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What The Hammer

Dermot Healy

The poems in What The Hammer are simple and direct, and this ingenuousness pushes the required buttons that make critical commonplaces like ‘honest’ and ‘heartfelt’ swing into action. As always, when this is done well, we cannot tell if the naiveté is faux or not.

Some are obviously, even down to their titles, locked into the natural world through observing the changes wrought on the poet’s coastal Sligo surroundings by the passing months and seasons - ‘June’, ‘July Storm’, ‘August’ and ‘September’. Some are whimsical - ‘Colours’, ‘Signs’, ‘Other Signs’, some anecdotal - ‘The Prayer’, and this can veer dangerously into the banal and the bathetic - ‘My House is Tiny’, ‘Approaching Car’. Random collections of images - like those in ‘Raining in Georgia’, seem to owe something to chaos theory. My favourites include the delicate love poem ‘Serenities’, the intimation of mortality that is ‘Death, The Cat’, and the meditation on memory and memories in ‘Footfalls’. ‘The Cuckoo-pint in a Commonage in Ennis’ is quite sexy, in a very natural kind of way.

Few writers excel with equal facility in poetry, plays, short stories and novels. Joyce’s poetry, the funny stuff apart, is nothing to write home about. With the achievement of A Goat’s Song behind him, Dermot Healy doesn’t have to worry if his poetry is less than earth-shattering.

First published in Books Ireland


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