Reviewed by Grace Wells for The Stinging Fly, Winter 2009-2010
escapes John Corless's wry wit, his derisive eye and his urge to shake
things up to make the world a better place. Corless's success is
challenged by the fact poetry and humour can make for uncomfortable
bedfellows. Poetry thinks wit pulls her toward stand-up comedy, she
blushes at its vulgarity trying to make everything nice again, wit's a
little too insistent that it really is
she feels deeply you're not supposed to laugh when you're doing this,
wit wishes she'd lighten up. They banter back and forth only
occasionally forgetting themselves to create the kind of unions that
make writers attempt to marry them in the first place... The ultimate
danger of amusing poetry is that it can have a kind of firework-display
effect, one pop and you really can't go back to it again. What makes
Corless overcome this is the fact he's a very fine straight poet. There
are a good number of strong poems here, and 'Abandoned Railway,' an
emigration poem through now-defunct, Western-seaboard train stations,
Review Bill Greenwell on his Bill Posters blog
The first of two days on publications from Ireland's Salmon Poetry. First up, John Corless, who is the kind of man next to whom you wouldn't wish to be sitting if you were trying to balance something precious on your nose, or hoping to concentrate on your navel. He is funny, cubed, and like many of his compatriots, as droll as you might hope to find. I spent seven consecutive breakfasts with him one week, and starting the day off with a dose of laughter is better than prunes any day. So I admit to warming to his poems after just seeing his name emblazoned on the cover. I may have the advantage on you.
Are You Ready? , his debut, establishes itself with an impious, impish dedication: 'To the people who refuse to lie under the juggernaut of depression sweeping Ireland. To the rest: read on and cheer up.' Its forty-six poems suffer fools gladly, welcome them in, even, whether they are feckless husbands, besotted priests, Irish bureaucrats, or those who long to own their own chip-shops. The put-upon women of Ireland are best represented by the speaker of 'And Another Thing' who insists
leave the mortorbike in the hall,/don't try bringing it upstairs again,/the smell of petrol/ gives me a headache
and by the husband in the title poem who asks if you're ready to admit that
you made the mistake/ of putting your only white shirt/ into the washing machine/ along with the lawnmower
Another wife regrets the moment she missed her chance to bail out when, on her wedding day, she is picked up by a white Mercedes with a suspicious history:
Inside, where there should be champagne/ and flowers,/ a half-bag of calf nuts,/ jump leads and a drum of diesel
I wouldn't want to give the impression that the poems here are one torrent of gags after another: there are quiet poems about solitary lives, perhaps best epitomised by the bitter-sweet elegy 'Going Through Your Things', which jumps straight in:
We found them in the strangest places -/ blue twenty-pound notes -/ in cups on the dresser,/ in westerns with big print,/ and a bundle in the freezer./ Fifty-two of them; stashed carefully/ just in case we needed anything.
And I won't spoil it for you by quoting the best two poems. The first is couched as a letter from a hospital to possible cancer sufferers who might or might not have had a test, and might or might not want to know that the results might or might not have been correct. the other one is the last poem, in which a congregation is discovered at mass, thinking not of the holy rites, but of the bargain hairdryers in Aldi's imminent sale, except to say that it contains a brilliant touch in which the bald priest's words are said to go 'over the heads of the congregation'. I laughed out loud the first time I saw this poem, and I laughed aloud when I read it again, and I laughed aloud when I looked at it again just now.
This is a great collection - 12 very bargain euros. Invest early for Christmas.
Review in The Western People, 23rd June 2009
If you only buy one book this year, make sure it's Are you ready? - a satirical and humorous collection of poetry by the one-and-only John Corless.
The Claremorris man who also writes drama and fiction and teaches creative writing in GMIT, has just launched his debut collection and his poems are certainly far removed from those we learned at school.
John's poetry is a mix of political, satirical, ecclesiastical and rural and has been described as Paul Durcan meets The Sawdoctors. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University (2008) and is currently researching a PhD. John's work has been published in magazines and collections worldwide... mind you, some of his poems have been referred to the Attorney General for approval!
Are you ready? contains a total of 46 poems, some just a few lines long and some that go on for pages. But, lest one would think that John's poems are like those by another author, rest assured that you definitely won't be bored reading this book. Side-splitting humour and tongue-in-cheek commentary are synonymous with John's poetry. And, when it comes to putting pen to paper, John clearly doesn't hold backk.
On Friday night in Claremorris, John had a packed audience falling off their seats with laughter as he read from his book for the formal launch. Are you ready? is a fantastic collection of poetry by the Claremorris man but, be warned, it may not be everybody's cup of tea!