troubles by Michael Farry
Publisher: Revival Books, Limerick Writers Centre
Launch Date: 14 March 2020
This poetry collection, Troubles, insinuates itself into the events of Ireland of one hundred years ago by a multitude of devices, approaching the participants and incidents in a slant way, by entering the thoughts of some of the participants, especially the losers.
It reflects on the historical background with poems on the famine, the land struggle, the Home Rule campaign, by introducing real people, for instance Kate Thompson, a landlord’s wife, whose voice we hear through the pleas she made for assistance for the poor people of her and her husband’s estate.
We get a fascinating glimpse into the life of Louisa Stockdale of Fermanagh, a Protestant who lived through this period, wrote poetry, married a Catholic in a registry office in London in the middle of the civil war and spent her life in peace in County Leitrim.
We get a different perspective in the "Sligo Novel" poems, recounting incidents in the daily life of a fictitious Sligo town resident through the period as she cares for her mother dying of tuberculosis and helps her father run the Palace Cinema.
The author makes great use of the multitude of sources which have recently become available such as the military pension records and the found poems scattered through the collection are striking examples of the possibilities of that form. A high point is the found poem detailing the causes of death of twenty two Michaels during the period. The stark litany of deaths is chilling.
Some poems are set in the present, reflecting on our commemoration or celebrations of those events. One, after a Winfred Letts poem, attempts to answer the question of why we look back at those times. In the final poem, which cleverly repeats the "go for me head on" from the well-
This is no dull, single faceted rumination on dead history. The characters, real and imagined, inhabit a world which is immediate and vibrant, clear and relevant. The variety of form is invigorating, the range of reference impressive and the viewpoint continually shifting.