ISBN: ISBN 978-1-912561-29-2
Page Count: 86
Publication Date: Thursday, September 16, 2021
Cover Artwork: Grainne Dowling, from her Daylight Plains series
About this Book
Like its title, the poems in Lorna Shaughnessy’s wonderful new collection encompass flow and flight. Drawing on dream and story, they dodge nothing of the turbulence and grit of a life in full flow. Here are poems of extraordinary tenderness, as an elderly parent endures his last months — my boy-sized father, pupa in cocoon. And, albeit hard-won, here is exhaltation at the turn of a year scarred by loss as, even one thread/can become the first in a weave/ that sparks a multi-coloured paisley/ with blazing tongues of Zoroastrian fire.
Lorna Shaughnessy’s distinctive voice weaves narrative and translation, memory and imagination in this wonderful, rich collection of poems. Whether reflecting on nature, or on personal loss, or on birth ritual in Tudor England – she envelops the reader in the intensity of the experience and its emotional repercussions. In poem after poem, phrases leap from the page and into the mind – and when you’ve finished, you want to go back and start again. Lark Water is a remarkable achievement from a poet moving from strength to strength. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
There is a lucent quality about Lorna Shaughnessy’s work, a clear-sighted and intelligent sensitivity that is immediately appealing, and which is matched by her skill and craft. The poetry of Lark Water is blessed with the integrity of language and feeling which is necessary for true poetry. A pietas here towards presences such as that of her father, to whose memory the book is dedicated, Lorca, W.S. Merwin, the painter Gerry Davis as well as the Hispanic world, rings true and confident. Poems such as “Sky Lullaby” and “Dallying” are simply wonderful exemplars from many more in this very fine collection. I highly recommend it.
LORNA SHAUGHNESSY has published four poetry collections, Torching the Brown River, Witness Trees, Anchored and Lark Water (all with Salmon Poetry) and a chapbook, Song of the Forgotten Shulamite (Lapwing). In 2018, she was awarded an Artist’s Bursary by the Arts Council of Ireland. Her monologues based on the myth of Iphigenia, Sacrificial Wind, were staged in 2016 and 2017 and adapted for online showings in 2021. She lectures in Hispanic Studies in NUI Galway and translates Galician, Spanish and Latin American poetry, including two collections by Manuel Rivas, The Disappearance of Snow and The Mouth of the Earth (Shearsman Books). She is the Director of Crosswinds: Irish and Galician Poetry and Translation, a collaboration of poets and translators in Galicia and Ireland.
Read a sample from this book
Three Worn Words
I would gather the smoothest pebbles from the shore,
cooled and brightened by unfailing tides
to place on your forehead as the sun goes down.
I would walk with you from the river’s mouth to its source,
stop and sit on flat rocks to inhale its song,
watch dragonflies dip and skim its skin.
I would row us to an island without a past,
tie up the boat and cast adrift the oars
to let the sea decide if we should stay or go.
I would carry to the edge of the highest cliff
the three worn words that weigh so heavy
on our backs we have grown old and stooped
and walk in pain along a road that does not know how far to take us.
And there, we could fling each word from the precipice:
one to flash white in sunlight with the gulls,
one to split into a prism with the spray, one
to fall into the waves and find its own sound
in the clamour of water, air and stone.
And even if we did not understand them, the words
it found there would tell us stories of who we were
before we were betrayed by lesser tongues.
It caught us unawares: the flap of raven-wing
above the meditating stones of a ring-fort,
the still bowl of hazel and juniper scrub.
First one invisible voice, then an echo,
then too many voices to be a song of stone
as one black comma punctuated the sky’s silence
then another, and another, wheeling
to an apex
then scattered in pairs
to the widest horizons of our vision.
We counted more than twenty.
Homeward, on a bend in the road
we heard again that single raven-call,
spotted above the sloes and briars
a limestone outcrop, and roosting there
in a temple to their raven gods
the whole outlaw tribe.
The Turn in the Year
February first: the membrane of time
has grown so thin it leaks memories.
Like the season, the body strains towards
a barely visible light, strives to find
some solid thing to hold onto.
A straw will do, not necessarily the last,
one blade of grass, even one thread
can become the first in a weave
that sparks a multi-coloured paisley
with blazing tongues of Zoroastrian fire
and the carpet thrums as it grows.
Poems Copyright © Lorna Shaughnessy 2021