out of emptied cups
Page Count: 100
Publication Date: Saturday, July 06, 2019
Cover Artwork: ‘Powder Flower’ by Cezary Korsieko, October 9 Arts, Poland – www.facebook.com/october.nine.works/
About this Book
out of emptied cups explores what it means to be human—a consciousness contained within a shell that dictates so much of what our experience of life will be.
Including internationally award-winning and shortlisted pieces, these strongly felt poems interrogate what it means to be a woman in a world where the female body still preordains so much for the person it contains. Deliberately weaving in and out of, and cross-referencing, each other, these poems reveal multiple perspectives on the same or related narratives.
At times unabashedly political, this book plumbs the poet’s own experiences of birth, death, loss, treatment/mistreatment and place in the world—as a woman, as an immigrant, as a parent, as a former environment journalist/author depicting the decline of our planet, as a human being questioning our treatment of others based on lines on a map and ‘so many lengths/of slick red tape’.
Collectively these poems strive to cross the boundary between body and soul. To be filled to overflowing. Emptied. To be simultaneously half-full, half-empty. To drink deeply of this one precious cup and find meaning in the traces of what remains—“lifting our hearts/out of emptied cups/and away with them/into the heavens”.
“Reading Anne Casey’s poems, I want to ‘embrace the world with a desperate love’.”
“In poems often formally playful, Anne Casey looks hard at human experience—sex, love, vulnerability, danger—and refuses to look away; the poems display resilience and speak back against shame. out of emptied cups explores not only what it is to be a woman in this world, at this time, but what it is to be alive, body and soul.”
“From the mystery and grace of language to wry humour and a delicate ability to lay the self open, from unflinching grimness to eloquent notes of lamentation, pointed political satire and an enthusiasm for the shape-shifting play of words, this collection gives us the sustained sense of discovery that is poetry at its best.”
“This is very powerful work, and very timely. It doesn’t flinch at telling the difficult stories, but it also does so in a controlled, crafted manner: this is skilful writing.”
“A heartbreakingly beautiful exploration of human consciousness, Anne Casey’s out of emptied cups is masterfully conceived and holds the reader to the page. This is poetry full of sorrow and wonder, of souls at spiritual thresholds, lit from within, language as pure enchantment, at once startling and liminal, ‘lifting our hearts/out of emptied cups/and away with them/into the heavens’.”
“The poems in Anne Casey’s out of emptied cups remind us that we live in a figurative not a literal, world. Her musical, inventive syntax harnesses memory as image-maker and family as cornerstone, where the spectral and the grounded are given equal weight. Craft and technique are a major feature of this work, and can be seen in the detail woven through wide-angle landscapes or the minutiae of the domesticity. Imagination is the driving spark that lights ‘the infinite possibilities of the here and now...’ (Observance).”
“Anne Casey’s second collection is a haunting journey through the natural world, contemporary marriage, motherhood, and the experience of the migrant aching for family and birthplace. She also delves into the fraught and heartbreaking territory of the Catholic Church’s treatment of women and children in Mother and Baby homes in her native Ireland. This is fine work, both delicate and brave, a kind of libation poured, paradoxically, out of the ‘emptied cups’ of the title.”
“One of the most poignant and surprising takes on family life since Akhmatova, rooted in lived experience that many share but few have the combination of courage or skills to articulate in poetry, this is the work of a poet at the full measure of her powers, successfully realizing Yeats’s goal for his own work, of giving serious study to sex and the dead.”
“The ancients once said the stars made music which no one can hear – but it is there – real, speaking to our souls. The music of Casey's poetry we can indeed hear. Her poetry sings with honesty, striking at the reader's heart. This is a brave, beautiful body of work. The power of Casey's poems reminded me of what the poet Muriel Rukeyser once said: ‘What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open’. Casey's truth confronts us in her poetry, and challenges us to gaze through her eyes. Her poems tell a woman's truth, the truth we all need to listen to, if we want the world to change.”
