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The Blue Cocktail


Resonant and luminous, Audrey Molloy’s The Blue Cocktail (Gallery Press, €12.95) considers bodies and their politics beside bodies of water, home and abroad, ‘where the water is brackish,/not one thing nor another — the emigrant’s curse’. — Stephen Sexton, Books of the Year, The Irish Times

In cinematic clarity Audrey Molloy’s second collection probes ideas of home across her native Ireland and Australia where she now lives. The ‘pure sheen’ of a horse chestnut makes way for the ‘minty scent’ of gumtrees in her adopted home where plants are often not what they seem: ‘You are my ocean — / blue cocktail of salt and sediment — / but you are not my leaf.’ While exploring ‘a closer understanding of what it means / to be a woman’ she displays a constant consciousness of the body and its desires. One part memory, two parts love letter to the sea, with dashes of longing, sass, and a nip of melancholia, The Blue Cocktail is strange, sexy and intoxicating. In a dazzling variety of forms here are poems alert to imagination and alive to language itself. If The Important Things was a book of promise The Blue Cocktail demonstrates that guarantee has been honoured.

‘The Blue Cocktail has a lot to offer – skills, observation, insight and passion – and I’m grateful to have had the chance to read it and to pay it the attention that it surely deserves.’ — Rowena Sommerville, The High Window

‘Audrey Molloy’s curious sensuality makes even the difficult moments deeply pleasurable.’ — Martina Evans, The Irish Times

The poem ‘A Legacy to Seven Men I’ve Loved’ was shortlisted for the 2023 An Post Irish Book Awards Listowel Writers’ Week Poem of the Year.

‘. . . Molloy’s voice is so strong that by the time you finish the collection you may feel as though you know the poet intimately . . . I am taken with the ease of Molloy’s voice. Not once did I have to reread a line or stop to try and find the poems’ melodies. Throughout the collection, complexity stalks her command of rhythm. ‘A Legacy to Seven Men I’ve Loved’ consists of seven tight couplets, each dedicated to a historical fling. She writes, ‘to the third, a cloud confected from the contents / of a beachball, which is to say, nothing at all’. Even the seemingly desperate reach for alliteration in ‘confected’ is skilful; like wisps of sugar blowing up to a glass dome turned into fairy floss, the poet’s third love was sweet and fleeting.’

— Sam Ryan, Australian Book Review

Audrey Molloy’s The Blue Cocktail (Gallery Press, €12.95) is full of liquidity: gin, vermouth, Guinness Extra; the waters of lakes, pools, oceans. Across these assured poems water, as is its wont, takes on many forms and spills into many containers. The title’s blue cocktails are those consumed for pleasure and in emergencies – “In the event of being stranded inland”, instructs the first poem’s epigraph, “Scoop half a pint of lake, river, or puddle water […] Add a double shot of Hendrick’s, a nip of Noilly Prat” (Emergency Cocktail). This poem is as much a recipe as it is an instruction for how to read what follows; these are the potions and enchantments of poetry too. “The sea is saltier than blood by far”, Molloy goes on, an echo of the often misapplied and abbreviated “blood is thicker than water”.

Frequently, the poems linger on the notion of origins: “I began in a pool”, Molloy writes in A Schoolgirl Dreams of Ponds, “I never got away”. The condition that motivates the hungers and perils of this book is proximity to water: Molloy’s metaphor for her emigrant experience. “Where the water is brackish, / not one thing nor another — the emigrant’s curse” (At Bottle and Glass Point). The blueness of these poems is as mercurial as one poem suggests: it is vitality and melancholy; an unrootedness both liberating and isolating.

Themes are impressively interwoven, linking water and continents to nativity and womanhood. These poems are elegantly dressed and convivial:

You’re glad you wore the fine black sweater
And your heirloom velvet jacket
Though it doesn’t suit the weather
And pearls are not in fashion
But neither is smoking, not even Gauloises

This is formally adventurous work too: sonnets share space with the Japanese haibun. A quickening, intercontinental book.

— Stephen Sexton, The Irish Times


The Blue Cocktail by Audrey Molloy. 

