Free Ireland shipping on orders over €25 | Free Worldwide shipping on orders over €45

Bad News, Good News, Bad News / Edward O'Dwyer

Bad News, Good News, Bad News

By: Edward O'Dwyer

These vigorous poems tackle the world head-on, questioning our perception of what is real and what is mere fabrication. In scenes snatched from personal relationships, from popular culture, the internet and religion, O'Dwyer displays a timeless creative sensibility expressed through a twenty-first century voice. Eileen Sheehan ...
ISBN 978-1-910669-81-5
Pub Date Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Cover Image ‘Texting God’ by Carmel Doherty
Page Count 100
Share on
These vigorous poems tackle the world head-on, questioning our perception of what is real and what is mere fabrication. In scenes snatched from personal relationships, from popular culture, the internet and religion, O'Dwyer displays a timeless creative sensibility expressed through a twenty-first century voice.
Eileen Sheehan

In Edward O’Dwyer’s second poetry collection, we find astute and betimes piercing images of love and loneliness, loss and finitude, as well as humour, tenderness, and satirical shafts against social follies and general daftness. Here I see a poet from a younger generation finding steady feet on the same road that poets have trod mightily in the past, the scenic route to epiphany.
Ciaran O’Driscoll

In his first acclaimed poetry collection, The Rain on Cruise’s Street, Edward O’Dwyer writes “[t]hings are always changing, this is something you’ll see.” The line is a harbinger of things to come in this new collection filled with the swirl of the personal and historical. These are poems that speak of desire for and estrangement from the beloved and the beloved country. The tension between the ecstatic and horrific that O’Dwyer evokes in these poems is precisely why I turn to poetry: His vision of Ireland grants me the courage to see from the vantage point of any country and history I inhabit.
Sandy Yannone

Edward O'Dwyer

Edward O’Dwyer is a secondary school teacher, poet and fiction writer from Limerick, Ireland. He has published three collections of poetry with Salmon, most recently Exquisite Prisons which appeared in 2022. It followed The Rain on Cruise’s Street (2014), which was Highly Commended in the Forward Prizes, and Bad News, Good News, Bad News (2017), which contains the poem, ‘The Whole History of Dancing’, winner of the Best Original Poem award from Eigse Michael Hartnett Festival 2018. He has represented Ireland at Poesiefestival, Berlin, for their European ‘renshi’ project. He took part in Poetry Ireland’s Introductions Series, and has been shortlisted for a Hennessy Award for Emerging Poetry. His first short story collection, Cheat Sheets, was published by Truth Serum Press in 2018 and features on The Lonely Crowd journal’s ‘Best Books of 2018’ list. His poems and stories have been published in journals and anthologies around the world, both digitally and in print. He is the current Poet Laureate of Adare, Limerick, named by Poetry Ireland as part of their Poetry Town initiative.


     for Noel King

He looked for emptiness in his life
because this had become the fashionable thing.
Everyone was getting their own emptiness.
It was all the neighbours could talk about,
comparing the gaping voids of their souls
like salaries or new cars.
You were nobody without one,
as celebrities fought for the headlines
of magazines and newspapers and websites
specialising in emptiness,
plumbing the depths of the hollow place in their selves
for all the world looking on.
On Facebook, his friends
were all posting updates about their emptiness.
A mate of a mate
uploaded a picture of his emptiness
and it has over fifty ‘likes’ already.
He didn’t look far or long
before finding it, an emptiness of his own,
an emptiness he could be proud of.
An emptiness he could show the world
without shame.
Enough to get lost in,
and get lost he did.
More than he could ever have filled
with the love of a good woman
or a life of good deeds or honest work.
An emptiness he could spend the rest
of his life searching through
and discovering all the nothing
he could ever dream
and then some.


