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The Last Geraldine Officer

Thomas McCarthy

Imprint: Anvil Press Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (176 pages)
(Pub. Oct 2009)
Out of Stock
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    Molly Keane’s Peach Champagne

    It was a most ordinary Irish evening at the end of
    A windy day; leaves scattering with a nonchalance
    Learned early in the autumn of their lives,
    When the phone rang with the raspiest grumble
    Our old phone always had, the black one
    That blocked the small ships in Denis’s little
    Maritime oil sketch by Mr. Atkinson of Cork;
    Grumbling away until I picked it up, heavy as
    A cine-camera that the postman used to have
    To record the Corpus Christi processions –
    I mean the processions before Ireland went to
    The dogs – the postman who once delivered
    A white wrought-iron bench from Fred Astaire;
    And picking up the phone I heard herself, Molly,
    Just out of hospital after a near fatal heart attack,
    Just out of hospital and straight back to work:
    ‘Writing is so wearisome,’ she says, ‘I find that
    Lobster and peach champagne do keep one going.’


    from The Last Geraldine Officer

    Cappoquin Beef in Guinness

    Mr. Brunnock, the butcher from Cappoquin, gave Mrs. Norah Foley this recipe.

        3 lbs (more or less) of beef for stewing, cut into chunks
        2 bay leaves
        1 large or 2 small onions
        2 tbsps of flour
        Quarter pint of Guinness from any Dungarvan ‘large bottle’
        Salt, and a little pepper
        8 ounces carrots
        2 tbsps chopped parsley

    Heat oil and put in bay leaves. Add beef and brown rapidly. Push the beef to one side and add onions, just soften. Sprinkle with the flour and brown, then add the Guinness. Top up with water to cover, at least the same quantity as the Guinness. Add the carrots and season very well. Bring to boil and cook (braising) in a slow oven (160º C) for about 1½ hours. Add water if necessary during cooking to prevent everything from drying out. Longer cooking may be necessary to ensure a tender beef. When serving sprinkle with the chopped parsley.

    28th December 1941

    A bleak night-crossing in a morose year. / Reverse in North Africa, relentless defeats in the East. / How many ruins have I seen through London, buddleias blooming out of the summer craters, the smell of things, even worse when the weather turns. / This is the lowest point of bitterness, a nation with gritted teeth, undefeated. / But no better than that, undefeated. / At the Liverpool docks, skinned rabbits and graded butter from Ireland. Censored newspapers. Priests changing out of uniform, becoming a ‘Father’ once more, shedding the ‘Padre.’ / And Movietone News, land-girls in a Kentish harvest scene, stalemate in the desert. / As we ply the night-boat to Dún Laoghaire. A cup of Horlicks. Three sets of Thomas Wallis cotton sheets for Templemaurice House, ten yards of black-out suède velour for windows that face the Blackwater; £400 certificates in  2½% National War Bonds for safe-keeping. And now, an old Newtown School scholar, limping home from an East London  fire-bomb. / Ireland  a poor country? You must be joking, sir. Ireland, never poor, but constantly pillaged. I tell you, when the true history of this land is written it will be an exhaustive list of English and native names. / This neutral land of ours, I tell you, a constant theft. When the great book of Ireland is published, God willing that it won’t be in Berlin, I tell you, sir, it will show a continuous theft of the public purse, pensions, confiscations, discoveries, repossessions and plantation, Sweepstakes agents, the well-connected of the Church, you name it, you name the theft. / The Cromwellian Settlement, the inside purchase of Great Southern and Western Shares in 1938. You’d never believe it, Sir, the number who think this land owes them a good living, even in a time of despair. Ah, Ireland. Welcome home. / And I feel the weariness of war, Churchill’s voice, quietly fading away.

    The first part of Thomas McCarthy’s book collects his recent short lyrics. Part Two daringly recreates a forgotten period in the Anglo-Irish world: a Big House in the years between the World Wars, a FitzGerald (‘Geraldine’) family that has tilled the soil of County Waterford, absorbed its language and history, and sent young men back to British regiments, particularly the Irish Guards. Focusing on his Gaelic-speaking soldier-poet, Sir Gerald FitzGerald, and his man-servant, Paax Foley, McCarthy creates a fully imagined landscape of men escaped from Irish neutrality to fight against Fascism. Moving from ballad to prose poem, from mid-century Gaelic verse to County Waterford recipes, McCarthy mixes competing loyalties and readings of Irish history to create a single Irish narrative of exile and bereavement, of battles won and love lost and found.

    Thomas McCarthy was born in Cappoquin, Co. Waterford, in 1954 and educated locally and at University College Cork where he was auditor of the English Literature Society. He has published many collections of poetry, including The First Convention, The Sorrow Garden, Lost Province, Merchant Prince and The Last ... read more
    Awards won by Thomas McCarthy Short-listed, 2017 Irish Times/Poetry Now Award (Pandemonium)
    Praise for Thomas McCarthy 'The life of these poems lies in that space of ambivalence, somewhere between commitment and caution [...] McCarthy is a poet of lovingly observed small details.' 

    David Wheatley, TLS  

    'The pandemonium at the heart of this collection is "between the high water mark and the low", and you can feel within the certaintiy of the words that there is unease, panic that the ebbing tide will leave too many stranded'

    Liam Murphy, The Munster Express

    'Prophecy teems with fabulous characters and personas but plant life is key here...magnificent, passionate and urgently prescient, Prophecy confronts mortality and materialism, asserting the power of art.'
    Martina Evans, The Irish Times
    'Pandemonium is a superb collection, written by a fearless poet at the height of his powers. If anger is infectious then this critic is angry too for McCarthy deserves more attention: he deserves acclaim, honour and recognition for the lonely furrow he continues to plough.'
    Clíona Ní Ríordáin, Southword

    'Thomas McCarthy's Pandemonium was launched in late 2016, but its quality justifies its inclusion here. A long time in gestation, it was well worth the wait, with its themes of home, heart, and recession.'
    Cork Evening Echo Best Books of 2017

    'Pandemonium's urgent, involving and rewarding poems make us question where we have come from and look again at where we are going.'
    The Irish Times
    'His voice - with its idiosyncratic tone and verbal texture - “ registered firmly as one of the most distinctive and it is now one of the most authoritative among poets of his generation. The weight of that authority and his mastery of a personal tone are evident in this fine new collection.'
    Dublin Review of Books
    'No other poet comes to mind, living or dead, who has succeeded in engaging the political as poetic subject matter . . . McCarthy, it would seem, has been able to internalize the subject matter and given it the time to cool down and clarify, until his art can give it a shape.'
    August Kleinzahler
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