GERARD SMYTH: THE MIRROR TENT
13 Moyclare Road
ISBN 978 1 904556 59 6
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This page last updated: 14th December 2007.
|GERARD SMYTH: THE MIRROR TENT|
Behind Pat Langan's apocalyptic cover photograph showing Halley's Comet over Dublin is the best collection of poetry it has been my pleasure to review in 2007.
Many of the poems in Gerard Smyth's sixth collection have appeared in top flight publications such as Best of Irish Poetry 2007, Poetry Review, The Irish Times, Poetry Salzburg Review, Wingspan: a Dedalus Sampler and some have been heard on the Radio 1 programme SUNDAY MISCELLANY IN IRELAND.
This 75-page collection is divided into 4 sections. The first poem in each part gives more than a hint of the quality in store. They are RIDDLES AND ORISONS, SURVIVORS, COOL OF THE DAY and ANOTHER EVENING IN THE WEST.
The first of this quartet sets the scene admirably. It is dedicated to the memory of Jack Hoey, teacher:
Straight-backed, arms outflung. In front of everyone he stood like a singer about to sing his favourite aria. The dust of school-chalk lay on his shoulders. He read with both eyes closed brooded over Matthew Arnold and Samuel Coleridge ... he created the atmosphere of the Lakes just by saying Windermere.And the same, I imagine, could be said for Gerard Smyth himself. A brooding, no-nonsense, articulate, atmospheric individual if his polished words and thumbnail photo are anything to go by.
In the poem fronting-up the second part of the collection we meet Smyth's SURVIVORS:
My father knew them, the menders of broken shoes, the brotherhood of men with joiner's tools and the sailors home from sea, who rose at noon. ... the newsboys of Inchicore and Kilmainham whose evening mantra announced the final score, the fall of nations.The third section of the book contains the title poem THE MIRROR TENT and for my money one of the best crafted poems, VLADIMIR HOLAN WAS RIGHT.
However the opening poem is COOL OF THE DAY and I'd like to quote from that, if only to endow some logic and system to this report. COOL OF THE DAY begins quietly enough but like a Tennessee Williams play soon grows uncomfortably unsettling:
It was an evening for the mowing of lawns, the clipping of hedgerows. Not staying indoors with the soap opera, the idiots' quiz or watching CNN for news . ... sipping a Burgundy that was close to a menstrual colour enjoying the best weather in weeks, the indolent heat of an Indian summer.In the final section ANOTHER EVENING IN THE WEST with its title hinting at overtones of PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD:
There is discourse, banter, the lingua franca of men with five o'clock shadows, whiskey breaths and peaked caps sideways on their heads.I've attempted here to give an overview but there's much more to luxuriate in. In particular the works with holy overtones such as IN GOD'S BALLROOM, are worth drawing attention to. BALLROOM is nothing less than a resurrected R S Thomas writing in Ireland.
There are hauntingly crafted pieces such as FAIRGROUND ATTRACTIONS and ... I'm betting that this excellent volume will make it on to a number of poetry award shortlists for works published in 2007 and I'd be quite surprised if some kind of Poetic-Oscarette, doesn't find it's way to Gerard Smyth's sideboard.
To sum up: the amazing and impressive thing for me is the sheer sustainability of it all; how the poet sustains the quality and imagery of the poems, poem after poem, something that some household names, even in Ireland, have visibly struggled to do of late.
|reviewer: Gwilym Williams.|