Review by Paul Perry, The Irish Times, Saturday 28th March 2009
ALAN JUDE MOORE is a young poet from Dublin whose experience of living in Moscow provides the subject matter for his award-winning first collection, Black State Cars, and for this, his second collection, Lost Republics. The social aftermath of the Soviet era is the collection's thematic undercurrent and it is captured with pathos and lyrical detachment. In Fine Art (at the Pushkin Museum), "swastikas on the street" are contrasted with "one of Degas' dancers" adjusting "the strap across her shoulder blade".
There's an attractive understated, sometimes aphoristic, quality to Moore's poems where the first person is backgrounded to the observational keenness of the speaker, where "familiar bodies fade into each other" "and lovers strip each other to the bone". In Snow Trucks , "the sound" of snow "makes you feel/ like you are following yourself". Time passes in a languorous fashion, "fires are burning somewhere in the flat;/ we are waiting for the station to take us in".
A political undercurrent is always simmering, and when it is aligned with longing, Moore enacts a kind of magic: "remember to melt down your ring for me;/ let all our promises be one last bullet" (Zapad). Paradoxically, it's not the exoticism of Lost Republics which appeals so much, but its familiarity. An accomplished and intriguing book.
Review by Billy Ramsell, The Stinging Fly, Issue 12 / volume two, Spring 2009
"Alan Jude Moore's generation, on the other hand, is one that has enjoyed an altogether more positive experience of migration. For them the term 'Ryanair' conjures up not teary farewells in Dublin Airport but cheap, boozy weekends in Prague and is shorthand for Irish capitalism at its most dazzlingly expansive and aggressive. Moore voluntarily left behind the land of his birth, spending much of the decade in Moscow, before returning to Ireland in 2006. The atmosphere of the great Russian capital infuses Lost Republics and provides the setting for the majority of its most effective poems.
This superb second collection finds Moore's distinctive voice, established in 2004's Black State Cars, resonating with a new clarity and confidence. Influenced by the neo-modernist tendency but not necessarily of it, Moore avoids the languid, lyrical tonalities striven for and sometimes reached by the majority of his contemporaries. Yet his work could by no means be described as prosaic. His is a robust, sinewy music that once adjusted to has a strangely entrancing charm. Take the following extract from 'Sukharevskaya':
In the bosom of the Empire, learn to clap your hands
like the beauty queens with sunken chests
from a town outside Chernobyl,
who stare at the moon, waiting to be drawn
like the tides along a pavement.
Many of the most powerful things here are oddly cinematic in nature. 'Alphaville' pans from the backrooms of Moscow billiard bars "out across the ring road past the metro line", to Olympic Gardens that are filled with the human and non-human detritus. A similar urban panorama is to be found in 'National Holiday', which provides an exhilarating sense of the poet's disembodied eye sweeping the city, peering into the lives of what seem to be randomly selected Muscovites. The beautiful poem 'Snow Trucks' generates a more serene cinematic effect, as it lovingly depicts a cityscape "heavy with powder".
Moore's Moscow is a city of paradox. It is both a town on the make with what might be described as Nevadan cynicism, and a hidebound technocratic bureaucracy. It is suffused by both the grasping capitalism referenced in 'Manezh' with its "new Moscow rising" and the listless Chekhovian decay so movingly detailed in 'Iodine'. It is a city that sprouts banks and casinos in an orgy of restless development even as its past layers rise up from under the paving stones. Moore portrays it as a place whose eager stride towards a sleek, gleaming future is forever retarded by the burden of the troubled history depicted in 'The Palace'.
Violence, in fact, is one of the collection's most prominent leitmotifs. 'Émigré' , for instance, is an unusually successful meditation on the Middle East, a topic that has wrestled many a well-meaning poem to its doom. Russia's bloody past haunts poems such as 'New Soviet Sky' and the obligatory series on Mandelstam, who perhaps has finally overtaken Celan in the race toward poetic sainthood. The country's turbulent present is referenced in 'Main Street Bombs'. This intense awareness of violence looms over the book's first half like a tower block, lending it a brooding apocalyptic atmosphere. 'Zapad' sums it up with its desire to "let all our promises be one last bullet".
