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Categories: 21st Century, Irish
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
(Pub. Feb 2011)
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(Pub. Feb 2011)
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They would bury ashes or bodies in the evening,
then say whatever was right to say, looking
out into a bruised and sun-inflamed west
to think of the dead, and take leave of them.
There would be noise from here and there – people,
animals, carts, invisible cicadas –
and the one road to town would darken. When
everyone had gone back, and night came,
the spirit would loiter unseen by its grave,
alone and afraid to go far, anxious
for dawn, and departure then from the earth.
from 'The Wait'
Torchlight explores the haunting persistence of memories, and the acts of remembrance which preserve and shape them. In his fifth collection, the Northern Irish poet Peter McDonald ranges across a wide poetic landscape, from Belfast in the troubled 1970s to contemporary England, from personal recollection to a fragment of Sappho’s memory of her youth, eloquent across millennia; from ancient myth to rock music.
At the centre of Torchlight is a major new translation of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, a Greek text which, in McDonald’s hands, resonates with the concerns and discoveries of the book’s shorter poems, and brings the mystery cult of Eleusis into an unnerving conjunction with the losses, recoveries and revelations elsewhere in the collection. McDonald’s powerful lyric poetry is both complex and memorable, light and vigorous. His is an original and distinctive voice in Irish poetry.
Cover Image: Detail of Attic votive tablet depicting scenes of initiation into the Eleusinian mysteries, 4th century BC (terracotta). Copyright National Archaeological Museum, Athens / The Bridgeman Art Library.
Awards won by Peter McDonald Short-listed, 2017 London Hellenic Prize (The Homeric Hymns)
Praise for Peter McDonald 'McDonald is often impressively adept at using varied metres for cadence, musicality, tension. He resists the over-dramatic, but is a poet of fierce feeling - moved and often moving.'
TLS 'Peter McDonald's unsettling imagination occupies a middle distance between domesticity and wilderness - what he calls 'the melancholy distance'. His fine elegies and love poems have in common a cool intonation and an argumentative persistence: the overlap is a telling one. McDonald's disenchanted vision makes the moments of intimacy and tenderness, when they come, all the more affecting. In addition, his profound literary intelligence thrives on metrical and stanzaic challenge, and ranges with relish from gnomic brevity to sustained meditation, narrative and memoir. These poems, which with their gently syncopated lines may seem understated, register the uneasiness and the excitement of 'the buzzing world': they are, in the poet's own words, 'back roads to everywhere'.
Michael Longley 'Hugely impressive... not just rich but endlessly varied and subtle... marvellous.'
David Wheatley, Irish Times 'Peter McDonald's unsettling imagination occupies a middle distance between domesticity and wilderness... [his] disenchanted vision makes the moments of intimacy and tenderness, when they come, all the more affecting.'
Michael Longley, CBE 'McDonald's work 'is entirely in keeping with Milton's enjoinder that poetry be "simple, sensuous and passionate". His musicality is not just rich but endlessly varied and subtle. [...] It embodies the values of accuracy, conscience, and restraint but with no skimping of intensity or ferocity.'
David Wheatley, Irish Times
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