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Talking down the clock & other poems / Seamus Cashman

Talking down the clock & other poems

By: Seamus Cashman

Talking down the clock & other poems is Seamus Cashman’s fifth volume of poetry. It follows his 2015 ekphrastic book length poem, The Sistine Gaze, from which this following quotation is taken: “We are lovers of the earth, not its spouses bound or bought. We are siblings of the stars, sating history’s well. Lovers live in beauty’s orbit, bypassing time. We change words to love all over again; we mould our shadows w...
ISBN 978-1-912561-71-1
Pub Date Friday, July 28, 2023
Page Count 130
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Talking down the clock & other poems is Seamus Cashman’s fifth volume of poetry. It follows his 2015 ekphrastic book length poem, The Sistine Gaze, from which this following quotation is taken:

“We are lovers of the earth, not its spouses bound or bought.

We are siblings of the stars, sating history’s well. Lovers

live in beauty’s orbit, bypassing time. We change words

to love all over again; we mould our shadows with pigments;

we make alternatives.” (Verse 130, The Sistine Gaze)

Cashman appreciated that TIME was the key challenge, and ventured two poetic sequences, intending to follow where they might lead. These sequences, ‘Notebook Exits’ and ‘Daily Breaks’, find time becoming a circus master cracking the whip daily.  Between these sequences are poems for young readers, and lyrics of people, place and sorrow each reflecting Palestine’s endurance.

In his early collections there was a focus on village life and personal mythologies, the poet found ‘fire crackling faggots / at my feet / I inhaled its fragrance/ and forgave myself’. / I still could see.’. Now he seeks within, threading the ordinary through the abstract, linking the human via buttonholes of experience, philosophy and the uncertain, clearly enjoying what is encountered enroute. He relishes experiment, as in ‘To the naked woman in the far window’, ‘Be still’, ‘Owl’, ‘Composition’, ‘Fractalities’, ‘Catastrophe turnings’ and others.

This collection’s title poem is a spiral of excitement and image, leading readers through time’s impositions  and confusions — seeking to seize and to size it, facing the impossibility of ignoring it. We taste how to ‘Just be’ as we observe time abseiling life within us to its own rhythms.

Seamus Cashman

Poet and publisher Seamus Cashman founded the Irish literary publishing house Wolfhound Press in 1974 where he remained publisher until 2001. He has three published poetry collections: Carnival (Monarchline 1988), Clowns & Acrobats (Wolfhound Press, 2000), and That Morning Will Come: New and Selected Poems (SalmonPoetry, 2007). He co-edited the now classic anthology, Irish Poems for Young People (1975, 2000); and in 2004 compiled the award-winning Something Beginning with P: new poems from Irish poets (The O’Brien Press). He was one of three English language judges (with Yusef Komunyakaa and Debjani Chatterjee) for the first International Mamilla Poetry Festival in Ramallah, Palestine in 2013, and edited its English language anthology. A poetry workshop facilitator, he has given poetry readings in Ireland, England, Wales, the UK, Belgium, Saudi Arabia and in Iowa and Wisconsin, USA. He is an emeritus International Fellow at the Black Earth Institute (USA), where he edited the ‘Peaks & Valleys’ issue of their About Place online arts journal. He has four adult children. From Conna in County Cork, he now lives in Malahide near Dublin.


Seamus Cashman lets us partake of the very moment when his single long poem began. Re-visiting the Sistine Chapel, ... his eyes fall on a painted figure ...  “... As I stare she seems to invite me to converse”. The resulting ‘conversation’ is [this] extraordinarily ambitious poem ...  [The] period and technical details work well, but Cashman’s Michelangelo sometimes also shades interestingly into a more future-aware voice, melding – I think – with the poet’s own voice. Cashman’s verse has a Whitmanesque quality (the long lines) and can bring to mind Blake’s Prophetic Books. Many verses ... celebrate the sexuality of “Eve ‘n Adam’...  And alongside this, the poem works towards a modern – or perhaps it’s a Blakean – godless vision of human life. Cashman ekphrastically takes on the Sistine Chapel and then writes God out of the picture. ...  ...  Likewise, The Sistine Gaze concludes its frequent lauding of human sexuality with a recognition of the plain fact of its opposite, death ...  Cashman here allows the white space ... work its magic ...  creating a rhythm and a chain-link of tensions which add to the reader’s experience. 

