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Word Skin / Orla Fay

Word Skin

By: Orla Fay

€12.00
Orla Fay takes us on an odyssey from her own beloved Meath of the rich pastures, its history and heritage, to a world far beyond, be it Ancient Greece, or modern Australia, there is even a ghostly encounter with John Keats! The human condition, in all its manifestations, is a leitmotif throughout, and we are moved and delighted by “her infinite variety”.              Honor Duff Orla ...
ISBN 978-1-915022-43-1
Pub Date Sunday, December 03, 2023
Cover Image SarapulSar38
Page Count 78
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Orla Fay takes us on an odyssey from her own beloved Meath of the rich pastures, its history and heritage, to a world far beyond, be it Ancient Greece, or modern Australia, there is even a ghostly encounter with John Keats! The human condition, in all its manifestations, is a leitmotif throughout, and we are moved and delighted by “her infinite variety”.

              Honor Duff 


Orla Fay’s Word Skin delights in “the enchantment of words” like the names of local fields and rivers but also in the many references to myth and legend, art and social media. But always the stress is on human vulnerability ­– “I remember the day she placed/the sword in my side” and the localising of the mythic – “I thought of Prometheus/and then my father”. One poem asks “If your house was burning/what would you take with you?” This collection is on my list.

              Michael Farry


The landscape of Word Skin embraces Dublin, London, Paris, Iberia and Australia but its lodestar is the poet’s beloved Meath, its rivers, fields, coast and proud traditions. Past and present, myth and reality, art and literature synthesize to create a vibrant world ablaze with colour and the light of sun, moon and stars.

              Michael Durack


Orla Fay’s debut collection Word Skin is wide-ranging in scope. Fay’s eclectic interests are evidenced by poems inspired by her close observation of nature, ekphrastic poems exploring familiar works of visual art, and the modern world of technology and social media. Using fresh imagery, and writing in both contemporary and traditional poetic forms, Word Skin demonstrates Fay’s skill as a new and exciting poet.

              Breda Wall Ryan 


The source and inspiration of Orla Fay’s poetry is her native County Meath. In fluent lines she names the small rivers which bounded her childhood, the fields that are now gone. Her ‘Dunshaughlin’ is a powerful contemporary Dindshenchas poem. Recalling her student days she writes: “I wondered what would become of me.” Years later we have Word Skin, her debut full-length collection, wide-ranging in its material and a compelling read.

              Susan Connolly

Orla Fay

Orla Fay is the Poetry Ireland Town Laureate for Dunshaughlin, County Meath. For this initiative between Poetry Ireland and Meath County Council Arts Office she was commissioned to write “Dunshaughlin, Now and Again”. In September 2018 she had a winning poem in Hennessy New Irish Writing in The Irish Times. In 2019 she was longlisted for The Anthony Cronin International Poetry Prize, shortlisted for The Cúirt New Writing Prize, The Bailieborough Poetry Prize, The Francis Ledwidge Poetry Award and won 3rd Prize in The Oliver Goldsmith Poetry Award. In 2020 she won 3rd prize in The Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Award. In 2022 she won Fingal Libraries: Travels with Joyce Poetry Competition. In 2018 she completed a MA in Digital Arts and Humanities at UCC where she wrote a thesis on Poetry in the Digital Age. Her poem “What Became of the Horses (after Michael Longley’s ‘The Horses’)” was included in The Ireland Chair of Poetry Commemorative Anthology, Hold Open the Door, published by UCD Press. She has published two chapbooks, Drawn to the Light and What Became of the Horses. She edited Boyne Berries from 2014 to 2021. She launched an online magazine of poetry, Drawn to the Light Press in October 2020. She has been the recipient of a professional artist development bursary from Meath County Council Arts Office, and an agility award from the Arts Council of Ireland.

Word Skin


They have seeped into me

invisible dyes that will never leave.

Washing in the river they are the river;

the bank, the froth, the rock, the pebble,

the reeds, the gurgle, the swish, the fish,

the cormorant, the heron,

the roc – a passage of Sartre on the rapids,

Goethe’s sorrow in driftwood,

the protracted silence between gongs of the bell.


I saw an otter sluiced in water

sleek as a seal silky with sunlight

diving and twisting as an eel

and he had the same skin.

Searching in the darkness, the submarine,

knowledge is an impression

a cloud-like fog clearing, a day-dream,

a knowing without knowing how or why

an instinctive mastery.



East of Eden 

  

Autumn in the city of a thousand red lights 

from afar a bed in the sapphire blue night 

and I saw the ghost of James Dean pass my way, 

smoke a cigarette just east of Eden. 

And the moon could be rising 

and we would be riding the stars 

a million miles away, 

far enough away to be alone, 

to be solitary and blue like the night. 

Blue like freedom. 

I could take your hand in mine 

walking through the stars, 

the million stars, 

the million pretty stars 

and they’d never be as your eyes, 

your far away eyes, 

your eyes of a galaxy, 

a distant place. 

All your whispers would be light, 

beams to trip the heart 

and we would fall like heroes 

into the city, 

into the city like a bed, 

an earthly paradise, 

fly immortal 

before the sun came up 

somewhere east of Eden. 



How the West is Won


The cowboy looked like The Lone Ranger,

Billy the Kid, or Wyatt Earp,

shiny badge pinned to brown suede waistcoat,

black Stetson pointed tip down as he flung away a cigar.

Everyone wanted to be like him,

on his left hip a holster from which he pulled a silver,

heavy Colt Peacemaker, the Colt .45, 

the gun that won the West.


What hope did my Sioux friend have, 

his long raven hair blowing on the prairie?

He carried a tomahawk on his belt,

a bow and arrow slung across his back.

He wore feathers in his hair, ate hunted

buffalo and wore buffalo hide in winter.

The wolf ran with him under the full moon,

the fish in the streams came to the softness of his hands.


Poems Copyright © Orla Fay 2023

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