the light we cannot see
Page Count: 98
Publication Date: Tuesday, June 22, 2021
Cover Artwork: Jerome Gardes Instagram: @urbex_abandoned_ Web: flickr.com/photos/urbex_abandoned_/
About this Book
"Anne Casey’s The Light We Cannot See aches with loveliness even as it warns against humanity’s pervasive damage to the environment. Poem after elegant, ecocritical poem showcases Casey’s grasp of the environmental crises we have created in the Anthropocene—whether it’s the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef ("Where once she danced"), the Australian wildfires ("This is not a drill"), or the rising ocean levels ("At sea"). But she interweaves each poem with such a profound beauty that we cannot help but to remember that at least with poetry, humans have created something good. This is a work that breaks your heart with its almost elegiac approach to ecology and the Earth—and yet, Casey offers that scintilla of hope that with human change, all is not lost ("Either way, the fact remains"). A wonderful and staggering collection of poetry."
"Anne Casey’s poetry is a revelation. Her work effortlessly moves between the metaphysical and the sensual, the concrete and the lyrical, the inspirational and the earthly. Encountering The Light We Cannot See is to encounter a whole range of human experience evoked with poignancy, poise and grace. It’s the sort of work that lodges within and stays vivid long after reading."
“Anne Casey’s brilliant new collection of poetry is her best work yet — lyrical, experimental, musical and technically sophisticated. Casey engages passionately with urgent global, local and personal issues, from climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic to exile, motherhood, loss and acceptance. Writing in the tradition of Boland, Heaney and Yeats, she exhibits a mastery of form and subject, crafting beautiful, irrefutable appeals to our emotions, ethics and logic.”
“There is great humanity in these poems, a willingness to be vulnerable and open to emotion. It is matched by a gift for words, an instinct for what can be said and what can only be implied, alongside a true poet’s love of the sound and texture of spoken language, whether pronounced out loud or inwardly towards the mind’s attentiveness. Family, grief, death and separation recur across these poems, but so equally do the tactile sensations of being alive in this world. Landscapes and weather-scapes, birds and animals, urban chatter and quiet open spaces abound in these engaging poems that explore life as it unfolds in the ominous 21st Century.”
“In this luminous and searing new collection, Anne Casey invites us into her world of ghosts from the old country rearing up in the new and enthralls us with her evocations and invocations, while planting her uncompromising political, yet beautifully softly-gloved fist, in our hypocrisies. This is a book to carry us through the darkness and guide us to ‘the light we cannot yet see’ in poems that are modern masterpieces.”
About this book
the light we cannot see traverses a globe caught in the combined turmoil of the climate crisis, COVID-19 and humanitarian unrest, as seen through the eyes of a mother worried for her children’s futures and an exiled daughter struggling with loss and separation from loved ones in her native Ireland. Navigating the path of these apocalyptic spheres and their devastating impacts — including catastrophic bushfires in her adopted homeland of Australia — the poet strives throughout this collection of award-winning poems to connect with our “one persisting challenge — to somehow find our allied humanity”. A probing reflection on the human condition, this book leans always towards “the light we cannot yet see, but know lies ahead”.
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: anne-casey.com Social Media: @1annecasey
Author Photo: David Clare, First Light Photography
Read a sample from this book
I saw a crow catch
another’s ragged black
towards the carmine
splay of dying
light on the horizon.
Three nights before
we stumbled on
the bundle of
curled on its side,
as if asleep.
He didn’t look
as if asleep
from the living
room of your childhood
stiffly in his casket.
It feels like sacrilege
of this—like the line
I wrote three nights before:
fearing they may not
survive the long wait
till we might arrive.
online through two
days and nights—
up out of night’s
black wing, a ripple
...full of grace
...at the hour of our death.
Small silver minnows
up the numb
length of tongue
flutter at stiff lips.
I caught a black crow:
one ragged wing
spiraling in, the rest
the great rent
in his beautiful field.
The wrench of this
where you laboured
over his mighty beech—
felled by wild winds—
its breadth half his height.
Your breath laboured
at this great wrench:
the length of him
the coffin lid—stiffly
upright, the dying light
caught in its brass cross.
