NEW HOPE INTERNATIONAL REVIEW

An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
PADRAIG ROONEY: THE ESCAPE ARTIST
Smith/Doorstop Books
The Poetry Business
Bank Street Arts
32-40 Bank Street
Sheffield
S1 2DS
UK
ISBN 1 902382 85 4
7.95 [13]

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PADRAIG ROONEY: THE ESCAPE ARTIST

Padraig Rooney gives the game away (or hosts the flag up for exiles) by saying that he

wanted to solve the problem of the poet who does not have a natural constituency.
His poems are an Ireland-in-the pocket. The collection widens out from four central poems about trickery and disappearance. Between nuns bathing and the bizarre THE IMPEDIMENT there is a poised leap like any trick by Harry Houdini. The cover painting by John Singer Sargent relates to THE BEEFCAKE SHOT of Houdini at sixteen. The turmoil and hope of adolescence is summed up in these lines from THE ESCAPE ARTIST
	He'll pick the locks
	and rise to a coin of light and applause/
	where we wait, like him, with held breath.
Throughout there is tenuous connection between, in THE WHIRLIGIG DREAM:
	Ten years of my life in this capital of sleaze
	 boomtown of the East, one of the emerging democracies.
and the remembered Ireland of THE SORROWFUL MYSTERIES:
	In a lay-by smelling of tar and nettles
	a rain barrel simmered on low heat.
He shows us in DANCE OF THE EUNUCHS
	We'll kowtow no longer to their backstairs intrigue, their womanly ways.
	Look at them mince and lift their useless ceremonial dress.
And then he returns to an Ireland of the fifties, where another costume-wearer is pointed out in THE BIRETTA, where a priest
	...throws it
	high in the prelapsarian air

	the gift of prayer
	he thinks: the biretta

	coming back down into
	our cupped uplifted hands.
Memories of drowning a cat, a May altar, his father's barber, a corncrake, and a five-bar gate are left behind as the traveller encounters Gide, Wilde, Bosie and Proust . (Not, according to PROUST'S DAY, the sensitive soul we thought.) Here and there are poignant identifications of moments from war in A DEEPER BLUE
	I was a centurion on the bridge
	between one posting and another.
and, in ASH, he transforms a forces' library book into a profound anti-war poem:
	Was it after those dawn missions overflying Cambodia
	or pensive-sick in intensive care, recuperating
	or flaked out by the pool like me, turning the page,
	when 'what was left look round at what was left?'
With an escapologist's dexterity he brings it all together in THE SEA OF NOTHINGNESS, joining the two hemispheres, two ways of seeing:
	We meet my mother in the temple
	clutching a ticket and watching a wheel
	that goes round and round like karma,
	while my father rakes the marble gravel
Sometimes these poems have subtle half-rhymes; sometimes they can lapse into journalese quite a range of styles. It would have made a richer collection if the subjects had been set in date order, letting the autobiographical material be more evident.

reviewer: Pat Jourdan.