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The Road, Slowly

Liz Quirke

ISBN: 978-1-912561-12-4

Page Count: 84

Publication Date: Friday, April 20, 2018

About this Book

“This is a tremendous first collection. Liz Quirke has an assured and distinctive voice, balancing intelligence and feeling in a series of moving and deep reflections on motherhood. Lyrical and universal, these poems mirror the difficult beauty of human relationships.” 
Martina Evans

“There is honour and dignity in this collection, maturity of thought and respect of form. The poems are honest, they speak to our doubts, to our love, our human endeavour, as well as the tenderness and delight that flourishes as a young family grows. Quirke is a poet of high integrity and honesty, and this collection is astounding.”
Elaine Feeney

“Liz Quirke’s debut The Road, Slowly, announces the arrival of a gifted and remarkable poet. In distinctive and exquisitely balanced verse, Quirke chronicles the miracle, challenges and traumas of motherhood and of being. Quirke’s listening ear is pressed against the belly of the earth so that the persistent power in her poems is that not much is lost “by the time pen meets page”. Quirke's poems exhibit her talent for a vivid phrase and assured handling of poetic form. Her wisdom is that life, like the sea “isn’t always storybook blue/but shades of the weather, as we are.”
Eleanor Hooker

“These poems are full of force and mystery, a moving study of the ways in which we mother and in which we love.  Liz Quirke is a poet pushing through boundaries, negotiating new ways of giving voice to the instability and gendered territory of the world that we often find ourselves wading through, in poems of quiet integrity and lyrical vitality.” 
Leanne O’Sullivan

The Road, Slowly is the ground-breaking debut collection of love poems from award-winning Irish poet, Liz Quirke. With an assured voice, her poems weave through the experience of becoming a wife and mother in a collection of considerable lyrical beauty. Her poetry ploughs new thematic ground with confidence and subtle, delicate observations. Same-sex parenting in modern Ireland; non-biological motherhood and ways in which the past can inform the present are explored with courage. Quirke celebrates the connection between parents and children within a non-nuclear family with scalpel sharpness and a discerning eye. Her poems pay tribute to the achievement of family. 

Author Biography

Originally from Tralee, Co Kerry, Liz Quirke lives in Spiddal, Co. Galway with her wife and daughters. Quirke’s poetry has appeared in many publications, including New Irish Writing in The Irish Times, Irish Examiner, Southword, Crannóg, The Stony Thursday Book, One (Jacar Press, US), The Ofi Press (Mexico) and Eyewear Publishing’s The Best New British and Irish Poets 2016. She was the winner of the 2017 Listowel Writers’ Week Originals Short Poem Competition, the 2016 Dromineer Literary Festival Flash Fiction Competition, the 2015 Poems for Patience competition and the 2012 Doneraile Literary Festival Edmund Spenser Poetry Prize. She was shortlisted for the Cúirt New Writing Prize in 2015 and nominated for a Hennessy Literary Award in 2016. She holds degrees from University College Cork, Dublin City University and NUI Galway. She is a PhD researcher at NUI Galway.

Read a sample from this book


In the nine months I didn't nourish you, 
I made notes, I studied the seasons
for ingredients to encourage your growth.
Scraps of paper, post-its hidden 
in case anyone would view my thoughts, 
pity my trivia of leaves and berries.

A mom yet not a mother, 
a woman yet not a woman.
My preparation took place in private,
not in maternity wards or hospital corridors, 
but in the hallways of my mind 
where I could put up pictures, timelines,
fill cork boards with plans.

As the folic acid built your brain stem
I collated ideas to stimulate it further,
mapped journeys for us,
paths we could walk together,
a staggered relay to start 
when your other mother 
passed your tiny form to me.

And I could see myself holding your hand, 
using my limbs to scaffold the structure 
your mother put so beautifully in place.
I am your mom without the biology of mothering.
All I have for you is my heart, my brain, my lists of things,
all but those nine months when I was waiting.


I gave you a warrior name.
Brazen, audacious, 
a statement of intent. 

After the third scan,
I set out across the world’s mythologies 
to uncover the name to herald you.

I found you in the pages 
of an old hardback,
barely two inches in a row of columns.

Sensible, poised,
waiting for me to arrive and collect you
at the obvious conclusion,
assured that this is where you had always been.

For weeks after our first meeting 
you kept me company.

Your name fell in ink from my pen 
until that sturdy bulk of letters 
came as familiar as my own.

The shape of you rolled around my mouth 
like a boiled sweet,
pushing taste to unreachable corners,
forcing my buds awake until I had a full sense of you.

Your vowels whispered through my lips,
soft as the steam after a kettle click.

And when you arrived, emergent, slow to pink, 
but quickly, so quickly,
your name gushed out of my mouth 
like your first breath,

your first victory, 
your battle cry.

I Don’t Write You Love Poems Anymore

All my words are kept for the children,
sequestered to chronicle little tempests and successes, 
swaddles of coats and jumpers, boots slightly large 
on feet as the oldest takes her chances 
in every puddle she can find. 

Instead of the resting hollow of your hip,
my words now know the fit of skull and cheek
against my shoulder, the weight
of each of our babies as they fall asleep.
I write the rasp of breaths lovely in my ear,
how pillows furrow with their heavy heads.

I compress this life into a collage 
of simile and verse. Discover
that writing them is like carrying a lake 
in my hands, too much lost
by the time pen meets page.

In our years together, love, I have written you
with all the heart a pen can hold, your warmth 
recalled in every city we passed through. 
Nights wrapped in hotel sheets
after hours drinking with strangers, 
the heady risks of our early years.

These days those stories don’t fall easy into ink.
My poems exist in how small faces startle
when the light switch alters evening in the kitchen,
the way little fingertips pad a pane of glass
in the burnt umber twilight before the rain comes. 

Copyright © Liz Quirke 2018

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