This powerful collection of poems explores a number of major changes in Molloy’s life – from woman to girl, from living in Ireland to settling in Australia, and on becoming a mother. There are two cocktails referenced in the book – the first reference is in the opening poem ‘Emergency Cocktail’, subtitled ‘in the event of being stranded inland’ (her love of the sea is evident throughout the book) and the second cocktail is in ‘At Bottle and Glass Point’, an appropriately named vantage point overlooking Vaucluse Bay, near Sydney.

She says:

You are my ocean –
blue cocktail of salt and sediment –
but you are not my leaf.
Feathered she-oaks – nothing
like the acorned trees I know,
coastal rosemary doesn’t grow
along my memory banks

The plant and animal life of Australia, and how they differ from what she’s used to, is well described throughout, and resonated with this reviewer, as I have experienced that particular ‘shock of the new’ myself. The collection is dedicated to her father and in ‘The Sheen’ she describes a childhood incident when she and her sister were her father’s passengers and he stopped the car to allow them to pick up horse chestnuts (sometimes two in the shell, ‘cleaved like sisters’), to take home and harden off for playing conkers with. The poem ends in the present day, she is being driven with her own children (in Australia) and yells at the driver to stop so that they can collect similar seeming roadside trophies, but:

I carried a fortune of nuts in the bowl
of my sweater back to the hire car, their lustre
fading even before we reached the Sound.

In ‘Transplantations/ Blackberry’ she compares Irish and Australian attitudes towards the bramble:

Once, I was succour,

saviour, for the daughters of a famine-
stricken land. You fear my thorny daughters,
taking root in every blooming place my suckers find.

Report me at once.
Scrape-and-paint me.
Burn me. Try to rip me out.

It is plain to see the references to the travails of the immigrant settler in this. In ‘Whiteout (Three Sisters, Echo Point, Katoomba)’ she describes running on a cliff path in fog:

                 A tree fern takes shape like a martini
glass in a smoke-riddled bar

and I half expect fiddlehead ferns to strike
up Stephane Grappelli. A pied currawong catcalls
off-key as though

heard from an ambulance.

The poem ends with her ‘running blindly, in fog, with a heart as stony/ as Meehni, Wimlah and Gunneddoo’ – who are (we are told in notes at the end of the book) three beautiful sisters turned to stone by a witch doctor, to prevent them from harm.

The harms that may be done to women and girls, and/or the risks they may choose to take, are often alluded to throughout the collection. In ‘Ten Thousand Hours’ she refers to the ‘10,000 hours’ theory of mastery of a skill:

    I mean, you could
finish your apprentice-
ship in shite-talking
in pubs by the age
of twenty-four, if
you were tall for
your age and wore
a little light make-up.

Which made me laugh in recognition, although writing it out for this review also highlighted Molloy’s fondness for varied indentation and short/very short lines, which I couldn’t always feel was justified, prosodically – if that’s the right word (I’m imagining reading the poems aloud). In some instances, I felt that she over-complicated the poems’ presentations on the page and it occasionally felt more like a deliberate undertaking, rather than allowing the poem itself to dictate its own most effective delivery to the reader or performer – but this is a small fault in an engaging collection.

The collection’s final poem is ‘How to Love a Scribbly Gum’, suggesting the poet has either learned to love her new home in Australia, with its unfamiliar flora and fauna, or at least has a plan of approach:

naked in the hollow trunk;
listen to
the whisper of moth larvae:

For the heartwood;
cradle it in your hands
                     like truth.

The Blue Cocktail has a lot to offer – skills, observation, insight and passion – and I’m grateful to have had the chance to read it and to pay it the attention that it surely deserves.

— Rowena Sommerville, The High Window

The Blue Cocktail preview

Audrey Molloy’s poem ‘A Legacy to Seven Men I’ve Loved’ has been shortlisted for the 2023 An Post Irish Book Awards Listowel Writers’ Week Poem of the Year.

Publication date: 1 October 2023
Details: 80pp
ISBN PBK: 978 1 91133 847 5
ISBN HBK: 978 1 91133 848 2

Cover: ‘Voyager 6’ (2011) by Chloe Early, oil on aluminium panel, 18” diameter

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