Tom French, the Kilkenny-born poet, has a new collection out with The Gallery Press. French works in Co. Meath library service and his new collection, The Fire Step follows his 2001 prize-winning collection, Touching The Bones.
From the outset, this is not an easy book and in oblique ways, words do not offer themselves readily as laments, memories or matter-of-fact commentary, on wet summers, dead family, mundane journeys and new babies and new homes. Many of the shorter poems settle in words, rather than detonate with meaning. Some may be too oblique for their own good or a readers sense of achievement or satisfaction. An empty house does not have a conventional echo, but a set of un-erased phone messages awaiting a new owner.
Then in Moving Out, you get the slap of recognition – On Our last night we hear what we heard on our first / the echo that lives here, voices coming back to us. Or in Namesake, the father’s brother succumbed to a brain haemorrhage / among the tulip drills or drills of borage.
The sting of loneliness is evident in the closing lines of Two Stout – So I finished the drinks. / Neither of us could think of anything to say. That detonation of death is almost tucked away in a poem. Fruit – A boy with a tumour, the size of an orange / behind his eye, gripping Buzz Lightyear.
My favourite is The Life Of Man, with its wonderful last evocative line – Yet what is before and after, none knows.