Originally from west Clare in Ireland, and living in Sydney, Australia, Anne Casey is an award-winning poet and writer. Over a 25-year career, she has worked as a journalist, magazine editor, media communications director and legal author. Anne is Senior Poetry Editor of Other Terrain and Backstory literary journals (Swinburne University, Melbourne). Her writing and poetry rank in The Irish Times newspaper’s Most-Read.
She has won or been shortlisted for poetry prizes in Ireland, Northern Ireland, the USA, the UK, Canada and Australia – including the Henry Lawson Poetry Competition 2018 – Traditional Verse (Australia); the Women’s National Book Association Poetry Competition 2018 (USA); Hennessy New Irish Writing 2015 and 2017 (Ireland); Cúirt International Poetry Prize 2017 (Ireland); Overton Poetry Prize 2019 (UK); Bedford International Writing Competition 2018 (UK); and the Fellowship of Australian Writers Queensland Literary Competition. She was longlisted for the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize 2018.
Anne passionately believes that every poem, like all art, should leave you changed by the experience. Her poems feature internationally in newspapers, magazines, journals, anthologies, broadcasts, podcasts, music albums, stage shows and art exhibitions – Quiddity, Entropy, The Irish Times, The Canberra Times, apt, Cordite, The Murmur House, Papaya Press, Eureka Street, The Incubator, FourXFour (Poetry Northern Ireland), The Honest Ulsterman, Déraciné, The Stony Thursday Book, The Australian Poetry Collaboration, Into The Void Magazine, ROPES, Autonomy anthology, Plumwood Mountain, Abridged, Verity La, The Monologue Adventure, the Poetry Pharmacy, The Poets’ Republic and Burning House Press among others. She is author of where the lost things go (Salmon Poetry 2017, 2nd ed 2018).
Anne holds a Law Degree from University College Dublin and qualifications in Media Communications.
Website: anne-casey.com Twitter: @1annecasey
Read a sample from this book
out of a thousand cups
one warm morning when my soul
defies all twenty-one
of its grams
carried away like a whispered prayer
on a sunburst, flimsy-radiant
drifting high on all-but-still air
into green-golden crowns
of softly swaying boughs
at the unknowable—
i had first poured forth
into another cup
a different skin
or into a tiny egg
swelling in the soft round belly
of a feathered form
spearing through the clear
blue air of
one warm morning in
some other time
I will arise and go
(After William Butler Yeats)
My people are a migrant clan
Prospering not by hook or crook or craft
But by diligent labour and an easy charm
Flung from one small corner
Across every wind-tossed sea
Mountaintop to valley floor
To lay a thousand roadways
Or stand on pavements grey
To explore wild tropical outposts
Hold fast to frozen plains
My people are an itinerant tribe
A heathen spirit tamed
Not by bonds or shackles or shekels
But by music and by elegant words
Though alongside our wanderlust
Cohabits a want in us—
That surges in each nomad breast—
To journey back again, top the last crest
To that first wide view
Across a childhood shore
To feel the heart leap
Like a salmon returned to familial waters
If only—in our dreams
A citrus swirl of myrtle crosses my path
as three skulking brush turkeys scatter dramatically
into the understory
Crushed sandstone scrapes under flagging sandals
the tick-tick distant and more insistent chitter and chirrup
perpetual Trisagion against
the far-off clamour of trucks and cars morphing
this second day of November into
the roll and thunder of mist-capped surf on distant shores
And there’s the sharp salt catch at the back of the palate
My mother standing
arms thrown out against the Atlantic’s roar
embracing the world with a desperate love
after the delivery of her death sentence
and before her crucifixion
Too far away too long ago
but still the piercing and the gush of water
The salt rub of old wounds crossing time and space
The quick chirp
of a message from my father
eleven hours behind but instantaneously dispatching
me to the fiery pits of hell where
starched sisters must surely be burning
Pharaohs in their hooded head-coverings shepherding
the little children and their unmarried mothers
through famishment into lightless catacombs
saving an anointed few borne nameless
in Moses baskets unto the Promised Land
A kookaburra laughing
carries me home through the clearing
where the wattles are bursting
their golden crowns dancing
against a brooding backdrop and
rainbow lorikeets will swoop
in later lifting our hearts
out of emptied cups and
away with them into
All poems © copyright Anne Casey 2019
Review: out of emptied cups reviewed by Martina Evans for The Irish Times, Jun 1st, 2019
