In Going by Water, a beautifully conceived, meticulously assembled collection, Michael Coady, laureate of the home place, ruminates on and records the traces left by our lives. From the ‘rhapsody of now’ through ‘words of love and grief, / the earth’s embrace, its constancy’ Going by Water celebrates enduring values and the mysterious triumphs of ordinary experience and everyday ritual. It recounts inherited as well as overheard and re-imagined stories. It ranges from the river traditions of his native town to take in a new Ireland and the newfound locales of Paris and beyond with their communities of the living and dead. While it sounds elegiac notes it pulses to the beat of music as a portal to transcendence.
Symphonic in its orchestration, integrating poetry, prose narratives and the author’s photography, Going by Water elicits from its catchment a universal human measure. With All Souls and One Another it forms a trilogy unique in our literature.
. . .a large and ambitious project. Although Coady threads river images through each of the book’s five sections, he is more a chronicler than a shaping participant in Going By Water, inviting other voices into the book and relaxing in their lively and often very funny company. An exception is ‘The Nun in Prison’, which builds on Coady’s fine early work on Irish emigrant experience. Here and elsewhere in Going By Water Coady tells complicated stories with great economy and emotional directness. The book’s overarching and sociable sweep does not preclude more formal, brief and private lyrics. And Coady’s feeling for what might seem ‘beneath notice’ is evident in the beautiful photographs that stud this big generous book. — John McAuliffe, Irish Times