If I awaken and you’re not there
I’ll fight off the darkness with this prayer

If I awaken and you’re not there
I’ll stroke the emptiness and think of your hair

If I awaken and you’re not there
I’ll pull up the covers and shut out despair

If I awaken and you’re not there
I’ll offer nothing a kiss in which somehow you’ll share

If I awaken and you’re not there
I’ll sniff for your skin’s scent within the cold air

If I awaken and you’re not there
I’ll enwrap such vacancy with such tender care

If I awaken and you’re not there
I’ll thank loneliness for the love we share

If I awaken and you’re not there
I’ll fight off the darkness with this prayer
I’ll fight off the darkness with this prayer


At that moment came the first signs
of tears on their way, and all
there was for her to do was to stand up
and to turn away

from the rabble of other voices,
all the clanking and rattling coming from the kitchen,
the ding of the till drawer closing,

face out the window of the café,
look through the couldn’t-be-bothered weather,
through the lunchtime crowds,

once, and again, and again, gaining the water’s edge,
passing through lush Dutch fields,
past their waving windmills,

around Azerbaijani oil rigs,
through the syrupy air pollutions of Indian cities

and then out over more water, to another land’s edge,
an exotic stretch of beach, her boyfriend there,
his hair grown longer, wavier,
a lighter shade now, one not unlike the sand,

the sun beating down
as he applies a generous squirt of sun cream
to the bronzed back and shoulders
of a girl that went to her school,

that she never got on with,
with whom, though nothing really happened,
there was a tension she couldn’t quite put a finger on.

Copyright © Edward O'Dwyer 2017
Review: Afric McGlinchey reviews Bad News, Good News, Bad News  for Southward Journal (Issue 32)

