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home more or less / Paul Casey

home more or less

By: Paul Casey

Paul Casey is a truly international poet whose work is informed by languages from Irish and French to those of Africa, and his experiences of that continent enormously enrich this book. His creatively homeless imagination enables him to respond to his themes innovatively and with great formal variety; beyond that, a linguist's ear, his sharp mind and wide-open heart make 'home more o...
ISBN 978-1-908836-09-0
Pub Date Thursday, May 24, 2012
Cover Image Brían Crotty © 2011
Page Count 80
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Paul Casey is a truly international poet whose work is informed by languages from Irish and French to those of Africa, and his experiences of that continent enormously enrich this book. His creatively homeless imagination enables him to respond to his themes innovatively and with great formal variety; beyond that, a linguist's ear, his sharp mind and wide-open heart make 'home more or less' a collection that truly merits international attention.’   Ian Duhig

‘The ‘more or less’ in Casey’s title beautifully captures the collection’s absorbing exploration of a variety of homes - on different continents, in different linguistic forms, and in different degrees of being, from the tenuously held sense of home, to alienation and homelessness. These poems sensitise the reader to the permeable boundaries around all places, which here flow into one another with powerful implications.’   Leanne O’Sullivan

‘This book is much concerned with origins. It is fitting that the collection’s presiding spirit is the salmon. For Casey wanders extensively, both literally and figuratively, in space and in time, to find at each journey’s conclusion only the road back home again.  On his travels he honours not only his family’s history and the foundation of his native city but also the African origins of homo sapiens itself.  The art of poetry, too, is persistently revered; as a source or spring of psychic nourishment, one important in these info-times both for Ireland and the world. This, then, is a first collection of unusual breadth, maturity and flair. Its publication marks the emergence of an urgent new voice in Irish poetry, one fiercely original in all senses of the word.’   Billy Ramsell 

Like William Bulfin who rambled through Erin or Dr. Praeger who catalogued our strange ways, Paul Casey has that commanding combination of natural talent and terrific field-skills. In home more or less Casey has made the long journey from parched earth to writing under constant Irish rain. He has discovered that green colour so dangerous to wear, the colour of poems. Attended by the ghosts of Afrikaans, with African memories like the afterglow of stinging nettles, he has created an entire world out of a new myth-kitty of far-way and Irish material. In a poetry where the mountain Gods end their tears, he has created a new, sea-drenched climate for the soul. Here, in work as serious as ‘African Grey’ or ‘I haven’t disappeared,’ and work as lyrical as ‘The Boru Harp’ and ‘The Speed of Cat’s Eyes’ he creates an entire music of dis-placement and home-coming. The sense of exile and arrival are at the modernist centre of his aesthetic; it is a much-travelled poet, a Celtic harpist and African wanderer, who peers through the new door of poetry to see such wonders as this:

A Munster eagle rises from the dead.
Its golden eye draws tight the quiet valleys
and echo-restless mountains, re-covers
a palimpsest of land wars with wilderness.

Soundless falls the blade of extinction.

Here is a poet, and a new poetry, to treasure and read. Let this new collection be your constant companion.

Thomas McCarthy

Paul Casey

Paul Casey’s début collection is home more or less (Salmon Poetry, 2012). A chapbook of longer poems, It’s Not all Bad, appeared from The Heaventree Press in 2009. He has published poems in journals and anthologies in Ireland, the US, China, Romania, South Africa and online. Aside from writing poetry he is a multimedia artist, teacher, events director, editor, occasional filmmaker and poet in residence each May for Carechoice, a group of elderly homes in county Cork. He also edits the annual Unfinished Book of Poetry, verse written by secondary school students in Cork city and runs multimedia and creative writing courses for adults at the Cork College of Commerce. He is the founder/director of the non-for-profit poetry organisation, Ó Bhéal.

Author photograph by Andy Ferreira


I was all bog and bits of islands,
my bird-heavy mane of reed
a river of lyrical russet,
a Celtic hunter slowing his currach
to the heartbeat of a wayward doe.

I grew wooden bridges and jetties,
ramparts and towers, cupped huts
and dirt roads. Smoke rose nightly
from the duels of swords and harps.

