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Bearings
October 2015


Green

Patrick Moran

ISBN: 978-1-903392-95-9

Page Count: 64

Publication Date: Thursday, October 02, 2008

Cover Artwork: 'Summer background' © Orientaly | Dreamstime.com


About this Book

Green, Patrick Moran's second collection of poetry, shows a poet trying to reconcile his rural heritage with an Ireland in the process of transition. In doing so, these carefully wraught poems explore the implications of leaving: the parting from loved ones; what is left to us; and the scraps we are left with. The title poem, Green, with its elegiac blend of wonder and loss, strikes a characteristic note. As he comes to terms with changing landscapes and thwarted dreams, the poet concludes: "It's all in the harvesting". Yet, even in the face of transcience, Moran is ultimately positive. In Autumn, for example, he can still hear birds chirping in his "inner hedges". And, as another spring dawns, he prays for the grace to "go with the flow".

Patrick Moran's first collection was widely praised. Southword noted the poet's "fine eye for the banal, for seemingly subtle shifts that can have huge implications"; while Poetry Ireland Review lauded "a very well-crafted body of work, poetry that is always lyrical and on occasion truly startling".


Author Biography

Patrick Moran was born in Templetuohy, County Tipperary, where he still lives. He works as a teacher. His poems have been widely published. A winner of the Gerard Manley Hopkins Poetry Prize, he has also been shortlisted for the Hennessy / Sunday Tribune poetry award. His work is featured in anthologies, including the inaugural Forward anthology. His first collection, The Stubble Fields, was published in 2001.


Read a sample from this book

At Midlife

Don't think of me as just a road
wearing out in traffic;

or a plot thickening with crosses;
or a clear spring clouding.

Think of me as green still pressing
through a well-trimmed hedge;

think of a current persisting
down to the river bed.


Copyright © Patrick Moran 2008


Reviews

Review: Green reviewed by S.J. Holloway for Orbis 151 Spring 2010

... [Green] is wonderful, literally; it is full of wonder, not only in the sense in which he sees the world around him but also in the economy and precision of the work. Every word, punctuation mark and space adds to it, instilling clarity and meaning. Anything more would be less; anything less would leave the reader wanting or waiting.

In Green, Moran moves away from the gritty, almost aggressive stance of his earlier work and becomes reflective. Though his subject matter is still Ireland and the changing scenes of rural, smal-town life (he is from Tipperary), he is equally interested in how rural Ireland has been represented by past writers: Heaney, of course, and notably Patrick Kavanagh ("At Inniskeen"). Yet he senses change, using words never far from eulogistic but never too near (unlike much of Kavanagh's work), eg 'Gleanings':

Do not mourn free-ranging
hedges, nor wince
at these unsheltered ways.

Just follow in the wake
of the flailing,
trimming blades: humbly,

like a gleaner.

It's pastoral without being Pastoral; his themes are not the land or the country but the locale; the passage of time; death and belonging; accents of existence and acceptance. We cannot change our environment, or stop it changing, he says, but we can at least notice it as we pass by: stop and wait awhile; feel ourselves in it. And whilst discussing loss and loneliness, this is not mournful, not even about death. It acknowledges too the role and process of the poet, the limits of language and expression: 'still fretting / about how deep I've gone, how far; // still wondering how my lines are faring'. ('Angler')

There are politics, of course, but Moran's politics are personal. The closing of a local asylum; the size and stature of a Priest's house; closing time at the pub, all are considered firstly in terms of community: the darkness which is used as cover to commit suicide is 'meadow-ripened' ('Splash'); the personal reaction to Yeats's invective in 'Scruples': if any words of mine / could make these knowing countrymen / even pause in dispensing fungicides'.

Yet it is in this personal, private domain that Moran's words reverberate most strongly. Poems on the church and death, and their accompanying rituals, allow the reader to hear his uncertainties, connection and separation; disturbances which force new reflections and resonances: 'Bloom', in memory of his mother:

Homing behind Keane's veteran Ford, I thought
of his decaying farm - the roofless sheds;
the empty byre; the yard gone wild with weeds -
till all that you had meant to me gushed out.

The poems in Green show a poet in full mastery of his craft, and, crucially, one who is never certain of it: 'I listen for echoes, / sift the scattered clues' ('Hereabouts'). He is not detached, observing from a position of exclusion, like Oxley, but engaged in his land: is part of it; knows it. That's how he can concern himself with ancient themes of the cycles of life, human, animal and plant, and finish a poem like 'Haymaking' with these lines:

And, somewhere, in the snug harvest barns,
there's a helpless coming into heat;
and smouldering, and must.