—Martyn Crucefix, Agenda Poetry Journal, UK, 2019

‘...  a complex and ambitious book, a major achievement, really. “Such beauty and its solitude are radical” and “Until we discover the next word” are two sections that have really entrapped me with their fine construction, thought, and even finer sensibility...  A master work. and major achievement, ...  of importance in its philosophical, cultural and artistic markings of the Irish historical flow out of which it was written, and as a unique meditation and landmark poem, arising out of a time of significant turnings in Irish society. A poem that belongs to its Irish and European cultural genesis as well as to the Sistine masterpiece by Michelangelo.’

—Poet Thomas McCarthy, launching the book in Dublin 2015

I was totally taken over ...  the cumulative effect and total import is magnificent. This is an inspired work, and obviously had that angel sitting at the poet’s shoulder!

—Elizabeth Healy, former editor Ireland of the Welcomes

Quite one of the most astonishing books of the year was Seamus Cashman’s long poem about creation and creativity, The Sistine Gaze ... ...  A long poem is not a merely lyric line written long. It is a thing unto itself, demanding new responses ...  Cashman carries this task to a wonderful conclusion. ... Perhaps the most important poetry publication of 2015, The Sistine Gaze will be, is, a landmark in Irish literature.

—Peter Costello, Books Editor, Irish Catholic Review 2015

This ekphrastic epic is orchestral, impressionistic, thought-provoking, inviting us, ‘To balance life with death and venture bravely to be beautiful.’ Human certainty, death and the artist at work are central strands. Cashman has written a masterpiece on Michelangelo's masterpiece. This compelling contemplative poem will fix you in its gaze and transform your very concept of art, poetry, and human genius."

—Mary Swander, Poet Laureate of Iowa, USA

Drawing together threads of the religious, philosophical, artistic, and technical, [Cashman] weaves an approachable and altogether human tapestry against which we may appreciate the triumph the chapel frescoes represent.

World Literature Today, University of Oklahoma

The frescoes on the Sistine Chapel ceiling are starting points for Cashman’s thoughts, which often incorporate present day technology ...  as well as Irish legends: ... myths and figures include Leda, Jonah and the Whale, the Flood, Venus, Aphrodite, Plato, Cuchulainn, Cleopatra, ‘Medbh Morrigan Magdalene’...[He] has an ear for sound, and takes pleasure in word-lists: “squirm, brim, broth, brew; / loosen, stretch, streamline, strew” ... this collection isn’t about constraint ...  Think Ginsberg... There is something endearing about his self-deprecation, self-mocking bombast ...  especially when, in ‘The grip of the uncanny,’ he writes ...  in beautifully rhythmic lines. ...  Cashman emerges as a personality with a highly developed sensual bawdiness, self-doubt and generous human sympathies ...  sheer verve and exuberance... 

—Afric McGlinchey, Southword Journal 

The Sistine Gaze engages imaginatively and intellectually with Michelangelo’s frescoes and this demands scale and execution of a high order; it requires a more than usual organisation of sources, religious, philosophical, biblical, mythological, and artistic. The fruitful interaction of the parts, the changing music of the lines, and the dynamic linking of images carry the work forward in lyrical, descriptive and dramatic modes.  The poem illuminates an entire process of seeing and understanding.

—Dr. Maurice Harmon, Emeritus Professor, UCD

[Cashman’s} latest book of poetry is a masterwork -... an almost stream of consciousness ... . I googled the various images from the Sistine, and while this was visually informative, I couldn't progress ...  So I returned to the poetry and read and read and left the words build their images, and I stopped seeking sense and structure. At times, this was amazing and exciting. At other times, I was lost in history [&] myth ...  Book 1 Creation is a blast of energy, and it was sexy. A section (We are Awake) wowed me with Joycean fun and the power of words. Cashman has the words and he plasters high heaven with his ambition.

—Liam Murphy, Munster Express

Other Titles from Seamus Cashman

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