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Collective Effort Press

Award-winning Louis de Paor, in the spirit of many of his literary compatriots, has produced his best work out of being away from Ireland. Cork and Other Poems, a bilingual collection, celebrates the presence of memory, the confrontation of points of departure. Although his luxurious rhymes in Irish are lost in English, his similes (‘The back of the car’ ‘watertight as a fish’s arse’) and kennings (‘sky-horse’, meaning plane) maintain a resilient life even in translation. Some images are plainly original. Others are held up by mythology, as in ‘The Pangs of Ulster’ and ‘Heredity’. De Paor’s poems remind me of what Bernard O’Donoghue and Chris Wallace-Crabbe said, respectively, of Seamus Heaney’s poetry-steeped in ‘northern Bog-myths’, ‘notably muddy’. This is a remarkable world of rain and birth, fetches and the supra-natural, marsh and sinking. But in this book, his third collection, de Paor’s startling, terse narratives have ‘sweetened the underground dark’ of family, love and homecoming. The language is fluid and urgent, exemplified in ‘Oisn’ and ‘Nanbird’. While he considers the particular through the lens of myth, his true ground is the specific, the faith in individual comprehension, where, when I ‘set foot on the ground / I [see] my reflection / brought down to size.’

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This is not another ‘slim volume’ of poetry; no way would it fit in a coat pocket. Ten years in the writing, weighing in at 740 pages, it is a brick of a book – well-bound paperback, heavy covers, designed to last. The poet had full say over not only the content, but the design, typesetting and production, resulting in a book unlike any produced under the nervous economic dictates of mainstream publishers. Six turned this manuscript down. Unsurprised, p.O. published it himself.

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The Fitzroy Poems by Π.Ο. & Night flowers by Thalía

August 1989, no. 113

Con the Fruiterer bears the same relation to Australia’s Greek community as the Melbourne Moomba procession does the Eight-Hour Day. Doubtless, there are Hellenic-Australians who relish the performance of whatever WASP funny-man plays him; some Australians are known to approve lovingly of Sir Les Patterson, but at least Barry Humphries always belongs to the nationality he portrays. What really propels Con is that Aussies feel he talks (and therefore thinks and probably acts) funny. It’s all an Edwardian ‘Coon Show’, with Mr Bones and Mr Interlocutor, 1980s style. The kind of society which tolerates this phenomenon with yawn-inspiring regularity (and terms it comedy) might be the subject for any number of sociology essays. Let’s hope that poets never attain the status of Con and his kind, though it’s a fair bet that poets find people far funnier than any comedian.

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