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The Troubled House
January 1995

The Peacock's Eye
January 1992

Along The Liffey: Poems and Short Stories

Sheila O'Hagan

ISBN: 978-1-907056-09-3

Page Count: 82

Publication Date: Monday, June 01, 2009

Cover Artwork: Maura Harmon

About this Book

Sheila O'Hagan began writing in 1984 while studying at Birkbeck College, London University. In 1988 she won the Goldsmith Award for Poetry, and in 1990 returned to her native Dublin. In 1991 she won the Patrick Kavanagh Award and in 1992 the Hennessy/Sunday Tribune Award for New Irish Poet of the year. She has twice been awarded First Prize for Poetry at Listowel Writers' Week. She was the winner of the Strokestown International Prize for a single poem in 2000. Her short stories and poems have appeared in, among others, The Adirondack Review, Atlanta Review, The Sunday Tribune, Syracuse Review & Working Papers in Irish Studies. She has conducted literary workshops in Wormwood Scrubs Prison, UK, in Inter-City Schools, and for three terms in The Writers' Centre, Dublin. She was writer-in-residence for Kildare County Council from 1994 to 1996. In 1990 she conducted radio workshops for prisoners on 98FM. She was editor of the Cork Literary Review from 2005 to 2007. She also edited Under Brigid's Cloak, an anthology of Kildare writers, in 1994.  Her three collections are - The Peacock's Eye (1992), The Troubled House (1995) and Along The Liffey: Poems and Short Stories (2009) - are all published by Salmon.

Read a sample from this book

Painting Seamus Heaney

Here is the task, old man
Note the distance
between man and mask

Mould well the dome of the head
Inscrutable rock that puts clout
on the words to be read

Score well the line between soul and eye
Let light stream in
like underwater images of sky

Hold out for definition.
Be exact with the pitch of intellect
and scrutinise the gift

But who is this sitter you call
as open as the dawn
solid as the rocks of Donegal?

The Irish poet. And yourself?
Rembrandt, of course.
None other.


Review by Eugene O'Connell for The Irish Times, 5th December 2009

Along the Liffey, Sheila O'Hagan's first book in 14 years, has a curious 'coming of age' feel to it, poems and stories that reached a tipping point in the author's head; that needed to be told.The stories, five in all, are strategically placed throughout the book to offer a counterpoint, a different register to the loftier diction and more formal concern of the poems.

Dodo and I, a streetwise tale of a brow-beaten wife on a rare night out, is deliberately placed at the end of a high minded sequence of poems that explore the passage of time and death € it should be noted that the celebrated September 4th poem is re-titled here as Elegy to Ted (McNulty).

The Traveller, a gothic tale of how a woman cajoles a 'travelling man' to impregnate her 'she is in a childless marriage' is a startling shift in register from the sequence of poems (referencing classical myth and legend to illustrate the simmering resentments that lurk beneath our so-called civilised veneer) that went before.

The choice of a 'travelling man', a member of a submerged social group is quitely subversive but reflects her social conscience: she has campaigned for the homeless and prison rights groups in London and Dublin.

O'Hagan seems to have deliberately orchestrated poetry and prose, the formal and the informal, high and low registers of language to manipulate our reaction to the controversial but urgent themes she raises.

It's quietly subversive too in its evocation of the deeper reaches of the female psyche - 'sins of the flesh' are not exclusive to one gender. Along the Liffey is unflinching but sympathetic - as one would expect from a writer of O'Hagan's standing - in its portrayal of the human condition.

Eugene O'Connell's most recent collection of poems, Diviner, was published by Three Spires Press. He is editor of the Cork Literary Review.

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