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Can Dentists Be Trusted?
Imprint: Anvil Press Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (64 pages)
(Pub. Nov 2004)
Martina Evans’s third collection of poems begins and ends in the dentist’s chair. In between come stories ranging from an Irish childhood to present-day London, featuring voices from the poet’s own to those of her family, her cat, and a supporting cast of hectoring lawyers, born bores and rambling mothers. She combines a novelist’s gift for creating compelling narratives and capturing conversational idiosyncracies with a poet’s ability to condense and refine, making Can Dentists Be Trusted? a book that will delight the many who enjoyed its acclaimed predecessor All Alcoholics Are Charmers (1998).
Awards won by Martina Evans Short-listed, 2022 The Pigott Poetry Prize
(American Mules) Short-listed, 2019 Irish Times Poetry Now Award (Now We Can Talk Openly About Men) Short-listed, 2019 The Pigott Poetry Award (Now We Can Talk Openly About Men) Short-listed, 2019 The Roehampton Poetry Prize (Now We Can Talk Openly About Men) Short-listed, 2015 Irish Times Poetry Now Award (Burnfort, Las Vegas) Winner, 2011 Premio Ciampi Internazionale di Poesia (Ciampi International Poetry Prize) (Facing the Public)
'These look like easy, anecdotal poems but they bite.'
Alan Brownjohn, Sunday Times Praise for Martina Evans 'Technical mastery of loose sonnet form and chatty iambic pentameters... transforming the materiality of life into poems that are both funny and profound.'
Clíona ní Ríordáin, Times Literary Supplement
'Evans will not give in to easy effects or even a singing line. It is all crosstalk, undertone, interruption, pure hilarity, like someone telling a story, like someone thinking. And somehow out of what feels like raw life comes a register that is often luminous [...] At page 100 we have been engaged by a rich sensibility, and a poet with an astonishing technical confidence who knows how to turn a poem or leave a reader unsure where the emotion is coming from. Feeling, in these poems, is subtly placed and managed. It is hard to see what more Evans can do with the fifty pages. The answer is a long poem called 'Mountainy Men', a bravura piece, filled with incident, tension, verbal excitement [...] Slowly, a poem that seems animated by random thoughts and images takes on a strange, concentrated power; the lines begin to feel like pure style, the narrative voice holding and wielding the hidden energies that Martina Evans consolidates, and then releases with such energy and confidence and verve.'
Colm Tóibín, Poetry Ireland Review
'Martina Evans keeps the reader in close and constant orbit... It gave me immense pleasure'
Megan Fernandes, Poetry Foundation
'Martina Evans' poems are compressed stories, if not entire novels, in all but their word counts. The specimens, none of them overlong, in American Mules jaunt along delightfully, as if spoken into your ear, and they show a particular interest in the details of the everyday - she is the least abstract, least generalising of poets. There is no poetical windbaggery here, more a pleasing companionableness, a grabbing-you-by-the-under-arm and racing you along beside'
Michael Glover, The Tablet
'Martina Evans's American Mules, a scintillating poetry collection from a unique, deeply observant, beautifully compassionate consciousness which creates a fully realised world of its own.'
Catriona Crowe, The Irish Times
'American Mules by Martina Evans is a glorious collection of poems, two books within one, an astonishment of riches. How she melds narrative audacity with sharp insight and juicy lyricism is so memorable. It's a book that gets into your heart. These poems echo and shimmer'
Joseph O'Connor, The Irish Times
'Striking powers of social observation... every single adjective attentively exact... Without straining for effect, she mixes pity with horror - and a repeated theme of fallibility'
Fiona Sampson, The Guardian
'Her work is humane and funny, often beautiful, always without sentiment or bitterness... It is loose, chatty and free, awash with hospitals, cats and shoes. For Evans the joy of the given moment, the past's ever-present grief, the dreams of films and books, are frequencies overlapping at once... Evans is that rarest of rara avis, a poet whose work is at once serious and authentically enjoyable... American Mules is a book of splendours and will surely count among her very best.'
Conor O'Callaghan, The Irish Times
'Terrifying tales of peace'
Kate Clanchy, The Guardian
'Evans's decision to occupy and represent these women in the midst of a period in Irish history which is at once surrounded by silence and overexposed in the long shadow it has cast, leaves us with a work which is compelling, subtle, compassionate and evocative.'
Rosie Lavan, Poetry Ireland Review
'A sharply idiomatic reflection of the Irish revolution and Civil War... it is unputdownable'.
Roy Foster, TLS Books of the Year 2018
Susan Jane Sims, Artemis Poetry
'...a rich poetic contribution to our forthcoming interrogation of the War of independence, two intense and riveting dramatic monologues by women affected by the burning of Mallow in 1920, and the malaise of the new state in 1924.'
Catriona Crowe, The Irish Times Best Books of 2018
'Evans manages in this collection, like a great filmmaker or novelist, to gift the audience (and I use the word "audience" deliberately) with immersion into a world so real and complete we have to reluctantly drag ourselves back to our fictional lives.'
Anne Tannam, The Dublin Review of Books
'Full of insight and humour...Evans' ability to choose just the right word is unerring.'
Suzanne O'Sullivan, The Observer
'I loved everything about this book'
Kate Kellaway, The Observer
'Evans's ear for speech suits the monologue, and the monologues - talky, jumpy, Gothic - are intensely atmospheric, claustrophobic pieces... Here, and throughout, Evans catches the nightmarish powerlessness of living close to historical changes.'
John McAuliffe, The Irish Times
'Her ability to replicate on the page colloquial Irish rhythms and phrasing has been commented on before, and it draws the reader in from the beginning... Each poem is, in a sense, akin to a chapter of a novel, and there is narrative drive both within the poems and between them, but as they are poems, i.e. stand-alone entities and in this sense equally analogous to paintings, they serve as much as windows onto moments, thoughts, memories and feelings as narrative blocks.'
Chris Edgoose, Wood Bee Poet
'Evans' verse is tightly packed with images, but loose enough in its metre to read naturally. One can take the book at a running pace and enjoy a story with deep emotional beats, or slow the pace and reflect on the careful choice of wording.'
Joe Darlington, Manchester Review of Books
The admired vernacular brilliance of Martina Evans's poetry is applied here to her most ambitious work to date, bringing to vivid life one of the most terrible periods of Irish history from the Troubles around 1920 to the Civil War, as witnessed and experienced by two generations of women ... No other poet currently writing in Britain and Ireland can rival Evans's ability to represent the impact of the political on the personal without easy histrionics. This is a remarkable document, a major work.
Bernard O'Donoghue 'a subtle, challenging writer with a wonderfully destructive approach to the pieties she describes.'
John McAuliffe, Irish Times 'Evans' great skill is in knowing how much to put into a poem. She has a talent for selecting only the most resonant memories, for not over-icing the cake of sentiment. [...] Above all, Evans puts the right words in the right order, a dictum whose simple phrasing embodies its demands.'
Michael Duggan, PN Review 'A deceptively casual and enjoyable collection.'
Irish Times 'Martina Evans [is] brazenly humorous [...] with her dizzyingly wacky free-verse tale-telling.'
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