Books of the Year for 2020 from various publications: 

Books of the Year 2020Washing Up by Derek Mahon
The deaths of Eavan Boland and Derek Mahon have left a void
in the lives of their readers. Both completed a new collection of poetry before they died – Eavan Boland’s is The Historians; Derek Mahon’s is Washing Up – and both books make clear what marvellous poets they are. The first poem in Boland’s book, ‘The Fire Gilder’, is one of the best Irish poems of the past half-century. In Mahon’s book, wry wisdom and an autumnal tone are governed by a magisterial control of the line and the stanza.
— Colm Tóibín, The Irish Times

This dream-like wonder is an attribute of much of the work published this year. Sadly, we lost the great poets Eavan Boland and Derek Mahon. They wrote until the end, both publishing important posthumous collections. Mahon’s Washing Up contains poems of the pandemic with Quarantine, and A Fox in Grafton Street and an elegy to Ciaran Carson. — Paul Perry, Sunday Independent

At the time of his death in October, Derek Mahon was the greatest living writer in English, whose talent had been fostered by the patient dedication of Peter Fallon’s Gallery Press. — Richard Davenport-Hines, Times Literary Supplement|

Not the least of our losses in this plague year was one of our greatest poets, Derek Mahon. Washing Up (Gallery Press) is a glorious late harvest — vigorous, funny, angry, blithe — beautifully produced, like all Gallery editions, and including, appropriately, a lovely tribute to another luminary of the dead poets’ society, Ciaran Carson. Mahon’s last is vividly alive. — John Banville, Sunday Independent

Washing Up (Gallery Press) contains Derek Mahon’s last poems, fashioned and unfashionable. Published shortly after his death in October this year, the book takes the long view, as Mahon so often has. More surprisingly, perhaps, it offers a hopeful and partisan vision anchored in the power of the imagination to “work strange miracles.” The defining poem is the last one, Word to the Wise, addressed to Irish president Michael Higgins, a poet and a friend. In rhyming couplets, it scans a jeopardised future, where everything is nonetheless still to be gained — if the bold Cubans could do it, why not us? — Leonie Rushforth, The Morning Star

Collected Poems by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s Collected Poems is a lifetime achievement
from the Ireland Professor of Poetry, bringing together iconic titles Acts and Monuments, The Girl Who Married the Reindeer and a selection of beautiful new work, which explores the music of language. — Paul Perry, Sunday Independent

I also found Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s Collected Poems (Gallery Press) containing poetry from more than 50 years ago as well as new, previously unpublished poems, to be a singular book. — Enda Wyley, Sunday Independent

 

The Limit of Light by Grace Wilentz
Grace Wilentz impresses with her debut
The Limit of Light (Gallery Press, €11.95), ‘Sometimes I can feel us diving/weightless, as I dream’ (Belly of a Whale). — Paul Perry, Sunday Independent

Other notable collections include Grace Wilentz’s slick and startling Gallery Press debut The Limit of Light. — Kevin Higgins, The Morning Star

 

The Kabul Olympics – John McAulifffe
Among Fallon’s pick of Irish poetry for 2020, I appreciated John McAuliffe’s The Kabul Olympics 
for its mix of astutely observed domesticity with danger zones, imagined territories and contested frontiers. — Richard Davenport-Hines, Times Literary Supplement

The Kabul Olympics erupted in shiveringly prophetic, place-driven, history-driven poems. — Martina Evans, The Irish Times

The Kabul Olympics (Gallery) was another favourite: the book opens on a drive through Germany, and is full of turns and sudden expanses, carefully balancing the personal and the public to great effect. — Seán Hewitt, The Irish Times

 

Plainchant – Eamon Grennan

One of the stand-out collections, for me, was Eamon Grennan’s Plainchant (Gallery), which use prose forms to move skilfully between the understated and the sacred. I still remember Grennan’s image of a lark: “long silver ribbons of song the bird/ braids as if binding lit air to earth”.
— Seán Hewitt, The Irish Times

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