We stumble on
as if asleep
the splay of dying,
the numb length
I talk about my mother
dying, tell you
silver minnows, lying:
there is nothing
natural in burying
your father online.
I catch your black
in the ragged
splay of dying light,
together we spiral
towards the thin
(‘Prayer-fish’ was awarded 2nd prize in the Crosswinds Poetry Contest 2021 (USA) and was commended in the Tom Collins Poetry Prize 2020 (Fellowship of Australian Writers, Western Australia).
At twelve, he’s too old to believe
in monsters I think as we huddle,
faces swarming with swirling
colours from his bedside lamp, medusas
undulating in watery obscurity, fear clouding
his ordinary radiance and my heart
a snared hummingbird: the unanswered
question my bright-eyed boy flounders around
always in darkness—shut down to
his daylight wonder: rushing to greet
the leaf-tailed gecko (long-time resident behind
our outdoor couch) which recently produced a tiny replica,
the brush turkey tightrope-strutting
the length of the fence, wide-eyed possums
glinting from dusky branches as his teenage brother
grumbles past to sort trash and practice his cynicism
What’s the point? My teacher says they don’t
get recycled anyway… trust crumbling like the dust
of so many cicada skins so eagerly plucked
from nearby swamp oaks—spectral sentinels,
those exoskeleton twins left to witness the fading
Please don’t bulldoze this appeals falling
on deaf ears—a whole forest nobody hears
destined to be carted off in mulching trucks
under orders of our neighbour, the State Premier,
who visited his school to shake hands
before writing off our precious bushland—
where once he bobbed bound to my heart,
cooing as we ducked a troupe
of black cockatoos swooping through,
toddled to the counting of water dragons,
ran to track that elusive rock wallaby,
raced to chase white tiger
moths; stopped to probe bandicoot
droppings (with a stick); chewed over the albino galah,
anaemic anomaly amidst its pink flock—all signed off
to make way for a new motorway
with its undercover proviso: a thirty-year no
public transport clause—artificial sweetener
for behind-the-scenes dealers, while it seems
around us the whole world is burning or drowning
as we flail against federal plans pledging certain
destruction to Earth’s largest living structure—
where at three he paddled off, lost in wonder
and each year since, we’ve gurgled together
through butterfly shoals, skirting bug eyed
reef sharks, jump-scaring at feinting parrotfish,
gaping through fogging goggles at giant clams and brain
corals where we swam shoulder-to-shoulder
with an ancient turtle, before
bubbling back up to the surface like
his unanswerable question:
Where will they go Mum, when
all the trees are gone? And the reef?
A thousand tiny wings
skip a beat as I bend
to kiss his pillowed cheek
wanting so much to lie
to him that the monsters scratching
at his windows aren’t real.
(‘Night traps’ was awarded 1st prize in the International Proverse Poetry Prize 2020; was a finalist in the Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest 2020; and was longlisted for The Plough Prize 2019).
Either way, the fact remains
There is no way back
Therefore we can no longer hold as irrefutable truth that
Every human heart has sufficient good at its core
That we could muster the collective will necessary to save our precious planet
There is no denying
We are capable of taking the measures necessary for our own survival
To secure the future for us and the almost nine million species around us
We could make the right choices
The fact remains that
Earth cannot repair itself
There is no basis even from advanced satellite findings to show that
Earth and all who dwell on her can survive the impacts of human activities
The greatest scientific minds of our time attest that
The world’s largest living structure, the Great Barrier Reef, is on-path to certain destruction
Over two thousand species from sea-level to two thousand metres deep are destined to perish
We can no longer support the assertion that
There is always a way—
There is a way to undo the damage we have done—
Allowing that we make every effort to counter global excesses
The impact of human activities is irreversible
Although we may think
That we can take action to fix this
We cannot deny the inevitability
That not one of us can make a difference
Nature cannot heal itself
We can no longer lie to ourselves that
This devastation can be reversed
(Now read each line from the bottom up.)
(‘Either way, the fact remains’ was awarded 3rd prize in the International Provers Poetry Prize 2019 and was nominated for The Pushcart Prize 2020 by Beltway Poetry Quarterly in the USA.)