Anne Casey’s Out of Emptied Cups ranges far and wide both in subject matter and sheer distance. Casey, who is originally from Co Clare, now lives in Australia, and her visual poems are infused with intense heat and Australian flora and fauna. In A Sunburnt Country is a lament for the kangaroo:
In A Sunburnt Country is one of several stirring eco poems but gender politics dominates here, with Donald Trump casting his shadow in more than one poem, although he is never actually named. I wasn’t sure if the amusing sideshow was about Trump:
Although if it is about Trump it hardly seems fair on the orangutan. Sexual abuse is faced down in more than one poem, although the neat understatement of for all the #MeToos might be more powerful, “i can’t help but feel/ there should/be a #MeaCulpaToo”. The ugly unfairness and double standards of the “world of men” is passionately expressed in M Is for Monster – “it took him a year/of persistent single assaults/ topped by one allied attack/to teach her his place/for a woman…” and each stanza is a fierce bite leading up to the final disturbing unanswerable question:
Review: out of emptied cups reviewed by Dr Wendy J Dunn in Backstory Journal (Swinburne University, Melbourne)
As the Manager Editor of Backstory and Other Terrain, I could not be more proud of the team making our two writing journals a reality. We not only have a very talented and hard working student team, but also three extremely talented and stellar Senior Editors who help steer the smooth sailing of producing these journals twice a year.
One of our Senior Editors is the extraordinarily gifted poet Anne Casey. I had come away reading ‘where the lost things go’, Casey’s first collection of poetry, in awe of the power of her words and the perfection of her poetry. ‘out of emptied cups’, Casey’s new work left me equally in awe.
The ancients once said the stars made music which no one can hear – but it is there – real, speaking to our souls. The music of Casey’s poetry we can indeed hear. Her poetry sings with honesty, striking at the reader’s heart. Casey is an amazingly skilful poet unafraid to experiment with rhyme and meter. Her poems become art on the page as their message is not brought home by words, but often through word shapes depicted like hearts or chalices.
‘out of emptied cups’ is truly a courageous, beautiful body of work. Reading Casey’s poems reminded me of what the poet Muriel Rukeyser once said: ‘What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open’. Casey’s truth confronts us in her poetry, and challenges us to gaze through her eyes. First world women will recognise the world they face and must surmount everyday in so many of the poems in this work – like in this poem, ‘A portrait of a woman walking home’:
Casey’s poems speak her truth, a woman’s truth, the truth we all need to listen to, if we want the world to change. They are indeed the cry and call of the brave.
Interview: US poet and writer Maggie Smith in conversation with Anne Casey on what makes their writing tick - published in The Irish Times newspaper on 24 June 2019
Poetry and panic: Anne Casey and Maggie Smith
‘It’s easier to write a hard truth than to speak it’
US poet and writer Maggie Smith in conversation with Irish-Australian poet and writer Anne Casey on what makes their writing tick
ANNE CASEY: I had one of those electrifying moments recently. You know, when every hair bristles with recognition? Since very early in the process of writing my second collection, Out of Emptied Cups, I’d been having this on-off internal battle. It was nothing I could name. Just this slow current of unease rippling beneath the skin.
I’d known from the beginning what I wanted from this book – to probe what it is to be human, born into a body which preordains so much of what our life experience will be – the good, the bad, the ugly, the transcendent.
But as the pieces began to emerge, each time I’d finish a poem, there would be this surge: “Can I do this? Can I really say this?”. Then off that little piece would go into the world (with a few sweaty-palmed moments) and, most of the time, nothing seemed to explode.
As the collection started to really come together, there were moments of mild to moderate panic. There were poems emerging that I knew I would never be able to read out loud. It was only when I read this comment by poet and writer Chen Chen that I realised what was happening: “my poems are braver than I am/ but I am constantly trying to catch up”. There it was in ten-foot-tall blinking (lower case) letters: the writing was pushing me out of my comfort zone. But it was something I felt, and still feel, compelled to do. It’s something I’m trying to fathom.
