In its celebration of Bring Everything, his recent collection, Metre saluted the ‘perfection of a mode that Peter has been working in previous books’. Nonetheless opens with similar, and similarly surprising, ‘takes’ on the landscape and conditions of contemporary Dublin, spiced this time with strong satiric flavours. It includes a spirited version of Giorgio Caproni’s ‘The Leavetaking of the Ceremonious Traveller’ and a broad, meditative title poem; it excels in a plurality of tones and voices.
Language-led, and driven by a restless energy — poems of jagged, freer, fractured insights — the book swells to a crescendo in a series of workings and adaptations of older poems as they might appear in the mind of an imagined Irish writer. Peter Sirr’s resourceful, daring poetry possesses that space where ’round every corner,/ our own better lives catch fire’.
‘The outstanding and most surprising pages of Nonetheless are to be found in the section entitled “Edge Songs,” which are “workings, adaptations, versions, ‘skeleton’ translations of poems in Old Irish, Middle Irish, and Latin, as they might be remembered or misremembered by an imagined Irish poet, and sometimes original poems written in response to or in the shadow of poems from that tradition,” as Sirr puts in a note. For over two centuries, this kind of material has been used to fuel variations on nationalist ideology: so, reading these poems in Nonetheless is somewhat like watching butterflies take flight from museum cases. It is startling that Sirr’s intense engagement with the dirt and glitter of recent developments in Ireland has given him access to some of its most ancient origins. Moreover, the great liberties he takes with the Irish and Latin sources come out of a deeper faithfulness to the mode of translation often practiced in the Middle Ages in which inventio was a integral element in the process of bringing material over from one language to another. This is the ground which Ferguson, Yeats and, to an extent, Muldoon appropriated for themselves and their times; Sirr’s entranced revision of this past is the new brink.’ — Justin Quinn, Contemporary Poetry Review