Bad News, Good News, Bad News is Edward O’Dwyer’s second collection with Salmon Poetry.  The title encapsulates not only the themes here, but his broader preoccupations in general, which were introduced in his well-received first book, The Rain on Cruise’s Street. Here again, he is engaged in a study of perception.
In these cinematic poems, he focuses his attention on an examination of the Irish psyche and Irish culture in general, as well as more poignant elegies for an ended relationship. The poems take us many times and in many ways to where ‘families sit in living rooms / waiting for the worst / that they said would not happen / and so certainly will’ ('Bad News').
The language and register throughout are consistent, though the tone varies from bristlingly angry to wry, sardonic, or unexpectedly tender. The cohesiveness of mood gives the sense of an emotional continuum. O’Dwyer’s voice is authentic, and despite confessions in some of the poems about playing around with the truth, we feel we are in safe hands.
These are poems to and about people close to the speaker, many of whom are no longer alive. But unexpectedly, instead of homages, they are often frustrated angry rants at the deceased. The opening poem, ‘Tuesday’, packs a punch. There’s a sense of unfinished business, a failed relationship, a wasted life. He addresses someone who demanded ‘six feet of cold earth / on a Tuesday / when everyone else / who is no-one/ couldn’t be there / to pay their disrespects.’ Although there is sarcasm, it is hurt and bitter – this is a speaker who cares, who has bothered to write a poem about his feelings. In another poem, ‘Desmond died in his bed / and so was extinguished a long, misspent life’ ('Desmond’s Tea Break’). This seems to be the speaker’s  abiding fear.
There’s the wife who keeps a holiday photo of her husband in Budapest on her bedside table, though she has cut herself out of the picture: ‘She deserves it, / she knows. To be that empty space / in the photo – and especially in that photo – is what she deserves to be’ ('Deserves').
I was reminded of Raymond Carver more than once, especially reading the poem ‘And Each Other’ which describes a jumble sale: ‘My golf clubs and tools will fetch a bob or two / and your jewellery’.
In terms of writing style, the plain titles fit these plain-spoken, accessible poems, and O’Dwyer’s preference for long lines suits the conversational register. He experiments with stanza lengths, using quatrains, tercets, couplets and poems in a single block; and a rhyming villanelle slipped in too, as well as some list poems. Sometimes there is a strangeness to the language that may be an Irishism, eg ‘she kept onto the photo’ (‘Deserves’) (meaning she held onto it).
This is a world of divisions, where ‘scumbags’ with knives in their pockets call out the ‘faggots’ (‘My Best Friend Sammy’). The speaker appears to be a bystander, a witness who does nothing but ‘will them to stay inside / ignore the shouting, the smashing.’ The urban landscape is very much a deprived one, where people sign on, regularly eat takeaway kebabs, chips, or ‘a shrunken deformed disc,/plastic-looking cheese jutting out’ (‘A Man About Town’); or get a six-pack from the ‘offie’ to take back to their bedsit. One after another, the portrayals of ‘a hard and underwhelming life’ (‘The End of Ice-Cream’) build up to evoke a kind of contemporary wasteland. The people who populate it are grey, passive and hopeless, who at the very most are in denial about their lot. They seem to accept their powerlessness, much to the speaker’s frustration.
Any references are, appropriately enough, Irish, political or from popular culture: Bertie Aherne, Cecilia Aherne, Waterford Whispers, the Manic Street Preachers, Castro, Yoko Ono, Linda McCartney, Matthew Broderick.
There are a number of encounters with random strangers, such as a fisherman (who looks like Jesus) and a barman (who acts as a philosopher). And there’s dark humour: a waitress (who may be Polish) ‘tells me it’s the end of everything.’ Everyone in these poems is resigned. Even the weather ‘can’t be bothered’ (‘Australia’). The cumulative effect is to heighten the sense of loneliness and despair in the speaker.
Throughout the collection, I became increasingly aware that we are defined by our acts (or lack of them). This is nowhere more apparent than in the stand-out poem, ‘My Best Friend Sammy’, which gives a portrait not only of his best friend, ‘a stubborn bastard’ with ‘big fat eyes bulging out of his head’, but also of the knife-edge danger of confronting the ‘scumbags.’ I won’t spoil it for you by saying more.
O’Dwyer’s tendency to use the second person singular makes the reader feel addressed and therefore complicit: ‘another Saturday night / you’re spending in, /watching the telly (‘The Chip Shop’). I’m not sure how much ‘good news’ there is here, although, minimally, hope is offered in one poem, in the form of a bag blowing in the wind,  and ‘you hold on to that image…that empty crisp packet blowing around in the street on a windy day’ (‘Hope’).
This is poetry that has the capacity to shock at times, with the suddenness of struck attack, before we are led to ‘one of those cinematic fades to black’ (‘The Credits’) and we discover we have edged imperceptibly towards a powerful, provocative silence.

Afric McGlinchey’s awards include the Hennessy Poetry award, Northern Liberties Prize (USA) and Poets and Meet Politics prize. She was one of seven writers chosen to go to Italy for the 2014 Italo-Irish Literature Exchange. Her début, The lucky star of hidden things, was subsequently translated into Italian. Afric appears in issue 118 of Poetry Ireland Review, which features the editor’s selection of Ireland’s rising poets. She received a Cork County Council Arts bursary to enable her to write her second collection, Ghost of the Fisher Cat, which was nominated for the Forward Prize for Best Collection.  

Review: Neil Slevin reviews Bad News, Good News, Bad News by Edward O’Dwyer for Dodging the Rain (June 2017)

When you open Edward O’Dwyer’s Bad News, Good News, Bad News to its index, you may be struck by the number of poems – seventy-plus – that constitute the Limerickman’s second collection, follow-up to The Rain on Cruise’s Street (Salmon, 2014), and think yourself in for a marathon read.

Instead, Bad News… is a book most would deem a rarity in poetry. You could read it in full with little need to stop for refreshment.

Purists could interpret this as a slight suggesting O’Dwyer’s poems lack the depth of meaning and weight of language we’ve come to expect from those who’ve gone before. However, it speaks more of the gently satirical commentary of the book’s opening before the latter half becomes more personal and present, the poet’s ‘I’ appearing more regularly as we kick for home.

