There is a touch of the unexpected or the accident of serendipity about words sometimes. America seems to feature more than I would have expected. An American schools orchestra surprised me recently in Christ Church; no sooner had they started than they had to finish due to the arrival of a funeral. Unexpectedly, a book of prose poems arrived from Duluth Minesota from Will O The Wisp Press and introduced me to Louis Jenkins, an amazing prose poet or should I say an amazing poem. In Aberystwyth at the Welsh national Library I met a man from Ohio, as Wales and Ohio have great fraternity as a result of emigration.
Then I began to read a debut book of poetry by Dublin-born but New York resident, Ciaran Berry – The Sphere Of Birds from The Gallery press, and again there was the surprise of the unexpected – the unexpected mastery with words in a debut poet. In his Acknowledgements Berry thanks his fellow poets, Ryan Black, Colin Cheney, Matt Donovan, Lorraine Doran and Kathy Graber – none of whom I had ever heard of. Amazing poetry with not one filler poem, hardly a loose line, just a few words too colloquial to grasp. What technique, what style. Ciaran Berry mostly writes in long lines, almost like prose. Birds and animals populate the three sections of the book. Each part looks back at childhood in Carna, Co. Galway, Falcarragh, Co. Donegal and Belfast of his parents past and working in America. Each section seems to deepen the experience of seeing an old world with the eye of memory and a new world, a new place with an eye to create memories. The Act Of Seeing is a powerful poem that looks at the human and clinical aspects of the eye and how weak or assisted vision shapes our world.
Extraction is a poem about teeth that shocks and it examines fears of extraction, John Keats dying in Rome, and photographs of dental butchers. I will need more reassurance from Gus Papathomas, my dentist, after this poem.
The title poem is a tour-de-force, with the precision of a mature poet, a precient Brian Friel, who can leap forward a lifetime in a line. Electrocuting An Elephant will not only impress you but Moving And Storage will amaze you like a Raymond Carier story but April 1941, his mother’s imagined birth in Belfast, will blow you away amid a collection of superb poetry.
Seek out The Sphere Of Birds and Ciaran Berry and make a place for him, not only on your shelf but in your future.