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Curse of The Birds

Noel Monahan


Page Count:

Publication Date: Monday, May 01, 2000

Cover Artwork: Austin Carey. Design by Brenda Dermody

About this Book

Curse of The Birds evokes a world of myth and dark energies. The flight of the soul in each of the four sections is unsettling. Ghosts abound in a bleak fragmented landscape. Curse of The Birds is a quarrel from within, wrestling with loneliness and uncertainty. It is elegiac, mischievously humorous and satirical. Noel Monahan speaks with compassion about and for the voiceless people whose ghosts haunt him. 

Author Biography

Noel Monahan has won several awards for his work. In 2001 he won the prestigious SeaCat National Poetry Award, organised by Poetry Ireland. Also in 2001 he won the RTE, P.J. O'Connor Award, for his play, Broken Cups. In 2002 he won the ASTI Achievements Award for his contribution to literature at home and abroad. Other awards include The Allingham Poetry Award and The Kilkenny Prize for Poetry.  Noel Monahan's work has appeared in The Irish Times, The Sunday Tribune, Books Ireland, Poetry Australia, Paterson LIterary Review, USA and many more outlets. His collections of poetry include Opposite Walls (Salmon, 1991), Snowfire (Salmon, 1995) and The Funeral Game (Salmon 2002) He is co-editor of Windows Publications and has published five Authors & Artists Introduction Series. His plays include Half A Vegetable, a dramatic presentation of Patrick Kavanagh's poetry, A Proverbial Wet Summer, and Feathers of Time. His poetry has been translated into Italian, Romanian and French and he has read his work at numerous summer schools and poetry festivals throughout Ireland. His poetry has appeared in many anthologies, most recently texts for Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate English. The Funeral Game is Noel Monahan's fourth collection of poetry. Opposite Walls was published in 1991, Snowfire in 1995, and Curse of The Birds in 2001, all published by Salmon Poetry.

Read a sample from this book

Curse of The Birds

The boy who robbed the nest,
Ate the swallow's eggs,
Is plucking

Devil's-bit by night
Down in the wetlands
On his knees,

Beak to the ground,
Curls stretching into feathers,
The moon is hatching in his head.
The Corlea Road

After a long silence
The bog heaved, delivered a road,
So we could see ourselves
In a dark mirror.

I've been sleep-walking
On The Corlea Road,
Listening to iron feet
Trod the night,
Watching young girls stretch their legs
To paint their toe nails.

That grey bearded fellow
With his chin on his knees
Is a story-teller. He believes
The Corlea Road is a highway cover-up
For Midir's mad love for Etain.

Others say the road was never walked,
It's just there between places
For nightmares and dreams.

A road to be abroad on,
In a Ringdong Bog,
Where corduroy lines await music,
Birch lights pole the dark,
Black sleepers stave the clatter of wheels.
Dream road, wooden road,
A road raised up to the light
That will talk,
If you give it time to speak.

They were all peering
At me in Abbeyshrule,
Little tonsured men
Down at the bridge, up the trees,
Behind headstones, gates and gables.

And they inveigled me
Down to the ruins
Of the abbey by the stream,
Leaving the everyday words for Latin.

When I sang
Stabat Mater Dolorosa
Before an altar of nettles,
Blackbirds and starlings
Flew from the vestry.

Back in the local
I drank Guinness,
Told them the village was alive
With the ghosts of dead monks.

(Copyright Noel Monahan 2000. All Rights Reserved.)


Review by Maurice Harmon in the Autumn 2000 issue of Poetry Ireland Review, edited by Biddy Jenkinson

Noel Monahan is a capable poet who shapes his poems with skill, liking the well-made look (even lines, spare language, concrete images) and this suits him. When he works in a looser form -- with lines of uneven length and a free verse form -- the effect is less satisfying and the poems have an unfinished quality.  He has a lively, buoyant personality, a fresh adventurous imagination and delights in verbal dexterity. His fine poetic intelligence is sometimes indebted to that able craftsman, Austin Clarke, particularly in the word-play. Some poems have the freshness of folk tales, the magic of myth and legend. The unexpected is a cause of delight. Monahan's poems take place in a sunlit imagination where the blacker side of life, although not absent, is not allowed to darken the material. They are delightful poems, entertaining, high-spirited, with their feet on the ground of the familiar even when they deal with the marvelous and the invisible.

'The Dance' takes place in a real place, a dance-hall in Granard, but the normality of the night is disturbed by the dancer from 'nowhere'.

          Long-haired. Dark skinned.
          A gleam in his eye.
          He was in such demand.

His erection is something else. When a partner fainted, 'Hysteria broke loose' and the man from God knows where exits through the floor in 'flames and smoke'. The result is as one might expect -- fathers 'up in arms', shut-down, gossip, wild stories of orgies, naked women, some sex-mad.

Monahan has a relaxed touch: exact without being uptight. When he creates a picture, the means are few and simple, as in 'The Swallow's Nest'.

          Almost April,
          Each mud-eye
          Is a word of mouth
          Calling them back
          To patch the wall
          In the half-way house.

It is hardly surprising that he writes 'Drumlin Haiku'.

          Rosary of hills
          Chained to the cold religion
          Of the ice goddess.

The mythological poems are light and magical; they dazzle the mind and have a comic touch, as in 'Abbeyshrule'.

          They were all peering
          At me in Abbeyshrule,
          Little tonsured men
          Down at the bridge, up the trees,
          Behind headstones, gates and gables.

          When I sang
          Stabat Mater Dolorosa
          Before an altar of nettles,
          Blackbirds and starlings
          Flew from the vestry.

There are lovely poems in Part III, such as 'The Haymaker', 'The Nuns' Graveyard' and 'Donnelly's Bus'. One hardly expects so much pleasure in a small collection.

(Copyright: Poetry Ireland Review, 2000)

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