what makes the work so powerful and uplifting.

Article: 'Anne Casey: My Writing Day' was published in  my (small press) writing day on 10 July 2019.
 Read here>>

Articles: ‘Always from there' - an article by Anne Casey was published in print in The Irish Times Magazine on 6 July 2019. This article was also published in The Irish Times online under the title "In Australia I’m regarded as Irish, but in Ireland I’m ‘not from here’" on 6 July 2019, when it featured in the Top 5 Most Read items in the newspaper. It was also published on the Wild Geese Irish cultural network in August 2019, featuring on the front page, under the title An uneasy halfway - where am I really from?

Podcast: What I Don't Talk About @BBQs: Amuse Bouche - Anne Casey by Ken Ward - June 2019. Listen Here>>

Article: “I certainly could not know that the haunting, liminal lyricism of Deirdre Cartmill and Anne Casey would converge in the quest for the deeper aspects.” — Tade Ipadeola in Brazil has football and, in the way that gifts align, Ireland has poetry, The Irish Times on 22 March 2019 - an article on the CS Lewis Curation of the Poetry Jukebox which includes Anne Casey's poem, 'Between ebb and flow'.

Audio: Anne Casey on Where the Lost Things Go - An episode of Compulsive Reader: Talks By Maggie Ball - podcast interview with poetry readings on 11 February 2019.

Other Titles from Anne Casey

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