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Kathy D'Arcy reviews Ed Cashman's debut poetry collection.




Kathy D'Arcy

Kathy D'Arcy is a young Cork poet whose collections Encounter (Lapwing), and The Wild Pupil (Bradshaw) were published in 2010 and 2012 respectively.  In 2013 she was awarded an Arts Council Literature Bursary, and in 2014 she received an Irish Research Council Award to undertake a PhD in Creative Writing in UCC, where she also teaches in the Women's Studies and Adult Education departments. D'Arcy originally qualified and worked as a doctor, and currently works with homeless teenagers in Cork city as well as running creative writing groups for adults and young people. She is also a playwright, and her play 'This is my Constitution' was staged in 2013 at an Irish parliamentary briefing on constitutional change. "...among the best poems I have read in years" (Thomas McCarthy) 





Dead Heat

Dead Heat

Ed Cashman

(Bradshaw Books, 2014)

ISBN: 978-1905374397


Contact Tigh Filí to purchase.





Ed Cashman's first collection, Dead Heat, is not prefaced by a list of reputed literary journals in which the poet has been published: instead, Cashman offers thanks to several community-run leaderless writing collectives, within which he has actually been published—not that he cares to mention this. To me, immersed in research into Irish women poets who knew they'd be forgotten by 'The Canon' and didn't generally care, this marks an interesting perspective shift. I like Cashman for having the courage to do it, and I like (as always) Bradshaw for giving a new poet a voice on the strength of poetic merit alone, when it is doubtful that any other publishing house would have. Bradshaw continue to stand alone in Ireland in this respect. 


But to the purpose—the work. This slim collection grapples with many of the large, unwieldly questions previously vivisected to boredom by our literary giants – the nature of being a poet, of being a man, of being Irish – and it would have been easy, even expected, for the results to be predictable and slightly offensive (as I have found so much modern work to be). Instead, Cashman has produced clean, delicate, sophisticated pieces which surprise and engage. His background in film lends visual richness and movement to lines that pan across, zoom in and out, and switch focus within the simple, elegant scenes he constructs, and the work, though overwhelmingly trancelike, is always grounded in well-wrought, finely-drawn images.


The voice is unusual and refreshing.  Some of the pieces are written in extremely close third person with a female protagonist, resulting in a more or less believable female voice—an unusual achievement for a male poet:


"Stepping out into a downpour

It strikes her

That stories are like a makeshift raft —

But a raft nonetheless." (The Accomplice)


There is clear evidence of the influence of Yeats and Heaney in particular on the work:


"How many years to feel evicted from the heart?

Taproot of gravitational glances

From plump Loreto girls," (Trip-Diving).


Again it would be easy to see plain imitation here, but second and subsequent readings reveal more: Cashman clearly signals his awareness both of the influence and of its effect, mentioning shovels and circuses and so on in almost tongue-in-cheek flashes of rue:


"A wordless reveal . . .

Bleeds the suchness of becoming,

Rinsing our earthen fluencies

To the entrails of thought 

As you stand on the upturned shovel..." (Mixing With The Clay)


When the 'large' moments arise, then, Cashman is careful to make them new with a voice that seems blithely to brush aside any anxieties of influence in favour of a supremely self-aware yet almost ingénue-like engagement with that world, those questions:


"While hoovering, washing up,

Changing the bedclothes,

Practicing with the givenness of things

To texture the proposition,

The question mark." (Longhand)


It's a new male voice, one I haven't heard before, engaging with the age-old, Bloom-faded questions in a way that, for once, alienates no-one. Cashman is shameless about both the engagement and the refiguring, asking towards the end of the collection, "Why put your shoulder to a tiny wheel?" (Shoulders).


I have known Cashman as an independent Cork film-maker, and had read and enjoyed one or two of his poems before this collection came out. When I heard of the publication, I was apprehensive about his lack of an 'acceptable' publication profile (a not unusual response, as outlined above).  Having now studied the collection in-depth, I can conclude that he is a gifted poet with a finely-crafted, unique voice, and a perceptive engagement with Irish literary history deserving closer reading, and that it was right and brilliant to publish his first collection. I look forward to seeing more.


©2015 Kathy D'Arcy



Author Links


Kathy D'Arcy homepage

Contact Tigh Filí to purchase 'The Wild Pupil' by Kathy D'Arcy

Purchase Encounter by Kathy D'Arcy from Lapwing Press

More by Kathy D'Arcy in Southword Journal







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