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Other People’s Houses

Vona Groarke

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In his oddly prophetic review of Vona Groarke’s Shale in Poetry Ireland Review, Anthony Roche appreciated ‘a strikingly individual sensibility rich enough to inhabit a hundred empty rooms’.

Her second collection uses the image of the house — and houses themselves — as the setting for the enactment of particular lives. It includes poems about relationships (some playful, some soured) and others fixed on public, historical reference points. It concludes with more personal attentions.

This book ranges from the witty, almost epigrammatic ‘Open House’, through some richly suppressed narratives such as ‘Domestic Arrangements’, to the more sombre registers of ‘Holiday Home’. Other People’s Houses enhances Caitríona Clutterbuck’s impression in Oxford Poetry of ‘a remarkably assured’ and ‘beautifully regulated’ voice.


. . . an extraordinary collection in which each poem is firmly located among the fittings and fixtures of an archetypal house — real, ideal and metaphorical . . . while Groarke can be playfully enigmatic, it is the sense of real lives lived in brick and mortar houses that lends this collection its most deeply felt narratives.

— Gerard Woodward, Times Literary Supplement

Groarke takes the reader on a hospitable tour of domestic architecture, with a craft which shows her mastery of slant rhyme.
In Open House, she has taken a land hunger vivid in the history of Irish poetry and carried it through to a notion of “house hunger”: an appetite for order, prosperity and well-being, whose frustrations may now get its due. Groarke’s poems take posession of this subject — real estate and its shadows of unreality — as she looks with acuity and wryness at the good life and its queasy heirs. Frank Ormsby’s Moving In, some decades ago, gave us a foretaste of that trouble: Groarke’s talent has taken it into new rooms.

— Katharine Washburn, The Irish Times

She is one of the most effective voices of her generation; her own poetic house is very much in order, and will always be worth visiting.

— Peter Denman, Irish University Review

Groarke’s work, at its most eloquent when she uses a metaphorical rather than literal house, captures the very real, earthy elements of what the house may symbolize on a human, rather than solely architectural, scale. . . It is a gamble to focus an entire collection on poetry on one central theme, but Groarke’s freshness and sense of play allow her to be successful; Other People’s Houses reveals houses that rise above their foundations.

— Colleen A. Hynes, Nua: Studies in Irish Contemporary Writing

Year Published: 1999
Details: 64pp
ISBN ebook: 978 1 85235 628 6

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