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where the lost things go / Anne Casey

where the lost things go

By: Anne Casey

where the lost things go traces the experience of losing oneself through life’s most formative journeys. Fly back and forth through four decades in narratives bridging the west of Ireland and Australia – buffeted by grief, betrayal and dislocation; gliding on hope and love. Feel the weight of emptiness in the emigrant’s baggage; the displacement of the Nowhere people who leave but perhaps nev...
ISBN 978-1-910669-90-7
Pub Date Thursday, July 06, 2017
Cover Image © Cumypah |
Page Count 96
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where the lost things go traces the experience of losing oneself through life’s most formative journeys. Fly back and forth through four decades in narratives bridging the west of Ireland and Australia – buffeted by grief, betrayal and dislocation; gliding on hope and love.

Feel the weight of emptiness in the emigrant’s baggage; the displacement of the Nowhere people who leave but perhaps never fully arrive; the loss at returning ‘home’ to find the essence of what that means – people, places and credos – has slipped away in your absence. 

This collection is about letting go of your concept of ‘home’, moving through loss, embracing hope, and finding yourself somewhere in between. 

Are we, after all, mostly the sum of what we gain from all our losses?

Anne Casey

Originally from west Clare in Ireland, and living in Sydney, Australia, Anne Casey is an award-winning poet and writer, and author of two previous, critically acclaimed poetry collections—where the lost things go (Salmon Poetry, 2017) and out of emptied cups (Salmon Poetry, 2019). She has worked for 30 years as a journalist, magazine editor, media communications director and legal author. Senior Poetry Editor of Other Terrain and Backstory literary journals (Swinburne University, Melbourne) from 2017-2020, she serves on numerous literary advisory boards. Anne’s writing and poetry are widely published internationally and rank in The Irish Times newspaper’s Most-Read.
She has won/shortlisted for poetry prizes in Ireland, Northern Ireland, the USA, the UK, Canada, Hong Kong and Australia, including: the American Writers Review Contest; The Plough Prize; ACU Prize for Poetry; Henry Lawson Poetry Competition; Women’s National Book Association of USA Poetry Competition; 25th Annual Melbourne Poets Union International Poetry Competition; Hennessy New Irish Writing; Cúirt International Poetry Prize; Overton Poetry Prize; Bedford International Writing Competition; Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest; Tom Collins Poetry Prize (Fellowship of Australian Writers, Western Australia); and, Fellowship of Australian Writers Queensland Literary Competition. 
Anne passionately believes that every poem, like all art, should leave us changed by the experience. Her poems feature internationally in newspapers, magazines, journals, anthologies, broadcasts, podcasts, music albums, stage shows and art exhibitions—The Irish Poetry Reading Archive (James Joyce Library, University College Dublin), The Irish Times, The Canberra Times, Australian Poetry Anthology, Griffith Review, Atlanta Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Tahoma Literary Review, Quiddity, Entropy, apt, The Murmur House, Barzakh (State University of New York), DASH (California State University), Connecticut River Review, The Stony Thursday Book, FourXFour (Poetry Northern Ireland), Westerly Magazine, Cordite Poetry Review, Voices of Women and Plumwood Mountain among many others. 
She holds a Law Degree from University College Dublin and qualifications in Media Communications from Dublin Institute of Technology (Technological University Dublin). She is the recipient of an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship for her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Technology Sydney. 

Website:   Social Media: @1annecasey

Author Photo: David Clare, First Light Photography

In memoriam II: The draper

“The town is dead
Nothing but the wind
Howling down Main Street
And a calf bawling
Outside The Fiddlers

My mother’s words, not mine
In a letter, kept in a drawer
These long years
She had a way with words
My mother

That’s why they came
The faithful of her following
Leaning in to her over the counter
For an encouraging word
Or the promise of a novena

Long before we had
Local radio
Our town had my mother
Harbinger of the death notices
And the funeral arrangements

Bestower of colloquial wisdom
Bearer of news on all things
Great and small
Who was home
And who hadn’t come

Who had got the Civil Service job
And by what bit of pull
The Councillor’s niece
Smug in her new navy suit
Oblivious to the circulating countersuit

“Would you ever think of coming home?”
Her words would catch me
Lips poised at the edge
Of a steaming mug

Igniting a spitfire
Of resentment each time
Then draping me for days
I’d wear it like a horsehair shirt
All the way back

Until the sunshine and the hustle
Had worn it threadbare
This extra bit of baggage
In every emigrant’s case
Their mother’s broken heart

I never thought to ask her
“Would you want me to…?
So I could look out at the rain
Circumnavigating the empty street
And shiver at the wind
Whipping in under the door…?”

I don’t miss that question now
On my annual pilgrimage ‘home’
My father never asks it
Like me, I know he feels it
Hanging in the air
Alongside her absence

I miss my mother
And her way with words

(first published in The Irish Times, 31 January 2016)


A penny in a new purse
(That it may never be empty)
The Child of Prague left out all night
(To bring a dry day for the First Holy Communion)
Never pick a flower from a fairy fort
(It will bring down a curse)
Never speak ill of the dead
(No matter how wicked they were, God rest their immortal soul)
A spit on the hand to seal the deal
A prayer to St Anthony to find something lost
To St Jude in the case of lost hope
Novenas on your knees if there’s no hope at all
(Because miracles can happen – just look at Auntie Marie’s neighbour’s first cousin)
Never open an umbrella in the house
(It will stunt your growth)
Eat your crusts
(They’ll make your hair curl, or straight if it’s curly)
Don’t make that face
(If the wind turns, you’ll be stuck with it)
Red and green should never be seen
Never wear shiny shoes with a skirt
Only eat pork if there’s an ‘r’ in the month
Don’t change a clout till May is out
Waste not, want not
Never gift a knife to a friend
(It will cut your ties)
If a coal falls from the fire, a stranger is coming
Don’t believe everything you hear
Seeing is believing

