The Art of Dying
Page Count: 70
Publication Date: Tuesday, November 08, 2016
Cover Artwork: Fly dear © Nuvolanevicata | Dreamstime.com
About this Book
From mountain pass to storm-tossed seashore, from Barcelona to the Drakensberg, these new poems by Adam Wyeth feature journeys both witty and surreal. There is much that is busy transforming here, from kitchen to ice-rink; rock to hatching egg. In the richly imagined Talking Tree Alphabet, a birch tree becomes Marilyn Monroe holding down her skirt, while the blackthorn is a ‘ravaged whore’. At the heart of the collection, the still point around which the energies flow, is a boy’s relationship with his father, the absurd indignity of death, and the ceaseless unfolding of the generations: ‘An ancient vellum/ where the next life is written’. Language, the raw material of the poet who shapes and makes sense of the world, is celebrated without forgetting the humble source of it all, Yeats’s foul rag and bone shop, or ‘thorns/that draw blood and score the heart completely’ (from ‘Gorse’). Dancing on the edge of civilization, preferring the energizing potential of dream and myth, Wyeth’s is a refreshing new voice on the Irish poetry scene.
‘Adam Wyeth’s work is fresh and intriguing, alive with imaginative riffs, grave humour and more besides – it rewards close attention.’Katie Donovan
‘Wyeth is a beachcomber on the edge of his own infinities, where fact, legend and anecdote flow together.’
‘The Art of Dying is a beautifully crafted performance by a poet who brings a cold, thoughtful eye to the eternal themes. The poems are alive with wit, long contemplation, and verbal energy.’
‘Wyeth is a poet of ideas exquisitely wrought and swarming, demanding a reader awake to complexity on a subtle scale.’
‘Strong and moving...’
‘Fresh and imaginative...’
Adam Wyeth lives in Dublin. His critically acclaimed collection, Silent Music, was Highly Commended by the Forward Poetry Prize. His poetry has won and been commended in many international competitions, including The Bridport Poetry Prize, The Arvon Poetry Prize and The Ballymaloe Poetry Prize. His work appears in several anthologies including The Forward Prize Anthology (2012 Faber), The Best of Irish Poetry (Southword 2010) and The Arvon 25th Anniversary Anthology. In 2016, he was selected as a Poetry Ireland Review Rising Generation poet. Adam’s second book The Hidden World of Poetry: Unravelling Celtic Mythology in Contemporary Irish Poetry was published by Salmon in 2013. The book contains poems from Ireland’s leading poets followed by sharp essays that unpack each poem and explore its Celtic mythological references. Adam has also had several plays produced in Ireland and Germany including Hang Up, produced by Broken Crow (2013), which was adapted into a film in 2014 and premiered at Cork’s International Film Festival. It was also staged in 2015 in Berlin as part of ‘An Evening of Adam Wyeth’ at Theaterforum Kreuzberg. Adam runs online Creative Writing workshops and editing programmes at adamwyeth.com and Fishpublishing.com.
Read a sample from this book
Girl with a Bag in Barcelona
What was in the bag of the girl who had
just arrived in Barcelona? She sat down
on a bench and unfolded a piece of paper
that contained the address of her final destination.
At the moment of her taking out a cigarette
and assisting a passer-by with a light,
another man leaned over and placed his hand
on her bag, taking it away so simply,
I assumed he was a friend playing a joke,
until he broke into a bolt and the passer-by
turned cold as he ran after his accomplice,
flicking the cigarette over his shoulder
that sparked a trail before going out.
By the time I’d shot up and shouted, Thieves! –
they were halfway across Plaça de Catalunya
disappearing among the throng on La Rambla.
The girl didn’t move and went on smoking
like nothing had happened, as if she didn’t care,
taking long draws on her cigarette.
Perhaps there was nothing of value in the bag:
a magazine, toothbrush, tampons, dirty underwear.
On the other hand, perhaps her stillness was a sign
that there were items of overwhelming cost:
legal documents, her great grandmother’s watch,
a diamond ring, a signed copy of Ulysses, first edition.
‘Should I call the police?’ I asked, sitting back down.
She gave a shrug that showed the futility of my question.
She seemed to have complete self-control,
I thought she might be a pupil of the mysterious
Tibetan school who acquire material possessions
only so they can let them go: to learn the art
of dying, slipping away quietly between
thoughts when no one is looking. The thieves
by now had been swallowed into the underbelly
of Barri Gòtic; prising open their booty
like ravens scrapping over road kill.
The bag, the cigarette, the moment,
snatched like a loose thought tossed to one side.
While high above the muggy streets, behind
the velvet-curtained sky, a satellite spun out of orbit.
My mother’s kitchen was a sea of blue cupboards
and shiny surfaces, the door was always closed
or just ajar. Sometimes I’d peep in and spot her
dusting packets on shelves, or mopping the floor
smooth as an ice rink. A pot of wilting thyme
sat dying of thirst on the window sill, while outside
a bare hedge ringed our home, fortifying us
from next door. When I asked for water she’d startle
out of her cleaning waltz, spin on the spot, then
take a polished glass from the highest cupboard
and dash to the taps. I’d catch her twisted image
bending in its chrome arm, letting the gush of water
run cold before filling the glass. I’d stand at the door
wanting to break through its icy exterior – the sea
of glass – but knew if I did the world would shatter.
The old oak is our father
coming home late at night,
turning his key in the door,
leaving it off the latch.
The leaves are still falling.
I hear his slippered footsteps
shuffle on the stairs, scuff
along boards. He stifles
a cough opening my door
and releases the catch
from the window, taking
my breath as the curtains
mushroom. A pattern
of webbed branches frames
the moon. His great shadow
bows low and creaks
down the years, pressing his
whiskered cheeks to my brow,
whispering good night.
The old oak swishes and moans,
low mutterings meander
through the house. The wind
brushes my face, the sound
of leaves patting the pane.
The moon is in the wind
and the wind is in the bough
and the bough is in the door
that our father leaves open.
All poems © Copyright Adam Wyeth 2016
Review: World Literature Today, Nov/Dec 2017
Like a child’s magnifying glass, the eyes of Dublin poet Adam Wyeth brim the world over with rich detail in this adventurous collection of poems. The wide-roaming scenes that the reader rushes through in The Art of Dying find humour in surprising places and profundity in the simplest, imbuing the natural, the exotic, and the domestic with equal measures of myth.