The book’s title, on the other hand, stands us on surer ground. Bad News, Good News, Bad News seems a straight-forward implication that, through these poems at least, O’Dwyer considers life to be cyclical in nature. The good will follow the bad but the bad will return to us, in case we get ahead of ourselves.

This is vindicated by the collection’s opening couple, ‘Tuesday’ and ‘Grand’. ‘Tuesday’ alludes darkly to a life lost because of the subject’s refusal to embrace any form of growth:

You conquered the future / with your unrelenting commitment / to daytime TV and stained dressing gowns… It had no choice in the end / but to surrender, /meet your demands / of complete anonymity / and six feet of cold earth.

‘Grand’, meanwhile, addresses the heart and history of Irish people. It reads as an elaboration of the book title’s implicit meaning, and a deft critique of our endemic inability to confront and accept our feelings:

I imagine famished bodies / in the wasteland bogs of Ireland / back in 1845 / telling one another how grand they are.

This pattern of social commentary established, O’Dwyer maintains a similar pace, albeit with a few emotional interjections (the heart-breaking ‘Deserves’, rough yet elegiac ‘My Best Friend Sammy’, and subtle shock of ‘A New Bicycle’) until ‘Biography’, a poem in three parts.

Although ‘Biography’ is consistent with predecessors including ‘Desmond’s Tea Break’, ‘Man About Town’, and ‘Urine’ in dealing with life misspent then wasted, form-wise it’s an atypical Bad News… poem.

And because Bad News… is not divided explicitly into section or sequence, this poem’s break with O’Dwyer’s preferred style and structure subtly marks the book’s transition from gentle satire to more personal reflection and recollection.

In ‘Fáilte’ we meet the narrator’s daughter, Nadine, and O’Dwyer directs us skilfully to consider the contrasts and tensions between Ireland and America, despite a shared history, while Nadine attempts to impart her cúpla focal:

There is none of our accusatory ways in her, / none of our time-bought cynicism. / Capitalism, Bush, Guantanamo mean nothing to her.

Similarly, ‘Ruby’ is inspired by the eponymous pet but deals more directly with its muse. We learn Ruby and the narrator’s time together will soon end but the tone is accepting and celebratory, culminating in the gloriously sweet image of Ruby chasing ‘a special ball… through such a place / that she’ll chase happily for eternity.’

Subsequent poems continue with the personal. Highlights stem from O’Dwyer’s intersection of personal and social with strains of the surreal, the very best being the hilarious ‘Texting God’:

Text me, God, / text me, I thought. / Tell me to fuck off if you want. / Tell me you don’t care, / just let me know you’re there.

Bad News, Good News, Bad News concludes with ‘The Credits’, as definitive a finish line as you’ll find. For a collection more focused on the message each poem transmits than genre loyalty, this is somewhat meta, but ‘The Credits’ does encapsulate the best of Edward O’Dwyer Mk. Bad News…

In it, we find another example of O’Dwyer’s ability to source and adopt alternative points of view before shifting them into metaphor: ‘He said we’d wandered into his shot / yet we are in the centre of the frame, making / it a picture of us, and the intrusion his camera’s.’

Meanwhile, ‘You could easily imagine the four horsemen / sweeping into frame, and us / taking no great notice, /accepting what will be’ injects his recurrent sense of humour, lest a poem like this take itself too seriously.

Lastly, the closing lines exhibit O’Dwyer’s quiet love for imagery, leaving us to rest, catch breath, and await the opening shot of his next offering:
… imagine that sky coming down, / dropping emphatically onto us, / then one of those cinematic fades to black / where, if this were all a film, / the credits would start rolling down.

Neil Slevin is a writer from Co. Leitrim, Ireland whose poetry has been published widely, most recently in Skylight 47 and A New Ulster, amongst others. Read more of Neil via

Other Titles from Edward O'Dwyer

Contact us

Salmon Poetry / The Salmon Bookshop
& Literary Centre,
Main Street,
County Clare,
V95 XD35,

Arts Council
Credit Cards