Quite simply, this is the finest poetry collection I've read in 20 years. As another reviewer says, the poetry 'leaves the reader with the desire to pause, put the book down and stay with it a little longer.'' For this reader, there is no higher praise.




Review: "The missing steering wheel
", The Galway Advertiser, February 12, 2009.
By Kevin Higgins

PATRICK MORAN grew up in Templetuohy, Co Tipperary, where he still lives. In poem after poem in his new collection Green (Salmon Poetry) he brings absolutely to life the vanished world of small town and rural Ireland.

This was a time before we joined the EU and our recently deceased Tiger was born. Moran does not condemn the past, but neither does he sentimentalise it. In 'Relics' he chronicles the closing of a local asylum, introducing us to those last few who resided there: "Joe Flynn - a cigarette smouldering in his lips-/recalling the times Jesus appeared to him:/bearded, his sandals squeaky on the lino." Moran's details are always perfect.

'At Iniskeen' is a fine poem in memory of Patrick Kavanagh, one of the giants on whose shoulders Moran stands. However, Moran is a far more considered and precise poet than Kavanagh was much of time. He has none of the self-pity and self-indulgence which mars much of Kavanagh's work, with the dazzling exceptions of those few gem poems from which we could all quote lines.

My favourite poem in this collection is 'London Irish' which chronicles the lives of those who fled the small Ireland of the 1950s for Kilburn and Cricklewood: "They recall merry gatherings;/the women sparked in dreamy flats;/mornings they felt like mattress springs/Now, as the closing credits roll,/a toothless drunk brags that the car/he calls home is perfect but for/cracked glass, the missing steering wheel."



Review by Val Nolan, Poetry Ireland Review
Issue 98, July 2009

Tipperary's Patrick Moran ... diligently grounds himself in the familiar.  Green, his second collection, opens with a statement of intent where the poet challenges himself to accomplish things the hard way. He wonders if he 'should have lived / like all the others who just set a time-clock / or flick a switch to summon heat'; and, while the query and response structure of the poem leads to a somewhat predictable result ('if I'd done that, what would I have known / about fire's  glow and afterglow'), it does demonstrate that, for Moran, process is part and parcel of result.

Yet the poet never allows blind dedication to tradition to limit his gaze, and the strongest poems in Green document the collision of the past and present - that interface we consciously ignore, 'where rumbling earthmovers / transform the little fields'. Here Moran finds - if not exactly something new - a suitable subject for his nuanced eye. More often than not this takes the form of 'antipathy between my art and life,' the struggle between the worlds of erudition and popular culture, neither of which exists satisfactorily on its own. A night spent 'absorbing Nietzsche's Weltanschauung' leads to nothing but 'pent-up, tongue-tied lust', while on the other hand Jimi Hendrix's talent and charisma culminates in 'a drugs overdose / in some girl's rented flat'. The arrangement of the collection itself further emphasises the stupidity of sundering the intellectual from the entertaining, and the Hendrix poem, linguistically staid as though its subject strayed too far from Moran's 'potholed boreen', is directly preceded by 'Words for Philip Larkin', a much more successful admonishment of  the single-interest individual:

Behold me now: bald, heavy-jowled;
wearing thick glasses, hearing aids.
My monkish personality
has failed the elemental world:
I have no stake, no wife, no kids.
At this stage, what is left for me?

'Botched imaginings,' perhaps, but little else. It is a harsh lyric, which some scribblers may find too close to the bone, but  certainly it is honest. So too are the poet's efforts at rebuking Yeats's mortifying narcissism: 'Imagine fretting that a play you wrote / send out some men the English shot?' he asks from a twenty-first century Ireland which, to borrow a phrase, has changed utterly. Only with embarrassment can he admit his own desire to sway the hearts of 'knowing countrymen' and cause them to 'spare one hedgerow from their blades', a revelation which deliciously complicates an otherwise straightforward squib.

'At Inniskeen', a piece in memory of Patrick Kavanagh, is even more intriguing: 'Where are they now, the ripening girls / you coveted at dances?' Where, Moran wonders, are the priests, the old women, and the legendary footballers? All of them are gone and yet Kavanagh remains, a whole community 'risen from your pen'. 'At Inniskeen' is a nostalgic poem to be sure, but, as with  many of the pieces here, Moran's elegiac blend of loss and wonder is motivated more by how Ireland has been portrayed by writers in the past than by the passing of these  departed wordsmith's lifestyles.

