Memories of precious time in a stilly-blue countryside


Another Time came out of the lockdown, finally, a couple of years later than I had expected. So in my own mind the book carries unvoiced echoes of that strange and haunting time when we all had to deal with really difficult and harsh realities. But there was also an upside, difficult and all as it is to see this against the widespread loss and shock of what the pandemic brought in its path. Natural life, the beauty of the countryside, the landscapes small and large – from back gardens to the unlimited stretch of open skies – the re-set of attention to creaturely comings and goings, all took on a new and sudden energy.

The first part of Another Time, a gathering of new poems, clocks some of this moment as I became increasingly drawn to the silences and slowed-down rhythms of the lock-down. Memories started to reassemble themselves as my family life in Galway from the 1970s to the early 1990s came flooding back. So the title poem is connected to those early days, beginning in a flat in Abbeygate Street and later in our house in Corrandulla.

From that point in time and place other poems emerged taking account of how things changed as we moved out of the lock-down and into what one of the poem’s refers to as ‘the Putin mire’ and also the unforeseeable health challenges which accompanies ordinary everyday life.

The business of selecting with Peter Fallon (the editor of Gallery Press) Part Two of the book from forty-five years of publishing poetry since my first book appeared in 1978 – and sent on its way that very year during the original Galway Arts Festival – wasn’t easy. How many of the long poems could we risk? What about extracts from sequences of poems, of which there are several? Was I following my own favourites for familiarity sake?  I’m hopeful Another Time: Poems 1978-2023 gives a fair representation of some of the experiences, places and people who mattered to me. The landscapes of east Galway sit alongside scenes and settings from my upbringing in 1950s Belfast to the various cities I’ve been attached to since, in Ireland and abroad, over almost half a century of writing. (Impossible to think, really, fifty years!)

Pictured: Poet and academic Gerald Dawe, who lived in Galway from the 1970s to the 1990s. PHOTO DAVID TORRANCE

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