Review by Fred Johnston of The Western Writers' Centre, Galway
"...pure, sensitive poetry..."
Some idea of what the discerning reader is in for can be gleaned from noting that a draft of the poem, 'The Circuit' won first prize in the English section of the 2002 Féile FilÃochta International Poetry Competition, but even prizes apart, many of these poems have served their time in small magazines and other noteworthy publications. Whether tackling the gently historic or the amorously immediate, Granier has a touch as sure as an old master; he is one of a tiny number of poets who have come up relatively quickly but have had the talent to match the acceleration. In a masterstroke of poetic archeology, 'Find', the historic is made palm-sized and holdable: "No modern paving-brick, this/lopsided ovoid, raw/stone drawn from the mud//of a cobbled, medieval Drogheda./Unshaped and shapely/as a handy wedge, . . " To draw 'shapely' alongside 'unshapely' takes courage, but it works. Granier is a distinctly lyric-bound poet, who hears the music behind the shapes that are mere words:
"A tear in evening's lavender
cloud-carpet. There's time
to take in a bolt of hard blue ....."
For this reviewer, it's the wonderful and deceptively simplistic four sectioned poems making up 'Western Stills,' with titles such as 'Moon on Inis Mór', 'Approaching Dun Aengus,' 'Indreabhán, 5 a.m.', 'On The N6 which illustrate best what Mark Granier can do. Here image and feeling are fused into a photographer's imaginative but still absolute focus: an oar is 'bone-white,' a snowman is a 'thawing ghost', there is 'wave-thunder'. This is word-magic. A button-review cannot do justice to what is arguably one of the finest, most totally poetical collections of poetry this year, completely unmarred by affectation, rush, or corner-of-the-mouth smartness. They are mature. Best just go out, buy this memorable little book, sit back and let it blow through you. And congrats to Salmon for finding these poems and giving them a place to put their feet up.
- Fred Johnston
from 'Different responses to the dilemma of modern living' a review by Nessa O'Mahony in The Irish Times, August 11th 2007
If MacAuliffe charts the everyday in language that is conversational and idiomatic, Mark Granier adopts a more intense and lyric mode for his explorations. The Sky Road is also his second collection and it ranges widely, from Wicklow and Swords to Malaga, Vancouver, San Francisco and Melbourne; whatever the location, the language deployed is sensuous and celebratory. In Footholds, an unnamed landscape is described:
No one has a hand in this
nature, rust-dark, sap-green, accumulating
wing upon wing, fan upon fan, a map
of smells for the pygmy shrew -
In Driving Through The Sally Gap the bleak beauty is caught in lines such as "Cloud-browsed, darkening shoulders / go on down into a nesting ground / for the ghosts of glaciers". Very occasionally, Granier's heightened lyricism strikes a false note, but such lapses are rare and more often he combines a just-so accuracy with huge inventiveness. How about this for a description of a fruit machine paying out:
till it jammed on three melons, trembled slightly and spewed
£80, more than a week's wages then,
as if a whole silvery orchard shook itself
and stood still, a drench of what seemed like actual luck -
Nor is Granier afraid to take on the darker side of the Celtic Tiger. In Foreigners he depicts the casual racism of a brief encounter at a public phone box and provides his solution in A Blessed Curse where he wishes that
"your children and your children's children
marry, again, and again, he or she whose skin
is unmistakably (even in a dim light) that shade
that has you most affronted and afraid"
Review by Val Nolan, Poetry Ireland Review
Issue 98, July 2009
... The Sky Road is a book about journeys; ... Granier's poetry strolls through Swords, drives through the Sally Gap, swims off the coast of Vancouver by night and tumbles from the deck of San Francisco's Golden Gate. A former winner of the Vincent Buckley Prize, Granier has produced a book 'nudged, absently, by the planet' itself, a collection in which Irish landscapes blend into those from around the world. 'Singapore - London - Dublin' is the title of one piece; 'Here, There' the title of another. The poet's conception of contemporary Irish identity is lyrical and globalised. The streets and boulevards of foreign capitals run seamlessly into Mount Street Bridge or the dual carriageway at Kilmacanogue, and, though the occasional flippancy of some poems here distracts, The Sky Road negotiates the slipstrem between the Irish and the international in a suitably satisfying fashion.
Furthermore, and refreshingly unlike many contemporary Irish poets, Granier is unafraid to extend the international influence backwards, to a childhood defined not by Fáilte Ireland hokum but by imports such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Doctor Who. This, of course, is not to say there aren't hints of a more insular past in The Sky Road. 'Our dark / island kept itself to itself,' he says at one point, but overall his willingness to acknowledge the patchwork of influences on his generation makes his recollections more sincere. Yes, the ghosts of old Ireland still wander Granier's byways, but they share the airwaves with garbled broadcasts from the BBC and with the contrails of aircraft bound for everywhere. Moreover, ... the spirits here will not easily be put to rest. They remain part of the conversation, communing with both the landscape and the poet: 'Are you dead?' Granier asks of a familiar, only to receive the ambiguous answer: 'I'm still here'.
On the N6, the N1, and the N11 - all major routes emanating from Dublin to urban centres around the island - Granier encounters both shades of the past and the 'curse or gift' of the present's unfulfilled aspirations. One particularly subtle stanza conflates these concerns with the passing innocence of childhood:
Thin, tall, armless, a thawing ghost
of a snowman - a milestone
for where miles go.
Elsewhere he reads the country's new roads like lines on the hand of the nation, following them as they take the load of a national consciousness preoccupied with notions of modernity and vacuous success. For the most part, these are poems 'delicately arranging their way', and, arriving at the many destinations of The Sky Road, Granier makes the admirable point that 'One's uneventful flight / is another's tenfold-night'.