The first of our new titles for 2023 have just arrived here at The Gallery Press office.
The Lookout Post, Kevin Graham’s first collection, is a book of uncommon poise and range. It includes harrowing accounts of illness, a suicide, and joyous celebrations of fatherhood and family life. Surprising revelations — ‘And it strikes me there is only / the moment’ (‘The Knack’) and ‘It’s both enough and never enough’ (‘Weathering’) — match original detail — ‘the worried frown // knitted on his brow didn’t drop a stitch’ (‘The Lesson’). Whether it’s in the extended sequence, ‘Sketches’, which draws on the letters of Van Gogh, or shorter poems which pay homage to Wendell Berry, Zinedine Zidane and Derek Mahon or ruminate on Elizabeth Bishop’s sojourn in Ireland, The Lookout Post seamlessly melds the ordinary and the literary. As the book’s title might suggest this is a collection of acutely observed reflection by an outstanding new and assured voice.
Gilgamesh, a mythical king of the Sumerian city state of Uruk, is supposed to have ruled sometime during the first half of the third millennium BC. He is the hero of a Babylonian legend which recounts his exploits in an ultimately unsuccessful quest for immortality. In Marina Carr’s bold retelling of this foundational text she dramatizes the abuse of strength and grievous harm to the natural world. Her play embraces the central figure’s venture to the forbidden cedar forest, the last sacred ground of the gods, his homo-erotic relationship with the wild man, Enkidu, and the price of ecological wastage. It culminates in epic wisdom: ‘Look, none of these things ever happened but they’re all true.’
The Lament for Art O’Leary is the heartrending story of Eileen O’Connell (Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill) and Art O’Leary (Art Ó Laoghaire). It has survived for two and a half centuries in history, folklore and art. It differs from most of the best known narratives of love and loss in the Irish tradition because Eileen and Art were real people. Though they came from families of relative privilege they lived subject to oppressive Penal Laws. Following a public dispute, on 4 May 1773 Art was shot and fatally wounded. Eileen rode to the scene and gave vent to her desolation. Now John FitzGerald, familiar since childhood with the topography of the poem, offers a commemorative translation, The Lament for Art O’Leary, a new slant in language that captures and communicates the physical intensity of Eileen’s love and bereavement. The book contains also Seán Ó Tuama’s edition of the original Irish and, for the first time in monochrome, Jack B Yeats’s illustrations made for the text.
In 1767 Eileen O’Connell from Derrynane in County Kerry set eyes on Art O’Leary in Macroom in County Cork. They married, had children, and lived in Raleigh House. Following Art’s death in 1773 she composed this caoineadh or lament.