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The Puzzle-Heart

Louise C. Callaghan

ISBN: 1 897648 97 9

Page Count: 76

Publication Date: Friday, January 01, 1999

Cover Artwork: Brenda Dermody

About this Book

"These assured poems speak of sorrow and loss, loneliness, relationships, tender and erotic love, the seasons, with delicate grace and clarity. Though frequently elegiac in tone, Louise C. Callaghan's poetry in its journey among 'the hedgerows of the heart 'is a poetry of affirmation and celebration"

Niall MacMonagle

"Callaghan's poetry meshes a personal and universal world-view, drawing on memory and relationships. Celebrating both love and loss she writes with a lyric voice. Ultimately, it is the courageous human spirit in many of these poems, which connect her to her readers."

Joan McBreen

Author Biography

Louise C. Callaghan was born in Dublin and educated at University College, Dublin. She has travelled widely in India, the USA, Majorca, Spain, Mexico and Ecuador, South America. She spent 1995-1996 in Oakland, Northern California where, together with facilitating writers' workshops for women, she took creative writing classes at the University of California at Berkeley. The Puzzle-Heart is her first collection of poetry.  The second collection, Remember The Birds, is also published by Salmon.

Read a sample from this book


for Gail C. Polacsek

I unfolded the lily-root
laid out its pallid locks
composed a prayer
for  transplant of the new bulb
into fresh peat-mould.

Worn out with flowering
the old corm
in a paperbag, makeshift shroud
is consigned to the cold
cellar, colourless as a wasps' nest.

Ready for my clay-red bowl
the amaryllis seems heavy
freighted, like a human heart
but no, it is someone's lost soul
waiting, sleeping all this time.

(© Copyright Louise C. Callaghan, 1999)


"Louise C. Callaghan's poetry is rich with the sad wisdom of a mother, and pulsing with the passions of a lover.  The poems in her first collection, The Puzzle-Heart, range from poignant accounts of adult children leaving home, Moving Out and Letters to America ("I feel lost in the house, empty/as the old gutters that cling/to the edge of our roof") to reflections on the birth of a granddaughter and those heart searing poems which map the geography of love -- loneliness, desire, loss. ("I choose you/heart that never heals/nest of pleasure/ bright, world-calling rose" - Rosa Mundi).
     These poems resonate with passion, "she kindles your voice/the unspeakable joy in your deep roar" (Poetry) and sorrow "My waterfall face mossy/with half-green leaves" (To Tears).  They face quietly but bravely, and on occasion almost fiercely, into loneliness and "into this slow movement--/the death of love." But here also are poems of simple pleasure, of joy in the changing of the seasons, "Calm, lovely May/of the hawthorns ... listen/mother-of-all-months/to the invisible love--/the soft-wooing woodpigeon" (May Altar) and the company of women, as in the long and accomplished poem, Vally De La Luna with which the collection ends.
     Crafted with sparseness and rigour, Callaghan's poetry shares something with her Palatine daughter -- a stoicism in the face of life's intrinsic sorrow and absurdity, and an unyielding integrity and commitment to truth-telling.

     Yes, I will let you come to me
     I am all yours, only don't expect
     me to talk of love, even in my sleep,
     nor honour your people's oppositions
     when there is no safe haven
     for settler or dispossessed
          (The Palatine Daughter Marries a Catholic)."

Gay Community News

"The Palatine Daughter Marries a Catholic is a crisp and elegant treatment of dissidence and perseverance, expressed with a precise lyricism: 'Now I have not the least sense of place,/ never wear the  same colour twice."  The rhythm is rooted in an half-articulated resistance which marks Callaghan's most engaging poems."

Kathy Cremin, The Irish Times, Feb. 14th 2000

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