I sank heavier with merchants and markets,
cobblestones, cannons, kept alehouses then.
Top hats and summer umbrellas tilted
to soldiers and carriages. Oil street-
lamps lit stocks and paupers.
Men and metal stitched me whole.

Now I sleep with buses and pipes,
pylons and beggars reflected thrice in glass.
Mobile phones and mini-skirts flirt my name
while coffee-shop buskers point tourists to pavement art.

What will I not endure?

The Speed of Cat’s Eyes

His eco-ship purrs silver-smooth 
past shores of bastard-amber stars,
chases the veined twist of tail-lights,
long spaces poised for sudden red.

Earth’s skin, spinning culture
at past the speed of sound 
around its centre, skims the sun 
many thousand miles per hour more.

He turns up his thoughts in stereo –
lick the cream from these lips honey –
sees movement from the passenger seat,
a reason to steer with his knees.

He stirs honey into chamomile,
skins up, scribbles a quatrain ending – 
no hands, see? Her mirage smile,
her eyes that flicker. Her invisible fur.

Puzzle Invocation

“It would puzzle a monkey to climb that.”

Here’s hope for you seedling
as puzzles stretch into the air.

Pointes without question pry                 
spirals splay in the naked sun.

Come. Bonsai with me, Andean
behind this wall of glass

into a life of sculptured spaces
we’ll shape ourselves in shades of day

and deep in this forest of next
this breeze of silent words

you’ll teach me of slow motion
of a speck in the desert that waits for a single day

of cracks in Burren waterways
pollen lost in their vascular limestone

Weave me a puzzle Araucaria Araucana
answers must flower by summer

Copyright © Paul Casey 2012
Review: home more or less reviewed by Dave Lordan for Southword (Munster Literature Centre)

home more or less

The present is undoubtedly a period of transition and of transformation in Irish poetry, one in which the meaning of the very term "Irish poetry" is being opened up, interrogated, changed and expanded by those who practice poetry in Ireland. In fact, things are changing so much that the term "Irish poetry" simply fails to account for the range and variety of contemporary practices here. Experimentalists may argue that this has been the case throughout the 20th century, at least, and it is true that many marginal and avant-garde practitioners have preferred to place themselves globally. But this was in parallel to, and often in reaction to, a mainstream which was overwhelmingly dominated by poets and poems which clothed and rooted themselves in versions of Irishness, and never shut up about it. These days, however, who can really claim that Ireland is anything more than the name of a convenient accounting trick? Who can tell what the mainstream of Irish poetry is nowadays? Poems using ancient Celtic myths, or political myths concerning modern day Ireland as their ur-text, certainly don’t count for what they used to. These kind of poems published by poets of our generation often seem way past their sell-by date, and (given that the main challenges for artists in any discipline remain making it now and making it new) sadly lacking in contemporary nous and artistic ambition.
It’s the condition of wandering exile which gives rise, perhaps, to the most understandable attachment to mythologies. Cast away from the land of our birth we may need the sustaining lie of the motherland to keep us on our feet. There are many poems in which a mythical Africa and a mythical Ireland and even a mythical Cork are well couched and beautifully presented in Paul Casey’s home more or less. But I was much more impressed with the poems which eschewed cultural signposting, such as the mysterious and novelistic 'Return', or poems which offered an invigorating cut-up of the source material such as 'Imbas', 'Spell of Rest', and 'Puzzle Invocation'. These I found intriguing, memorable, original.
One of the most interesting recent developments in poetry in this jurisdiction is the emergence of a multicultural and multilingual poetic in place of the centuries’ deep bilingual one, a process gestured to by the recent Landing Places anthology of immigrant poetry, and confirmed here by Paul Casey. Although it talks a lot about national identities and relies to a certain extent on mist-shrouded national mythologies, home more or less, at its most mongrelly innovative, can be read as undermining the attempt to place art according to political geographies or "linguistic communities". home more or less contains poems entirely or partially in the languages of English, Gaelic, Afrikaans and Zulu. Is an Afrikaans or a Zulu poem an Irish one?
The question may seem absurd until we remember the absurd fact that most poems we call Irish are written in the othertongue of English anyway. In any case a piece of art is never absurd until we approach it with our own absurdity. An attempt to place a poem in a category in which it patently does not belong is absurd and generates absurdity, misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and misleadingness. The best art resists and refutes attempts to claim it for any labelling prerogative. Our artistic practice should be the means by which we individually unlabel ourselves and shed all the imposed and mispronouncing layers of nation, myth, religion... The collection’s stand-out poem 'Learning Afrikaans in the SADF' brilliantly personalises and dramatises this confrontation between the free and uncategorisable and the old and diabolical machinery of labelling and exploitation:
‘Sorry sir, I don’t speak Afrikaans’, I managed
and what replied was my introduction
to the classified, sonic weaponry
the inmost algorithms of apartheid’s armature.
Haai pasop roef! Jaa nie fock nie boetie ... Jy!
jy’s net nog ‘n fokken dom rooineck nê?
nou draai daardie wit mosdop op
jou kop jou klein poes bliksom se doos!
The refusal to be a good Afrikaner, a good racist, a good killer, literally drives the drill Sergeant insane:
Eruptions of spew and
fury jowl-contorted sounds
half-formed hieroglyphs....
I hear an echo of the conventional critic/anthologiser railing against the brazen and unsummarisable variousness of our poetic present, losing their angry mind because we refuse to a make sense to them in the way they might wish to knock the damned sense right out of us.

