Complexities of migration, relocation and the journey home
Although John McAuliffe’s new book is founded in what the back cover describes as “the domestic spaces and routines” of a contemporary life, subjects of which he is such a master, its general drift is out from the domestic centre and back.
. . . the later poems in the book have turned without notice towards the wistful and the autumnal. We should have taken more interest in the flowers since “Summer we’re about again to give up for lost”.
The danger for the everyday is its vulnerability. The book does end, after all, with a group of beautiful poems about the reliable domestic virtues of “the household of continuance” (a phrase from another 16th-century poet, Surrey). One unforgettable poem, The Rebuild, has caught perfectly the movement from familiarity to anxiety. A woman is moving into an old house “and tipped a little, as though she’d taken a drink, / or lost a heel, or aged overnight by years”. She hears birdsong and branches moving, “familiar, quiet, unpredictable music”, “but also, farther off, a bus’s creaking brakes / at the stop a street away, hearing even, / the torch in her hand, the doors clatter open and the driver / name the price, there and back”.
— Bernard O’Donoghue, The Irish Times