Throughout Green, the poet eulogises not just the 'blazing sods' and 'grazing for hay' of rural Ireland; he bemoans the overwriting of that milieu. It is telling, so, that m any of the poems here revolve around the rituals of death. Moran does not know what's next for small-town ireland, but that  confusion is his greatest resource; it forces him to scrutinise the end of everything he knows and he responds, often beautifully though simply, with a poetry of curates, candles and contrition. Eluded by the future, or at least by the language necessary to articulate it, Moran moves metaphorically into the 'century-old mansion' of the parish priest's house and takes it on himself to grimly officiate at the interment of an older Ireland. 'Were these the pieties we clutched?' he asks, 'So absolute. So long ago.' Poems such as 'Wake', 'Removal of Remains', and 'November' all explore the 'gatherings and scatterings' of Irish funerary customs, but it is the Cathleen N Houlihan figure of 'Her Dying' - notwithstanding its clear familial origins - which best enunciates the decline of rural communities and the uselessness of old allegories in the modern age:

Her finger-joints had gone arthritic, gnarled.
Dribbling there, staring into vacancy,
she wilted under a regimen of pills
that barely eased her pain, her disarray.



Review: Jennifer Matthews for Southword - New Writing from Ireland
(December 2009)

Moran is a poet who is clear on his concerns. Traditional Ireland is disappearing. 'Sometimes, I wonder if I should have lived/ like others .... not have to fret over damp turf or kindling'. Spiritual life is part of this disappearing act, 'Were these the pieties we clutched?/ So absolute. So long ago.' Then there is a pervasive loneliness - societal and personal. This loneliness is a grey sky that looms over both of his collections, The Stubble Fields (Dedalus, 2001) and the newly published Green (Salmon, 2009).

          The consistency in his themes is commendable rather than limiting. They span both collections in an attempt to come to a deeper understanding of change and loss. Moran's poetry itself is an ancestor to Patrick Kavanagh: words are simple and economical, the Irish landscape and its people are inseparable, verses are tidy and controlled. The voice is often narrative, rarely slipping into allusion, surrealism or anything outside of the everyday world. His poem, 'At Inniskeen', is in memoriam of Kavanagh, nicely acknowledging but not derivative of the author. Kavangah's creative legacy is longed for - 'That farmer foddering there... might be your creation.'  The poem also hopes (prays?) that Irish tradition can be preserved through verse.

          Death is a preoccupation in Green. There are a handful of poems in the book that are portraits of isolated souls: a district nurse, Philip Larkin, a suicide, a rural bachelor, Jimi Hendrix.  Regret, disillusionment and missed opportunities are found in nearly every one.  Although appropriate for pieces about regret, the rhetorical questions of 'Splash' and 'Words for Philip Larkin' are less engaging with the imagination than the excellent images used to convey the life of his 'Bachelor'.  Particularly moving is his description of the man's house:

 

          Then home by narrow roads,
entering the yard to find
every window lightless.

          The ashes piling up.
          A lone mug. Scraps and crumbs.
          The clock ticking, ticking.

          As death comes for humans in Green, decay has come for the land. Like many of his contemporaries, environmental change is a concern for Moran.  What's interesting is that he approaches the issue as someone who prefers a traditional life close to the land, rather than claiming a new age moral superiority.  'It's not that I'm so engagé/ that I'd keep vigil in crude shelters, or/ chain myself to an at-risk tree.' This approach is disarming and accessible, and would influence an audience more easily than a superior, earth-child persona. They are, however, largely rhetorical. Consider 'Away': 'Like what a child/ ....couldn't help saying:/ Don't ever throw/ anything away / there is no away.' A good line, but it doesn't stick in my belly like the images from his last collection. For example, 'Stubble Fields, After Spraying': 'all those beseeching shoots and blades:/ a congregation of bowed heads.'

          Although I prefer the gritty, moving images of The Stubble Fields over the more philosophical Green, there is an interesting new progression in his latest collection: a group of haiku-like poems which are lean and simple, with carefully controlled twists of perception at the end. Take 'Autumn' for example:

Would it sink so deeply
this leaflessness, this shroud of fog;
these stagnant pools, these ruts

if birds did not still chirp
in my inner hedges, nor shoots
keep breaking through my clay?

The themes that Moran is concerned with are all involved: loss, loneliness and even hope, but deployed in clean, meditative strokes. The poem leaves the reader with the desire to pause, put the book down and stay with it a little longer.

© 2009 Jennifer Matthews

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