What the Hammer


Dermot Healy

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Dermot Healy’s poems ‘project an open, rugged humanity, celebratory of common life’. In What the Hammer, his second collection, he broadens his focus from his communal devotions to the quick of the natural world. Local speech patterns incorporate idiosyncratic observations and sometimes surreal incursions. In a book busy with life — Everything is on the go.

It’s a moon
you could hang your hat on
or peg a clothes line to.

‘Healy’s poems value the ability to “catch” and somehow sustain another’s presence. In what may be the best of his five collections, What the Hammer (1998), this elegiac imperative is directed at the friends and neighbours his work consistently celebrates but also at his own condition and at the persistence of the natural world. His fascination with birdsong surfaces in poems whose rhythms imitate their subjects’ song, blackbirds, starlings, swans, a tern, a wheatear, a gull, or the irresistible Litany of the Wagtail: “chirp of the flirt, / scurry through the blur […] morning tuning fork, / skiff of the field. // Breast of the hailstone.”’ — John McAuliffe, The Irish Times


‘Time is moving inland’ — Dermot Healy registers sounds and silences in ultimately peaceful ways.

— Michael Smith, The Irish Times

Year Published: 1998
Details: 72pp
ISBN PBK: 978 1 85235 222 6

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