For some reason, my poetry seems to want to reveal often very intimate details. But I’m actually a very private person, so this can be more than a little terrifying. Just naming that now, makes my pulse start to race.
Do you ever feel like that Maggie? Much of your work is vested in the deeply personal. You don’t shy away from the difficult moments in your poetry or essays. I feel though, that you do this as a means to shine a light for us? Is that what we’re doing do you think? Is there a personal cost to that? What is driving it?
MAGGIE SMITH: I think sometimes it’s easier to write a hard truth than to speak it. At least I know I won’t be interrupted, and I don’t have to stand there watching someone’s expression as I divulge something painful. Advice I received very early on was “write what scares you”. I think I do try to take whatever is troubling me – whatever is busying my mind in ways I don’t enjoy – and drag it to the page. I don’t mean to say that writing is therapy; to me, it’s not. I don’t feel better after I write something painful; I haven’t exorcised any demons. No, that’s not how it works. But I do enjoy working with difficult material and allowing my mind to bat it around. If I can’t wrap my mind around the experience itself – if I can’t “master” it – at least I can do my best to master the formal possibilities in the piece of writing.
I’m grateful for what you said about shining a light. Yes, this is part of it, too. I think that writing about one’s struggles can make other people feel less alone, and making those connections through our writing, in turn, makes us feel less alone. I realise how terribly earnest that must sound, but that’s where I’m at right now, in writing and in life.
I spent so many years thinking I was alone when I wasn’t, leaning toward the darkness when there was so much light all around me. I find myself leaning toward the light now, in part out of necessity: there is so much wrong in the world that I feel the need to pile some stones on the other side of the scale. I think your new book, too, allows for both darkness and light. I’m curious: how you would describe your relationship to the word “hope,” as a writer and as a woman, in the current moment?
AC: Now, see Maggie – there you go crystallising things so perfectly in that nonchalant way of yours! “Write what scares you” is challenging and brilliant advice. And I agree with you about writing the hard stuff not being “therapy”. It’s not for me either, but writing definitely helps me to process things.
Your comment about people responding to your pain absolutely rings true for me too. Poetry had, for many years, fallen by the wayside for me as I pursued writing as a career in other directions. It was the loss of my mother that drove me back to poetry. Laying that out in a poem – which ended up being my first published poem as an adult (The Draper in The Irish Times) – I was overwhelmed by the response from people in sharing their own stories of loss. I really did feel that two-way exchange you mention in allaying the “aloneness”. Grief is, in so many ways, a lonely experience as people can feel awkward and there is a shying away from broaching it.
As to your question on hope, as a writer, I worry about gravitating towards the bleak. I’m conscious that often the strongest emotions, and drivers to write, for me can be negative. As a mother, I worry about the shape of our world – the climate crisis, humanitarian emergencies, ongoing assaults on democracy, the future for our children.
Over the past year, particularly in piecing together Out of Emptied Cups, I’ve written a lot on women’s issues – driven to some extent by the horrendous revelations around the mother and babies homes in Ireland, coupled with the #MeToo and #TimesUp disclosures, my own experiences of sexual assault and ill-treatment, and growing apprehensions about the erosion of women’s rights globally. These are topics I wrangled with in the article Marked women, unmarked graves in The Irish Times, eliciting some interesting responses. When I went on to the newspaper’s Facebook page and read the first few comments, I closed it and never went back. As I discovered, there are strong views on both sides.
Naive or not, I do truly believe that the written word has power. And poetry can be an extremely potent medium – armed as it is to efficiently deliver pithy facts, juxtapose positions, make pointed observations and strike at the heart. So, in that sense, I think poetry offers hope – the ability to tap into the deeper self very quickly – both for the writer and the reader – and the exciting possibility of shifting attitudes, which in turn can feed into action.
