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There Was Fire In Vancouver
Categories: 20th Century, First Collections, Irish, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (64 pages)
(Pub. May 1996)
'There Was Fire in Vancouver'
There was fire in Vancouver,
And we leaned out into the night to watch it
Set light to the East End.
It had taken stand on Commercial Avenue.
We marvelled at the darkness of the city,
All neon dulled by the superior flame,
And wondered would it bestow its dance
On the Ginseng Teahouse in Chinatown, on Jericho Pier.
There were no sirens, hoses, buckets even,
Scattering streets and 'Fire!''Fire!'
We seemed the only ones conscious of the bright crusade
And we watched with Moses standing in our heads.
There Was Fire in Vancouver is Sinéad Morrissey's first book of poems. Organised as a journey from communism to spiritual affirmation, from life in Ireland to life abroad, and return, from security and dependence on family in particular, to independence and security in the self, it memorably evokes what it is to grow up. Poems of childhood and communist upbringing are followed by poems about death, love, its loss; and several deal with angels and the implications of religious faith.
Affected by the poets of Northern Ireland, Sinéad acknowledges a particular debt to the Welsh poet R.S. Thomas, remarking on his 'absolute clarity of language and the directness of a vision which is both beautiful and terrifying.' She adds, 'Thomas inspires me because he is absolutely faithful to his own poetic concerns, regardless of a predominantly atheistic environment and changing literary fashions. He teaches that half the battle is knowing what not to listen to.' Sinéad Morrissey's poems seldom fall short of the ideals she sets herself.
Awards won by Sinead Morrissey Short-listed, 2021 The Pigott Poetry Prize
(Found Architecture) Winner, 2020 The Gdansk European Poet of Freedom Literary Award (On Balance) Winner, 2017 The Forward Prize for Best Collection (On Balance) Winner, 2017 Poetry Book Society Choice (On Balance) Short-listed, 2017 The Costa Poetry Award (On Balance) Short-listed, 2018 The Pigott Poetry Prize
(On Balance) Short-listed, 2018 The 2018 Roehampton Poetry Prize
(On Balance) Winner, 2009 T.S Eliot Prize
(The State of the Prisons) Winner, 2014 Irish Times Poetry Now Award
(Parallax) Winner, 2013 T S Eliot Prize for Poetry (Parallax) Short-listed, 2013 Forward Prize for Best Collection (Parallax) Joint winner, 2005 Michael Hartnett Award for Poetry
(The State of the Prisons) Short-listed, 2005 T.S. Eliot Prize
(The State of the Prisons) Winner, 2002 Rupert and Eithne Strong Award
(Between Here and There) Winner, 2002 MaCaulay Fellowship
Short-listed, 2002 T.S. Eliot Prize
(Between Here and There) Winner, 1996 An Eric Gregory Award
(There Was Fire In Vancouver) Winner, 1990 Patrick Kavanagh Award Short-listed, 2005 Irish Times Poetry Prize
(The State of the Prisons) Short-listed, 2005 John Llewellyn Rhys Commonwealth Literature Prize
(The State of the Prisons) Winner, 2005 Poetry Book Society Recommendation
(The State of the Prisons) Winner, 2007 Lannan Literary Fellowship
Winner, 2009 Poetry Book Society Choice
(Through the Square Window)
Praise for Sinead Morrissey 'Morrissey's telling of ... life is beautifully done, with no sentimentality or mawkishness [...] A brilliant book.'
The High Window
'stunning, accessible poems'
Damian Smyth, Belfast Telegraph
'On Balance demonstrates that poems, far from being an obsolete technology, were never just mnemonic machines in the first place: they were always simply the perfect instrument for human voices, both living and (un)dead.'
Ange Mlinko, LRB
'Propulsive, compelling, melding narrative and lyric, Morrissey's poetry combines deep feeling with a probing, philosophical intelligence.'
The Poetry Review
'Northern Irish poetry looks like it's about to take centre stage again, and the woman leading the charge is Sinead Morrissey.'
Cork Evening Echo Best Books of 2017
'A game-changing volume of poems in her shining career.'
Damian Smyth, Head of Drama and Literature at Arts Council Northern Ireland, Belfast Telegraph
An Irish Times Book of the Year 2017 'Sinead Morrissey's On Balance is a book of poetry that embraces the art of fiction, and that makes you think about the world being off kilter, of suspension, of what might be required to have balance. Amazing. And the deserving winner of the Forward Prize this year.'
Scottish Makar Jackie Kay, Herald Scotland Books of the Year 2017
'Sinead Morrissey's On Balance was a worthy winner of the 2017 Forward Prize. A celebration of resourcefulness, from motherhood to the first woman to build an aeroplane, its language is as poised as the acrobats it catches.'
Jeremy Noel-Tod, from the Sunday Times Book of the Year 2017 'The poem Nativity, if it stood alone, makes Sinead Morrissey's On Balance a sweet Christmas choice, but it is only one of a number of thought-provoking poems in her sixth, prize-winning collection. Morrissey floats the reader glimpses of desires unmet, memories still fluid; the stories swim beyond the edge of the page, buoyed up by possibility.'
Hilary Mantel, from the Guardian 'Books of the Year' 2017
'I've always leaned on poetry as something more thrilling than...well, almost anything - religion, for instance. The older I get, the more essential poetry seems and, alas, the converse for the latter. Two books from this year give further proof of this: Sinéad Morrissey's starry poetic engineering in On Balance (Carcanet) and Michael Longley's angelic Angel Hill (Jonathan Cape), which was also proof, maybe, that Homer never died. Northern Ireland's poets continue to outstare miserable politics and offer instead the better firearms of beauty and truth.'
Sebastian Barry, from the New Statesman 'Books of the Year 2017'
'Poet Sinéad Morrissey gains power with each collection. She's one of those generous writers whose images and structures open so invitingly that your response is to grab a pen and write back to her: in other words, an inspiration.'
Hilary Mantel, from the TLS 'Books of the Year 2017' 'I can't not mention Sinéad Morrissey - a wide-ranging, capacious, brilliant and entirely satisfying collection of poems that will be read many decades hence.'
Andrew Marr, from the New Statesman 'Books of the Year 2017'
'Morrissey is possessed of her own invigorating brand of Irish fluency and an imagination that never closes.'
Kate Kellaway, Guardian
'Morrissey's clarity and confidence mean that On Balance approaches each of her subjects with great fluency and command.'
The Irish Times
'The outstanding poet of her generation.'
Stephen Knight, Independent 'In a year of brilliantly themed collections, the judges were unanimous in choosing Sinéad Morrissey's Parallax as the winner. Politically, historically and personally ambitious, expressed in beautifully turned language, her book is as many-angled and any-angled as its title suggests.'
Ian Duhig, Chair of the 2013 T S Eliot Prize Judges
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