Yet there is also a gentle, more conventionally romantic side to Moore's writing. This is evident in the collection's second half which leaves behind Moscow for a jaunt through continental Europe, taking us all the way from Dubrovnik to Dublin. 'April' artfully captures a moment of exquisite nostalgia, while 'Balcony' and 'The Student' possess a haiku-like fragility. In 'The Marriage' the poet describes how his lover "tore promises from my lips / like you were unravelling ribbons". These tender, dislocated pieces perfectly counterpoint the book's weight and its darkness. Like much of Lost Republics they are poems that demand to be lived with."
Review by Nigel McLoughlin for Iota magazine, September 2009
Alan Jude Moore's second collection is split unequally into two sections. The first consists of poems dealing with his time in Russia and with a variety of aspects of life in capitalist Russia. He deals with feelings and ideas around estrangement, outsider-ness and belonging in the poems in that section. The second shorter section has poems set in Ireland, and Dublin particularly, followed by others, which range across Europe ending up, via Frankfurt and Antwerp in Dubrovnik.
The structure of the book is interesting and one gets the feeling, reinforced by the cover design that part of Moore's developed a certain sense of empathy with the people and culture of Russia through his time there, so much so that the movement across the second section feels like a movement home. The cover of the book has the author's name and the title shadowed in Cyrillic script and one feels that this is not accident or gimmick, but that part of Moore's identity demands that shadow sense of Russian-ness. Perhaps this is why the poems in the second section, even the Irish ones, have more of the sense of travelogue than the Russian based poems do. By that I mean that the Russian poems are more about the poet's internal state of being in Russia. They are not really concerned with describing what the poet sees as a tourist might, but what he feels about what he has observed and experienced. Paradoxically, some of the Dublin based poems have that concern for description of what is seen that one would expect of the outsider.
The sunlight belongs to children
Dancing through cracks in the curtains
Hiding in gables and alcoves over Trinity
And all the tiny passers-by
Construction cranes draped in Christmas decorations beg
Whereas in the poems in section one the description lacks that need to make place explicit and could really be set anywhere. They are sensitive to the predicament of post- communist Russia and are infused with loneliness, a downbeat sensibility and an almost elegiac quality. The poems are much more about the internal experience of being in the place:
Two years of service still to come.
Down on the border where the girls are crying.
The street is paved with petrol and tears
listing through the cracks of an old museum.
People wait on the steps for a faded pair of eyes,
A smile or expression to say goodbye to.
'Fine Art (at the Pushkin Museum)'
The poems in this book are well observed and well worked sets of images which are coupled to a keen ear for the music of language. The line is controlled very well indeed and Moore has the ability to handle the long line and the more staccato rhythm well in terms of their musical unities and as with sensitivity as to how they operate as units of sense. He mixes and matches these adeptly as he deems necessary in many of the poems.
The dust of conversations
the history of affairs
dragged through the snow on the sole of a jackboot.
You left it there; the heart wandered to a different shore.
Many of the poems in section one are dated at the bottom (one is actually dated in Russian) and one wonders what importance that has for the reader. I felt the dates distracted me, and I could not find any real significance to them, and although they may serve as aides memoir for the author, they could, and should, have been removed. This is more an editorial issue than a quality one. I would also be remiss if I did not point out what appears to be a misspelling of Agnus Dei in 'Route' where it is rendered as Agnes(sic) Dei.
Lost Republics will cement Moore's reputation as one of the better recently emerging Irish poets, one whose voice is distinctive, contemplative and able to draw on and create from the tradition of Mandlestam and Akhmatova, whose stylistic echoes can be seen in many of the poems, as well as the tradition of Austin Clarke and Derek Mahon whose influence I also detect.