The Rooms cements Peter Sirr’s connection with the things around us — pavements sing, bricks breathe and shift underfoot. In the stunning title-sequence, he leads us on a ghostly walk through rooms of a distant memory, creating an uncanny reflection of the spaces we all inhabit.’
— Poetry Book Society ‘Autumn Reading’
Peter Sirr’s eighth collection is characteristically finely tuned to the facts and flux of contemporary life. The Rooms continues and broadens the adventurous exploration of the room as a ‘stanza’. Another long series, ‘An Audience with BB’, arranges pieces of a jigsaw to invoke the spirit of Bertolt Brecht and to converse with it in a sparkling display. With its European perspectives and rich imaginings, this copious book is a model of style as distinctive as a fingerprint.
The mapmaker downed his tools.
I’ve caught it: every alley, every street . . .
the city fixed and framed.
Now I want everything else . . .
The Rooms is an astonishing work which takes the reader deep into the heart of the spaces we have sometimes created for ourselves, whether in our cities, our homes, our rooms, or indeed out in the vast space of the natural world. The book is imbued with an energy and pace, with the flavours and scents of ordinary life, especially in Dublin, but it also offers an undertow that is decidedly European in feeling. What I most admired about this collection was the manner in which his subjects are explored. The writing is unhurried, perfectly crafted, and reveals the exemplary patience that rests at the heart of the work of a true poet . . . He is without question the leading poet of his generation. — Mary O’Donnell, Medea999
Waking into ecstasy, escaping into books, buzzing into death
‘Cock your ear and a tradition // opens”, Peter Sirr writes in Continual Visit, one of four long sequences in his new book, The Rooms (Gallery Press, €18.50/€11.95). And Sirr writes so gorgeously that you would like to believe in the “open” tradition he proposes. Again and again his speakers wake into a world that they slowly apprehend, as if for the first time, rapt and ecstatic as when, later in Continual Visit, he describes how,
you look fills up and sways, the details
slip to their places. Everything is convinced. Inside
is the ache of furniture, the dreaming
bone-handled knives, blue willow dramas.
Last year his poems’ stand-out appearances in Gerry Smyth and Pat Boran’s Dublin anthology, If Ever You Go, made it clear that he is one of the city’s most exhilarating scribes, but Sirr’s new book has other places than the capital in mind. The Mapmaker’s Song declares, “The mapmaker downed his tools,” and turns its attention to more transient subjects, especially the body as it ends: “I want to lie in the atrium / of the museum of the fingertip / and touch, touch, touch.”
Sirr likes to place his poems in the constellation of poets from around the world that he reads with admiration. The closing couplets of Drift recognise a kindred Europhile spirit in Dennis O’Driscoll: “A room for you where poetry comes / Holub Milosz Holderlin Brecht // the door wide open for miraculous draughts / the rivers washing through us to where they began.” And it is Brecht, surprisingly, whose work Sirr ventriloquises in the book’s long closing sequence. Previous collections similarly ended with encounters with Catullus, and with the Irish writers of medieval Latin poems, and here Audience with BB translates and reflects on the great German writer.
Brecht’s dialectical imagination is a challenge to Sirr’s aesthetic, which may be what drew him to adapt the German poet:
They won’t say,
When the cherry trees blossomed in Rathgar
but When the bondholders crushed the workers
They won’t say
When the boys spent all day skimming stones
but When they were fine-tuning the drones
They won’t say
When she glided into the room
but When the great powers twiddled their thumbs
And they won’t say
The times were dark
but Where was the poets’ tune?
Sirr’s “they” might not be appeased by The Rooms. His poems’ tunes emphasise not Brecht’s propagandistic side but the lyrics he wrote during his 1930s exile in Svendborg: Sirr mentions drones and bond-holders but mostly sets them aside. The Brecht sequence, like the rest of The Rooms, restates the case for his sensuous lyric art.
— John McAuliffe, The Irish Times
A richly imagined and resonant volume, The Rooms, is Peter Sirr’s best book to date. It can only be hoped that work of such quality will find him the readership he deserves on this side of the water.
— David Cooke, Manchester Review
Peter Sirr’s eighth collection – “The Rooms” – is an astonishing work which takes the reader deep into the heart of the spaces we have sometimes created for ourselves, whether in our cities, our homes, our rooms, or indeed out in the vast space of the natural world. The book is imbued with an energy and pace, with the flavours and scents of ordinary life, especially in Dublin, but it also offers an undertow that is decidedly European in feeling.
The sequence which marks the heart of this collection – “The Rooms” – brings us on an archipelago of journeys, through country dwellings and life in the spaces and interstices of country life. However, this is absolutely not a geographical journey so much as a carrying of the external effects of living, deep into the imagination and transforming these. Sirr the poet imagines himself loosed like the foxes at night, or the dead or the gods, streaming through the black countryside. There is a seeking for wholeness and resolution throughout the work that reflects an attention to that journey which this poet embarked on much further back in his writing.
What I most admired about this collection was the manner in which his subjects are explored. The writing is unhurried, perfectly crafted, and reveals the exemplary patience that rests at the heart of the work of a true poet. It is the poetry collection I have read this year, and displays Sirr’s genuine giftedness. He is without question the leading poet of his generation.
— Mary O’Donnell, Medea999’s Blog
To see the full review visit: http://bit.ly/1lhG7Q7
Year Published: 2014
ISBN PBK: 978 1 85235 603 3
ISBN HBK: 978 1 85235 604 0
ISBN ebook: 978 1 85235 694 1