“Rachael Hegarty’s Dancing with Memory is a unique suite of poems – and of dances – where a parent’s dissipating memories are renewed and recoloured in vivid, tender and honest verses that span a lifetime. Shot through with love, these poems not only recreate memories slipping away from a mother afflicted by dementia, but grow into a social portrait of Irish working class life over the past century through a mosaic of memories. Each moment is framed amid the swirl of a new dance, from Charlestons danced in wartime inner city flats to new crazes embraced as each turbulent decade passes, bringing joys and afflictions. It is a beautifully rendered tribute to a woman whose dance card in life was always full: a compassionate collection that conjures its own soundtrack, culled from a well-lived life.”
“Terpsichore is the Muse of Dance, one of the nine Muses, those daughters of Memory; and Terpsichore is surely the guardian spirit in Rachael Hegarty’s new collection of poetry. Here is a biography of her mother, Bernadette, charted through dance as it moves through the mother, the culture, the city of Dublin. And through the generations.
We dance with Bernadette through the beats, the steps, the stomps, the swings, the glides, the verve of these lines of poetry. We share the childhood, the coming to womanhood, the early motherhood, the glorious rambunctiousness of her large brood, the loneliness of her widowhood, through her bleak times and times of joy. When Bernadette begins her amnesiac journey into dementia, Rachael Hegarty’s act of remembrance comes home to us in its full significance: the poet become the mother’s memory keeper.
The work is cast in the enduring lyric patterns of sonnet & villanelle, These inherited patterns, whose roots go back to folksong, allow for a powerful formal enshrining of that life. They scan Bernadette from the cradle in 1937 to the announcement of lockdown in the spring of 2020, when she is already in a care home. Traditional forms, contraptions of memory themselves, have the accumulated power of centuries behind them, and in Rachael Hegarty’s deft hands are fit and noble vehicles for witness.
In this age of transition, when we are handing authority for memory to the machines, where we have governance by metadata, one of Poetry’s destinies is to continue to dignify human memory, to value its retrievals, to build an archive of individual truth. In this new work Rachael Hegarty puts all her considerable craft & art at its service.”