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Playing the Octopus
Categories: 21st Century, Irish, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (96 pages)
(Pub. Aug 2016)
eBook (EPUB) Needs ADE!
(Pub. Jul 2016)
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Joint Winner of the Michael Hartnett Poetry Award 2018
In Playing the Octopus, her eighth collection of poems, Mary O’Malley’s sensitivity to the spirit of Ireland’s west coast is as attuned as ever. In a world both earthen and dreamlike, bodily and mythical, a trout is seen to ‘swallow light through his skin’, a wolf ‘howls the great open vowel of his need’, and in the emptiness where a tree once stood, ‘a tree-shaped brightness dances’. Over the course of the collection, O’Malley twins the Irish west coast with the American east coast, Inis Mór with Coney Island, the parish with the metropolis, the pipes with the axe, each offering its own comfort and wonder. Sylvia Plath, Lois Lane and Antigone feature in an unlikely cast of heroines through which O’Malley tests the mythologies of motherhood and femininity (‘no mother is ever good enough until she’s dead’, writes the poet, with characteristic wit). Playing the Octopus is a body of writing buoyed by the redemptive power and sustaining joy of music, and it closes with O’Malley’s translations of the Irish poet Seán Ó Ríordáin and the Spaniard Federico García Lorca.
Awards won by Mary O'Malley Joint winner, 2018 Michael Hartnett Poetry Award
(Playing the Octopus)
'very fine and hugely varied collection of poetry'
Colette Sheridan, Irish Examiner
'O'Malley is a true artist in sketching the beautiful, small details without which the essence of place, and the identity dependent on it, can be all too easily erased.'
'This new collection by one of Ireland's most respected and radical poets is as exhilarating a read as the title promises. Sampling through levels of irony from the neolithic to the neon lights of the lonely cities, from east to west, and indeed the hackneyed wesht (with a characteristically wicked eye), O'Malley offers us lyrics of the salvific quotidian woven together with the surreal elements of surviving our island paradoxes. Insouciant as the pirate queen Grace O'Malley who downfaced Elizabeth the First, Mary O'Malley steps into a zone of power and mastery with these new poems.'
Praise for Mary O'Malley 'Gaudent Angeli is a significant addition to the opus of a poet serious about her art... O'Malley excels when she combines the high with the low, such as in 'Little Dazzler' which manages to include Odysseus, a sorceress, condoms, smartphones, and a "supermodel in a green tube dress".'
Kevin Higgins, Galway Advertiser
'Mary O'Malley's seascapes [...] are suffused with such beauty and sonorous mystery and rhythmic care that they lift us above ourselves and the time we inhabit.'
Colm Tóibín, Irish Times, 8th December 2012
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