All Poems Copyright © Anne Casey 2021
Review: "Transfusions Of Truth and A Far Cry" - the light we cannot see reviewed by Devika Brendon for Rochford Street Review, 21st September, 2021
My review of this dazzling book has been delayed by my father’s recent death. But the greatest tribute I can give to Anne Casey is to say that reviewing her work has been one of my greatest consolations in the past several weeks. I find myself rereading the poems in this collection several times a day, like a devout person telling their prayer beads. This analogy feels like a natural one: the poems as a whole speak of faith, in human capacity for joy and connection, a reaching for what affirms life, expressed in longing for those things we have lost, and fear losing forever, during the ordeal we are all experiencing as we navigate the enforced separations and prolonged anxieties induced by the ongoing pandemic.
Poetry keeps our faltering souls alive, in these dark times: providing solace and a place of rest in a world which is upended, distraught and derailed. Faith is the ‘substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’, but when everything substantial and reassuring eludes and evades us, a poet’s exquisite distilling of thought and feeling and sensory responses into words provides substance in itself, and encouragement to hope for better days.
In describing the ordeals of life and the dread of impending death, Casey has the gifts of both prescience and precision. She writes with full and measured feeling, but also with a fine detachment which appreciates the irony that we as a species are being ‘taken down, not by nuclear warheads, but by this—’ in the poem ‘Exiled’. That italicized, demonstrative pronoun encompassing the virus, contains and encapsulates the poet’s irony and her suppressed rage and wonder that we human beings could be forced to pause by something so small. And elsewhere, in ‘Antipodean Interlude’, it is described with perfect succinctness as ‘a tiny spiky Death Star’.
She vividly portrays the lassitude that comes from prolonged dread in the septets of ‘Prayer Fish’:
The words in each poem are discrete, but they also interconnect across the boundaries and borders of each poem as in (again) ‘Exiled’ where the fifth and final stanza concludes:
Many of the poems are dedicated to specific individuals whose personal relationship to the poet cannot be known to us. Yet what can be accessed feels intimate, as in the last octave in the series ‘Blessed amongst lunacies’:
The typographical rendition of the anxieties and hopes of the expectant mother are expressed in gaps in poetic syntax. The ‘uncharted territory’ is daunting, although biology and longing prompt the poet’s reaching towards the imminent birth experience. This compulsion is balanced by the fear of whether she can bring her son into a world that is capable of sustaining his life.
The philosophy of the poetry is called forth and sustained by the direct evocation of the physical and geological world, as in the opening verse of ‘Past the slip’:
The paradoxical phrase ‘peppered with salt’ is pleasing on many levels; and the phrase ‘a far cry’ in this context means many things; evocative of the distance between what we long for and what we are offered, or left with, and must learn to accept. The ground walked on is ‘eaten away’ by erosion, and it is a natural and powerful correlative of the existential uncertainty in which we act, and try to live,
Her tribute to Philip Lonergan, ‘For all he gave’ uses the image of a mighty fallen tree in a beautiful field to describe in detail the loss of one we understand was a great man, a towering presence. The last verse is a secular benediction:
Character portraits of people known intimately in a close local community are set against the backdrop of the pitiless machinery of the wider universe.
Two foxes are seen in the Australian bushland in ‘All the beautiful outcasts’, my favourite poem in this stellar collection:
Classified as pests, there are traps and bait left for them in the forest in which they frolic. The knowledge of this strikes her to the heart:
The alliteration makes the images flicker like strobe-lit scenes in our imaginations: ‘dauntless’, ‘outlaws’. A different darkness is encroaching on their bright and joyous, sacred space.
There are elegies in this collection, which unfold slowly like unfurling leaves. ‘A song for all the lost days’ shows us the ritual making of flower wreaths and the casting of them on the sea to commemorate a lost loved one. The poem hums with tenderness and cumulatively pieces its images together into a crescendo of expiation.
There are interstices, apertures and abysses illustrated in this collection, gaps perceived and grieved between human beings in these fractured and faltering times. But across the parallel lines of our individual lives, forced into unnatural segregation by a collective catastrophe, outstretch in Casey’s envisioning our longing and our love for each other, the memories we have shared, the resonant transversals that cut across our redacted and bordered lives, and ultimately connect us as in the poem ‘Hope Spell’ with the final line: ‘Wings of love over a bordered world’.
