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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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Neil O'Sullivan is a writer and an actor who has featured in both film and theatre. His plays include Blive, Colonel Bratski’s Marvelous Lemon Juice Remedy, Come the Evolution, Curley Fries, Dave Takes a Taxi, Grooming, Hammerhead, Hatch 22 (1999 Granary Theatre), House of Skin, Idiot Wind, Meat, Misery, Agony, Pain and Destruction In the Tormented Pits of Hellish Despair, and There is No Spoon. He also published two books: The Book of Visions and Honey, My Head is On Fire. In 1999, he won Corcadorca’s first New Playwright Award for Hatch 22.
The Pleasant Light of Day
Philip Ó Ceallaigh
(Penguin Ireland 2009)
Buy The Pleasant Light of Day
I was so thoroughly absorbed in the experience of reading these stories that every little authorial trick, well turned phrase and sly witticism sent pleasurable shivers up my psyche. 'A Very Unsettled Summer', a fiendishly clever lust story, almost manages to achieve the archetypal quality of myth. 'My Secret War', a hilarious story of an extraordinary rendition and the making of a walking personification of a Fox News talking point, which would be an excellent metaphor for brainwashing were brainwashing not so explicitly described in the text.
"You Believe in God?"', a pilgrim's search for spiritual connection in strange terrain, capturing the childlike openness of those seeking some chopstick-waving fly trap, with guru eyes, and was so close to the bone in its depiction of the fragility, and at-sea-ness of that condition, the willingness to risk personal autonomy, that I was wondering had he somehow visited the inside of my head circa 1992.
The only way I can describe "The Alchemist", is Paulo Coelho being indecently assaulted by Groucho Marx wielding Napoleon's big toe whilst Dolly the sheep quotes George Lucas in the original Farsi while singing 'The Power of Love' to the tune of 'Walk like an Egyptian'. Or something. I still haven't stopped chuckling.
'The Song of Songs' picks an obvious though hilarious metaphor for the self deluding vitality of a kind of beer goggle lust. And of course the negative space that takes over when that need is satisfied. The shortest piece, 'Walking Away', concerning a half hearted sexual tryst, effectively occupies the alienation and observational disconnect of a sudden grief and while never quite escaping the gravitational pull of loss, nonetheless leaves you with the hint of the first beams of sunlight breaking through the gloom.
The title piece is a charming wander through foreign streets with a man and his young son. The man is awake to the world, observes it through fresh eyes, perhaps due to his proximity to the child. He has to explain many things to the child and parsing the information for a child's understanding, has the effect of shifting his consciousness from the subjective to the speculative; from the way things are assumed to be, by virtue of familiarity and repetition and the consequent deadening of wonder, to a manner more proximate to reality. This sense of a refreshing of perspective, of seeing things anew, of being interested and engaged in the world, is another persistent and important thread in the book.
The pieces are often overtly metaphorical which in the hands of a lesser writer could be tiresome, but he writes with such a powerful and intuitive grasp of so wide a variety of, particularly male, states of being that he manages to amuse, titillate and move on one level while simultaneously tickling the awareness of another or indeed sometimes multiple levels. There is ignorance, loss, compassion, spiritual longing, impending psychosis, sexual compulsion, disinterest and struggle in these stories. But there is also a strong redemptive implication, with little trace of a cop out, woven into their DNA. A kind of clear sighted, not so much optimism, as a good humoured absence-of-pessimism that lends the work an uplifting quality.
Of course, not every piece is equally effective, but there is little in the way of wastage here. Each piece contributes to the coherence of the whole. The final piece, 'The High Country', which describes one man's journey through some unspecified condition of grief or disconnection through to a cleansing though innocuous moment of grace, is told with such skill and commitment that, having finished the story, I'd experienced some kind of catharsis myself and I felt psychically refreshed and invigorated. Some trick. This is the good stuff.
©2009 Neil O'Sullivan
O'Sullivan at Irish Playography
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