The rules we lived by
Before we had internet or mobile phones or colour tv
Before we knew
For better or worse
That no matter how complicated it might have seemed
Life would never be that simple
Ever again

The wind did turn
Leaving us to face the ugliness
And the rain came down
The wicked were blessed
Hope was lost
Our growth stunted
Our hair curled and uncurled
As colours clashed
And on reflection
A strange underbelly was revealed
We consumed in excess
When we knew it was wrong
Changing everything
Piling wasteful want
Onto wanton waste
Knives out
Ties cut
Sparks flew
Strangers fell
As we followed the herd
Saw too much
Believed too well

So I am turning back
To times past
When all was lost
And my novena is this
Today, just for today
Let everyone
In the whole wide world
With eyes coloured
Only by love
With hands and minds
Only to be kind

Because miracles can happen

(shortlisted for the Cuirt New Writing Poetry Prize 2017; first published in Tools for Solidarity poetry pamphlet, June 2017)

Between ebb and flow

Mist rolls off moss-green hills
Where wind-wild ponies thunder
Manes flying as they chase
Their seaward brothers
Locked in eternal contest
On this deserted grey mile

Past the little stone churchyard
Long-forgotten graves spilling
Stones onto the sodden bog
A soft snore from behind
My two angels sleeping
Thirteen thousand miles

From all they have ever known
Running our own race
To make the best
Of spaces like this
A rainbow rises along the horizon
And I recognise her

Come for my mother
Locked in her own
Immortal struggle
The sister returned
So I know it won’t
Be long now

And I cry a little at
The unbearable beauty
Of these diastoles
When we are all
Here in a heartbeat

Between heaven and earth

(All poems © copyright Anne Casey 2017)

Review: 'A review of Where the Lost Things Go By Anne Casey' in Compulsive reader on 21 January 2019, with heartfelt thanks to reviewer Magdalena Ball. 

Anne Casey’s debut collection, Where the Lost Things Go, is a delicate book. The work is meditative, and rich with compassion, sorrow, longing and care. The poems cover a lot of ground but pivot around grief, loss, displacement, and the various forms of love, from romantic love to the love between parent and child, to the kind of love we feel for our world and one another. The title poem opens the book, and is a lovely short piece which laments the passing of time, death, and loss:

we dived into the sky
and to the purple-hearted dark
an ocean we did cry
for all the lost things
gathered there

As the title suggests, much of the book is an ode to lost things, from the fifteen “In memoriam” poems that follow the title poem, to “Open letter” series, the“Metaphoric rise” set, the “Morning Rush” sequence, and the many poems that track all of the many people, spaces, and selves that we lose as we move through our lives. “In memoriam” is like a collection of lost things itself. Places like childhood homes, spaces that families once congregated, a home abandoned, and the people who were loved and are gone:

“Would you ever think of coming home?”
Her words would catch me
Lips poised at the edge
Of a steaming mug (“In memoriam II: The draper”)

These poems go a step beyond nostalgia, into a present-tense space where regret and sensual pleasure co-mingle. Casey reanimates missing people – the mothers and sisters (and other people) who are no longer with us, shops we once visited, old ways of doing things, scents and tastes of childhood, and the many mistakes and collusions, and transforms them into something permanent:

In my mind’s eye
The sun forever shining
Though I know it wasn’t always
Glinting off the soft inky crests
Turquoise melting into royal bue (“In memoriam XIII: Afloat”)

The “Open Letters” series is mostly unconditionally loving, lamenting a world that can’t be fixed, and apologising for not being able to fix it: “I hold myself accountable”. This theme continues with the poems that follow, where the child may be a younger self, or a growing child. There is always a tug and a transition at the heart of each poem. Though Casey’s focus is generally the domestic, and there are many beautiful poems about childhood, coming of age, being a mother, losing a mother, and growing older, there is a subtle underlying politics inherent in the work. A few of the poems are overtly political, incorporating irony and structure in ways that pack a serious punch. One example of this is “Metaphoric rise”, which tracks the 2016 US Presidential Election in a series of Haiku-like 3 line poems that follow a time progression through the process.  This series couples punned titles, rich imagery, and a very subtle examination of the process to create an arc that is chilling:

a fiery sunrise
heralds stormy days to come
Ice shifts at the poles (“Paradox Lost”)

As with all of Casey’s work, the critique is subtle but makes its point perfectly.  As with every poem in the collection there is an underlying press for compassion above cold efficiency or profitability:

Sifting and shifting and shrinking our thinking
Prescribing our liking
Mining, divining, refining
Terrabyting the spaces to nothing (“No-one will hear”)

Though the poetry maintains an easy softness, there’s a warrior-like focus on shedding light on brutality and callousness especially cold-heartedness over the personal, the caring, and the inclusive. The poems are decidedly feminist, and explore such topics as women’s right to autonomy over their own bodies (and the devastating consequences when that right is withheld), ecological destruction, techno-based isolation, and the callous, uncaring and selfish wherever it occurs:

the humus is humming
and I’m slumming with the
I have joined
the underground resistance

Where the Lost Things Go is a powerful book. The immediate accessibility of the poetry does not diminish the impact of the work, which moves through key moments in life, tracking grief, loss, ageing, parenting, and what it means to take a stance in a world where the need for compassion as a political gesture–deep-seated humanism–is greater than it has ever been. These are poems that bear regular re-reading, and in whose rhythms a human heart beats so strongly it’s impossible not to feel drawn in.

Other Titles from Anne Casey

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