The urgency of the liminal moments described fill them with intensity and a sense of life lived and yet to be lived, compressed, and distilled, in this ‘mortal struggle’ in the poem ‘This is not a drill’ .
Faith gives us the firm grasp of truth on unseen fact: assurance that what we trace and instinctively feel will become manifest. Pushing back and up and out against our debilitating fear.
There is a persistent optimism in this book as is seen in the poem ‘At sea’:
Devika Brendon is a teacher, columnist, editor, reviewer and writer of poetry and short stories. Her work has been published in international journals and anthologies, in Australia, India, Sri Lanka, Europe, Africa and the USA, including The Hopkins Review, Quadrant, Back Story, Other Terrain, Not Very Quiet and Time Of The Poet Republic.
Review: Opening the Inner Eye - Wendy J Dunn reviews 'the light we cannot see' for Verity La (Edited by Robyn Cadwallader)
Warning. Anne Casey’s the light we cannot see is not a book to lull you to sleep. At least for someone like me. It was impossible to avert my mind’s eye during my bedtime reading of this brilliant work. The raw realities explored in this book often left me wiping away tears, recognising the materialisation of a human heart on the page.
To be an artist means to never avert your eyes: I try to keep those words in mind as a writer. But it is hard. It is hard to confront the realities of our world and keep hold of hope. You need courage to confront our world and bear witness to these realities. You need the courage of great heart and soul to confront truth. The courage to confront the emotional cost of COVID, separation from dying loved ones with its promise of unresolved sorrow, a burden you know you will carry forever. You need courage to confront and reflect upon the actuality of climate change. And the ultimate confrontation: death. Casey has the courage to do this—as she shows with immense poetic heart and soul in the light we cannot see, her third book of poetry.
Poignant, powerful, pertinent, each poem in this work connects a bridge from Casey’s deepest depths to the reader and sears on your mind’s eye unforgettable images. Raw and authentic, her words pulse with life. A crow’s wing catching another crow’s wing—a potent sign in the sky of sorrow and impending death. A cormorant and eel engaged in their death or life struggle on an Irish shore becomes a symbolic question about the future of humanity, as does Casey’s father’s unhidden fear when he witnesses the pillage of breeding she-crabs from his ancestral seacoast.
Casey’s longing and love for Ireland, her birthplace, and the Irish coast that once was her home, (and remains so) are tangible in the pages of this book. You smell the sea air and hear the rush of waves on the reef as the sun sinks over the horizon:
There is a lot of pain in this work as Casey gives voice to the forced separation from dying loved ones and last farewells prevented by COVID, forcing the witness of funerals from afar. It is not surprising then that in many of her poems Casey is undoubtedly and understandably Irish—doing what countless Irish have done over countless centuries. She keens over her dead, pays them her homage, expressing the endless sorrow of one left behind.
But her Irish voice does not diminish her sense of love and belonging to Australia:
Casey is a courageous poet—not only in her choice of subjects, but in her skillful shaping of her poems on the page. Her carefully chosen words throb and read like heartbeats, their rhythm forming poetic perfection in this book exploring separation, sorrow, death, our environment imploding all around us. But it does not leave you hopeless about humanity. How can you be hopeless when a human soul sings ‘in the end, / it’s only love’.
The light we cannot see powerfully reminds us that no matter how dark the world seems to be, the light is always there. We just need to open our eyes and see it.
Wendy J. Dunn is an award-winning author, playwright and poet. Her first Tudor novels were two Anne Boleyn novels: Dear Heart, How Like You This? and The Light in the Labyrinth. Wendy’s most recent publications are two novels inspired by the life of Katherine of Aragon: her Falling Pomegranate Seeds duology: The Duty of Daughters (a finalist in the 2020 Chaucer award) and All Manner of Things, published in 2021. Wendy tutors in writing at the Swinburne University of Technology. She’s currently writing a novel set in 2010. Of course, it includes a Tudor story. She is also writing her first full length Tudor biography. Find more from Wendy at her website.