I do also feel a kind of responsibility, I suppose – and maybe this is just me – a need to celebrate the positive, the beauty, the possibility of transcendence in the everyday. I think people want and need that. And of course, Maggie, you are the living proof of that – how your extraordinary Good Bones went viral – with its tough questions but underlying positive message. I love that bewitching ability you have to drift so seamlessly from the personal to the universal. So what are you “dragging” to the page lately? Your recent New York Times article talked of “unblurring”. I’ve been following your daily wisdoms for a while now – any thoughts of assembling them more formally?
MS: You are so kind. I love what you say about poetry offering “the ability to tap into the deeper self very quickly” – and I admire how you’re doing that in your new work. I do think, as a genre, poetry is particularly well-suited to surprise, discovery, epiphany. Its metaphor-based centre of gravity is certainly part of it. As a mother, I worry about the same things you do – and I’ve often brought those worries to my poems, especially my most recent collection, Good Bones. The world is a beautiful, terrible place – it’s both, always both – and my job as a parent is to help my children navigate it the best they can and wring as much joy from it as possible.
Taking pain and building something useful from it – useful to me, useful to others – feels important to me
As you say, I’ve been dragging some heavy things to the page lately – and making deep furrows in the ground as I drag them! I’ve written poetry since my teenage years, but lately I’ve found that there are stories and ideas that require a different sort of container. I’ve been writing essays primarily since my marriage ended for this reason – I needed room to be more expansive, more discursive, less strictly concise than I am in poems.
The essay you mention, which I originally titled Unblurring, was published in the Modern Love column of the Sunday New York Times in January as “Tracking the Demise of My Marriage in Google Maps.” It was the first piece I published about my divorce, and to have it appear in such a prominent publication was both daunting and exciting. The response to that piece was incredible. And yes, I’ve been posting daily notes-to-self on Twitter and Instagram since last fall as a way to keep myself in a positive headships in a time of traumatic upheaval. I hear from people every day that my words seem to have been written just for them, and that means a lot to me – that I’m speaking to myself, giving myself a daily pep talk, but that I’m also giving pep talks to other people, too. Taking pain and building something useful from it – useful to me, useful to others – feels important to me right now. And yes – please stay tuned. I’m building something bigger with those that I hope to be able to share soon.
AC: Oh I hear you on the world being a “beautiful, terrible place”. It reminds me of Yeats’ “a terrible beauty is born” and it does somehow seem as if we are again in a present where everything has “changed, changed utterly”. I feel the same parental responsibility as you, but I also have a growing understanding of just how much we learn from our children. They seem to have so much awareness and capability. I see a new hope burgeoning – the emergence of a more politically astute and vocal youth. This is where I also feel the power of words shining through. Spurred in part by Swedish teenager and school strikes leader, Greta Thunberg’s mandate to “call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency”, The Guardian recently changed its policy on terminology around the environment. Out of the mouths of babes…
Interesting that you are reaching beyond poetry for broader forms of expression. I am doing the opposite – having moved away a little from writing longer articles and books (although of a duller kind!), I am loving the concision and deftness of poems. I am excited to hear that your “notes-to-self” are finding their way into a new form, and look forward to hearing more. It has become a daily pleasure to parachute in and have that instant high-voltage hit from these!
Thank you also for your very generous words and for this chat – somehow I’m feeling a small bit less panicky about my new collection stripping me somewhat barer than I may be comfortable with! As you say, it is part-challenge, part-epiphany and mostly about trying to make something useful from the struggle.
MS: Thank you, Anne! You’ve given us – and, I suspect, yourself – a gift with Out of Emptied Cups, having given voice to difficult experiences with such care and precision. I have so enjoyed your insights here and spending time with you on the page. I hope that our paths may cross off the page one of these days, too. Until then, I’m toasting you from here!
Anne Casey’s latest collection, Out of Emptied Cups is published by Salmon Poetry. Read The Irish Times review here. Maggie Smith’s Good Bones is published by Tupelo Press
Interview: 'Planet in Peril' Anne Casey interviewed by Siem Bruinisma - Fly on the Wall Press, June 2019
Read the interview here>>
Interview: What I Don't Talk About @BBQs: Anne Casey - Poet & Author interview by Ken Ward - June 2019
Listen to the interview podcast here>>