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Best of Irish Poetry 2010
Editor: Matthew Sweeney
Songs of Earth and Light
Barbara Korun poems translated by Theo Dorgan
Done Dating DJs
by Jennifer Minniti-Shippey
Winner, 2008 Fool for Poetry Competition
Richesses: Francophone Songwriter Poets
Edited and translated by Aidan Hayes
Munster Literature Centre
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Jennifer Matthews was born in Columbia, Missouri in the USA. After studying for the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Northumbria she moved to Cork, Ireland in 2003 and continues to live there now. Aside from reviews, she also writes poetry and has been published in Mslexia, Revival and Poetry Salzburg, and has read her work at the New Writers Showcase in the Heaventree Poetry Festival in Coventry, UK. In 2010 she was anthologised in Dedalus's 2010 collection of immigrant poetry in Ireland, Landing Places.
To Wake to This
Buy To Wake to This
Children are clearly important to Enda Wyley. In addition to writing for both child and adult audiences, she teaches children to write poetry. With her parents’ encouragement she started writing from a very young age, winning her first poetry prize at the age of nine. By the age of sixteen she had three poems published in The Irish Press by David Marcus.
Many of her poems for an adult audience centre on the childhood experiences. While these poems may lazily be pigeon-holed as ‘domestic’, there is a deeper question of perception throughout. Children in Wyley’s poems are artists; focusing on them as subjects of poems is instructive on how to look at the world more carefully, and with more awe. Beyond this, children are creations, poems themselves, as in ‘The Page Within’: ‘and the baby ripples within,/ and this page that fills is filling fast’.
To Wake to This is a work of stillness and love. Intensely intimate, it often reads as a poetic journal of a new mother who doesn’t want to forget the beautiful, small moments in her new life. In fact, ‘Diary’ documents life before and after birth, including both the romantic and the difficult. Fresh perception is something her poems aspire to, using language which is visual and emotive. In the touching ‘Little Heart’:
... up along
sweet corn beads
a precious chain.
No image goes unconsidered; no moment is taken for granted. In the titular poem, ‘To Wake to This’, awakening means more than getting out of bed in the morning:
The baby dips
in and out of wonder,
twirling the soft air,
testing the sky
with her sounds.
The sphere of To Wake to This is not entirely encapsulated in the family/motherhood experience. She often turns her eye to other writers and engages with music or the visual arts. We see the poet’s mother ‘stilled/ by this bird’ in a Jan de Fouw charcoal drawing. After Cesare Pavese’s Lavore Stanca, Wyley touches on loneliness in her timely, ‘Work’s Hard’. Particularly moving is ‘Room’, dedicated to the late Nuala O’Faoláin. It is a twist on the aubade form, longing to halt the sun, and time, so that the living can remain a while longer:
yet still the light
burns my heels
taunts me with
As honest as O’Faoláin herself, the poem’s fear, anxiety and beauty are terribly real.
The praise poem, a rare creature nowadays, can also be found throughout To Wake to This. This is refreshing for poetry readers, as there is plenty of writing being published that (necessarily) raises awareness of darker matters. In this collection, dark is always balanced with light. Wyley’s ‘Saturday Poem’ celebrates contented family life, and a cosy morning of poems, breakfast and a bun in the oven. ‘Night Guard’ is a piece showing the multitude of caring tasks done by her partner for their child. These pieces remind me of the modern practice of keeping gratitude journals as a means of re-training our jaded minds to see the beautiful in everyday life.
To Wake to This is a thoughtful and caring collection; its aim to grow love in the still, everyday moments. For the joy of new families it should be placed prominently in the gift shops of hospitals or in Mothercare, but its audience is sure to be much, much wider.
©2009 Jennifer Matthews
Interviews with various poets through Ó Bhéal
Matthews poems on Poetry International Web
Yank Refugee in the PRC (blog)
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