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Minding Ruth


Aidan Mathews






Poetry like this is a way of knowing, a search for wisdom which retains feeling in all its violence and yet contains it within the appropriate form. The poems in Minding Ruth have, therefore, an air of decorum, sometimes precarious, sometimes precious, savouring at all times of exactitude, and precision. The tone is always intimate towards both the reader and the poem’s subject. In harmony with this intimacy there is an observation of the physical world which is startling in its sensuous and yet miniscule detail. Even the instances of savagery — a dead child bearing the burns of stubbed cigarettes on its body are confronted without becoming melodramatic. The closeness of everything — atrocity, the dead, the world of flower and insect, of wife and child, of the past and the future — would be overpowering were it not always measured for us by the poet’s extraordinary linguistic control. The adjustments available for this control are varied. At times, it is the rhythmic control in a line; at times it is the syntactical control in a stanza, or of both throughout a whole poem. On other occasions, it is the control of figure, epithet, reference.

To speak of these things in such terms is to risk indicating Aidan Mathews’s mastery of technique, as though that were somehow independent of his feeling. But technique raised to this pitch is a moral and emotional achievement. It is rarely seen. This volume of poems is one of the scarce examples of the integrity of feeling and technique, the wholeness that poetry always seeks.

Aidan Mathews’s first book, Windfalls, contained poems which won The Patrick Kavanagh Award in 1976.

‘Aidan Mathews’s first volume Windfalls, distinguished in itself, gave promise for the future. Minding Ruth fulfils, if it does not indeed go beyond the expectations roused by that first volume. These poems are preoccupied with experiences rending enough in themselves — the deaths of people known to the writer and of people, children in particular, unknown to him except in death — but their deepest concern is with the discovery or rediscovery of such experiences in and through poetry.’

— Seamus Deane

Year Published: 1983
Details: 72pp
ISBN PBK: 978 0 904011 40 1
ISBN HBK: 978 0 904011 39 5

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