Michael Hartnett subscribed always to the idea of the poet as a chronicler of his race: ‘I have tried to write for the people . . . ’ begins one of the poems in A Book of Strays, a collection of ballads, satires, squibs and other occasional verses. As he casts his eye on ‘the state of the nation’, on local shopkeepers’ and publicans’ greed (‘The Ballad of Salad Sunday’), or curses ‘those who stole our cat’, he connects with sources in ancient traditions.
The centrepiece, ‘Maiden Street Ballad’, records the impact of the move of that street’s people to a new housing estate in the 1950s.
Popular, populist, entertaining, and incisive, A Book of Strays enlarges and enhances our understanding of a singular poet’s art and nature.