The first of two days on publications from Ireland’s Salmon Poetry. First up, John Corless, who is the kind of man next to whom you wouldn’t wish to be sitting if you were trying to balance something precious on your nose, or hoping to concentrate on your navel. He is funny, cubed, and like many of his compatriots, as droll as you might hope to find. I spent seven consecutive breakfasts with him one week, and starting the day off with a dose of laughter is better than prunes any day. So I admit to warming to his poems after just seeing his name emblazoned on the cover. I may have the advantage on you.
Are You Ready? , his debut, establishes itself with an impious, impish dedication: ‘To the people who refuse to lie under the juggernaut of depression sweeping Ireland. To the rest: read on and cheer up.’ Its forty-six poems suffer fools gladly, welcome them in, even, whether they are feckless husbands, besotted priests, Irish bureaucrats, or those who long to own their own chip-shops. The put-upon women of Ireland are best represented by the speaker of ‘And Another Thing’ who insists
leave the mortorbike in the hall,/don’t try bringing it upstairs again,/the smell of petrol/ gives me a headache
and by the husband in the title poem who asks if you’re ready to admit that
you made the mistake/ of putting your only white shirt/ into the washing machine/ along with the lawnmower
Another wife regrets the moment she missed her chance to bail out when, on her wedding day, she is picked up by a white Mercedes with a suspicious history:
Inside, where there should be champagne/ and flowers,/ a half-bag of calf nuts,/ jump leads and a drum of diesel
I wouldn’t want to give the impression that the poems here are one torrent of gags after another: there are quiet poems about solitary lives, perhaps best epitomised by the bitter-sweet elegy ‘Going Through Your Things’, which jumps straight in:
We found them in the strangest places -/ blue twenty-pund notes -/ in cups on the dresser,/ in westerns with big print,/ and a bundle in the freezer./ Fifty-two of them; stashed carefully/ just in case we needed anything.
And I won’t spoil it for you by quoting the best two poems. The first is couched as a letter from a hospital to possible cancer sufferers who might or might not have had a test, and might or might not want to know that the results might or might not have been correct. the other one is the last poem, in which a congregation is discovered at mass, thinking not of the holy rites, but of the bargain hairdryers in Aldi’s imminent sale, except to say that it contains a brilliant touch in which the bald priest’s words are said to go ‘over the heads of the congregation’. I laughed out loud the first time I saw this poem, and I laughed aloud when I read it again, and I laughed aloud when I looked at it again just now.
This is a great collection – 12 very bargain euros from http://www.salmonpoetry.com/bookshop.html. Invest early for Christmas.