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Afric McGlinchey reviews Paddy Bushe's newest poetry collection







afric mcglinchey

Afric McGlinchey’s début collection, The Lucky Star of Hidden Things, was published by Salmon in 2012 and evokes her upbringing in Africa. Her poems have been published in Southword, Moth, THE SHOp, Poetry Ireland Review, the Irish Times, Stinging Fly, Magma, Acumen, and numerous other journals. A Pushcart nominee (2011), she was a guest reader at the Cork Spring Festival, Bluestacks, Benedict Kiely and Poetry Africa Festivals in 2013. She has been highly commended and shortlisted for several poetry prizes, including the Magma and Bridport.  She won the Hennessy Emerging Poetry Award in 2011 and the Northern Liberties Prize (USA) in 2012. Afric lives in West Cork.






my lord buddha

My Lord Buddha of Carraig Éanna

Paddy Bushe

(Dedalus Press, 2012)

ISBN: 9781906614522

€11.50 paperback

Buy from Dedalus Press





Like many of his contemporaries, Paddy Bushe is a poet steeped in the lore of his own culture. His sensibilities have also been influenced by his travels, particularly to Asia. In this, his ninth collection, there is an awareness of the transient nature, not only of human life, but of geological erosion too. The cover shows a plaster-cast Buddha, placed at the cliff’s edge, as a kind of guardian spirit or stabilizing buffer.  Bushe  uses this motif with a tongue-in-cheek humour:

                                                …his bland

            Garden-centre smile facing out to sea

                                                            ‘My Lord Buddha of Carraig Éanna’

His intention, we conclude, is to be light-hearted. But he is also aware that to invoke the Buddha potentially charges his usual themes with a greater current. The ploy enables him to consider the Irish landscape and culture from an outsider’s persepective. Or is it still an Irish voice we hear?:


            The baraois, they tell me it’s called here,

            Or used to be called, the sudden gleam


            Of mackerel shoaling under a full moon...


                                                            ‘Buddha Considers the Baraois’


In ‘Buddha Considers the Tides’, the tide rises ‘To sing its way home through the stars and rest/In the moon’s own embrace’, a beautiful and evocative image. But it’s not so much an eastern perspective as a Yeatsian one (seen elsewhere too) that we hear in the final stanza:

            I hear it in the bubbling calls of nightbirds feeding

            Between tide-lines, and something in me expands

            To encompass all these inchings. These infinities.


It’s always a risk, a challenge of ethics as well as aesthetics, whenever a poet steps into another culture – or extracts an icon from another religion. I’ve experienced this dilemma myself. As Claire Trévien put it, ‘at its worst, it’s an act of cultural appropriation and/or exoticisation.’ Having said that, it’s the incongruity of such appropriation that Bushe clearly enjoys. For example,  his Buddha has developed an Irish accent:

            ‘Awesome isn’t it?’, interjected Buddha silently.

            I mean, like, I find myself all over the place.

            Just about here, there and everywhere.


                                                            ‘Buddha’s Places of Birth’


There are also several poems reproduced from his contribution to the anthology of Skellig Michael poems, ‘Voices at the World’s Edge’, and a 13-page translation of Eilín Dhubh Ní Chonaill’s eighteenth-century ‘Howl for Art O’Laoghaire’, which, although it seems an odd inclusion here, intrigues. The extremities of feeling, ranging from rhapsodic praise of her slain husband to maledictory declarations against his killer, have an accumulative incantatory effect:

            My deepest darling!

            I knew nothing of your killing

            Until your horse came straggling...

            My first stride cleared the doorstep,

            My second flew through the gateposts,

            My third step found your stirrup.


                                    The Howl for Art O’Laoghaire


Bushe feels the pulse of the world around him, and responds to it, although he keeps returning to the safety of the same well for another drink. While there are sometimes false notes and his poems could have done with some tweaking, there are occasions when they offer a meditative, if  Latinate, lyricism:

            Was it true, he wondered, that a wind

            Skinning the stones of a gulley could aspirate

            The initial syllables of a ritual curse?


                                                            The Search


or they capture the  beauty of a moment:


            The slow parabola of the approaching heron,

            ...then the hunch

            Into isolation, all angular concentration




His most individual poems are the personal ones to his wife, or about his mother’s death. In a sense, each poem here  contains all the other poems Bushe has written.   His first collection was ‘Poems with Amergin’. Robert Graves tells us in The White Goddess,  that a poetic education ‘should, really begin, not with the Canterbury Tales, not with the Odyssey, not even with Genesis, but the Song of Amergin.’ So it’s probably no surprise that Bushe keeps returning to it:


            It was, they tell me, just here below

                                              ...that Amergin

            Beached, and stepped ashore and sang

            The beginning of the story.

                                                                        Buddha and Amergin


Although this is all familiar terrain, Bushe does appear to be self-consciously seeking another dimension: In ‘Heron Dreams of Becoming Crane’, he writes: ‘I am tired of bog, of its grey drizzle, of its oozing blackness drawing me down to its dark heart’. The heron frees himself ‘into oriental streams of thought....’ then soars again, ‘refreshed, towards the far north.’


Taken as a whole, the unifying themes in this collection might deliver the reader to a more conscious state of being-in-the-world and confirm Bushe’s place in the traditional Irish pastoral poetry canon.










©2013 Afric McGlinchey



Author Links


Afric McGlinchey's homepage

Two poems in Poethead, A Poetry Blog

Reading at 'On the Nail' Literary Gathering (YouTube)






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