© 2013 Dave Lordan

Dave Lordan was born in Derby, England, in 1975, and grew up in Clonakilty in West Cork. In 2004 he was awarded an Arts Council bursary and in 2005 he won the Patrick Kavanagh Award for Poetry. His collections are The Boy in the Ring (Cliffs of Moher, Salmon Poetry, 2007), which won the Strong Award for best first collection by an Irish writer and was shortlisted for the Irish Times poetry prize; and Invitation to a Sacrifice (Salmon Poetry, 2010). Eigse Riada theatre company produced his first play, Jo Bangles, at the Mill Theatre, Dundrum in 2010. He has lived in Holland, Greece and Italy, and now resides in Greystones, Co Wicklow.  His third collection of poetry, we are not falling, we are being thrown, will be published by Salmon later this year.

Review: home more or less reviewed by Thomas McCarthy for The Examiner, Saturday April 13th, 2013

"New collections of poetry from Afric McGlinchey and Paul Casey."

Here are two new collections by poets of the Irish diaspora, two writers of Irish parentage who returned to Ireland with a different story to tell. 

Both are out of Africa, with McGlinchey following the star of Sadalachbia, the harbinger of an African spring, and Casey homeward-bound with Afrikaans as well as Munster Irish in his vocabulary. Their presence is enriching and melodic: they carry rhythms of affection that is continental in its humanity, inclusive, and multi-cultural...

...Sensuous too, Paul Casey learned his Afrikaans courtesy of the SADF: ‘Haai pasop roef! He responds 

‘Like sub-Saharan thorns translation skills mutate and still their flowers must dilate. 

He coped with the expected harshness of South Africa, and ended up teaching scriptwriting at Nelson Mandela University. Mindful of the Zulu proverb that poetry sits still while hunger is a wanderer, he hungered after another language, and as if to prove that the hunger of wandering is settled, he has written a poem for Alan Titley: 

Cathain a bheith tú ag teach ar ais?tá said ag monabharcad é sin i ríocht na ndaoine?tá fhios again...’ 

Casey is more political than McGlinchey, and therefore more disturbed culturally. His naming of names or pointing at milestones, from Kavanagh’s bench to the reworking of a Douglas Hyde translation, looks like part of a sophisticated effort to find a landing-place with enough flat grass to allow a descent. 

With his mixture of humour, robust language and neurasthenic wandering, he is a serious talent; a man to demand attention. He might be addressing us all with these words: 

‘There you are little sister an Irish mist about your cheek.'
Reviewed alongside Afric McGlinchey's The Lucky Star of Hidden Things.

Interview: Paul Casey interviewed for Diogen: pro culture magazine (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina). 
Click HERE to read the interview

Other Titles from Paul Casey

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