From the early poems in Marginal Zones which won the Patrick Kavanagh Award when he was twenty-two to his breakthrough collections, The Ledger of Fruitful Exchange, which received the O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry (1998), and his Bring Everything, Peter Sirr’s Selected Poems represents a winnowing of five substantial, significant books — with the bonus of previously uncollected and new poems. Excerpts from sequences and longer works communicate an uncommon imaginative sweep.
Fluent lyrics and ample fragments accommodate his wry observations, exotic references and sensual force. As the O’Shaughnessy citation asserted, his ‘welcome art has come to distinguish a new generation of Irish poets whose urbanities have a clearly European aspect’. Selected Poems demonstrates persuasive testimony to a wholeness of technique and vision and recognizes that ‘we can no more live singly than light can fall on one place only.’
Even if it sounds pretentious to put it in these terms, Sirr’s abiding and restlessly pursued subject is the components of a life: the things that make our life be what it is in particular. So in the brilliant and haunting poem “Hunting the Bricks and Mortar” from his much praised 1995 collection From the Ledger of Fruitful Exchange, the speaking voice goes foraging through the streets, finding a brick, flowers, the corner of a garden — all the things we recognize as the elements of someone’s life. But the guidebook (his poems are full of books) fails to direct the speaker to the essence of a life, “the way . . . the light will strike a window” to form life’s hearthstone. [. . .] In this search Sirr might be called a mystic of the ordinary. The ordinary makes this poetry sympathetic and appealing — even familiar — but the mystical makes it challenging.”
— Bernard O’Donoghue, The Irish Times
Peter Sirr’s quietly accumulating oeuvre has at last been sculpted into an accomplished Selected Poems, and it is about time too. Never less than flavoursome and often proudly flamboyant, each of Sirr’s six collections to date possesses the same sense of adventure and Continental vivacity that make for such distinctive and exciting writing…Nonetheless confidently builds on Sirr’s achievement, and thanks to the Selected Poems, that achievement can finally be acknowledged, consolidated and celebrated.’
— Aingeal Clare, Metre
Sirr’s mature poetry is both about, and proceeds by, means of accretion and change. His forms grow by responding to their own leads and suggestions, to their lineation and enjambment. These often turn the sense in a fresh direction, one that can take in a wry comedy and understated pathos . . .
“The Writer’s Studio”, one of the new pieces in both Selected Poems and Nonetheless, is about what happens to his preferred modus scribendi with the onset of cultural memorializing. He teases the custodians of the Francis Bacon studio at Dublin’s Hugh Lane Gallery: “They’ve been worrying for ages / how best to show your chaos”. Fortunately, a Selected is just an interim report. In his two new publications, Sirr displays an array of skills that show his own “chaos” in such characteristic detail as “a smashed cloud” that floats in and out at a line ending. Doing so, he escapes from the museum of past performances with his vitality intact.’
— Peter Robinson, TLS
Year Published: 2004
ISBN PBK: 978 1 85235 368 1
ISBN HBK: 978 1 85235 369 8
ISBN ebook: 978 1 85235 573 9