Given Light, Michael Coady’s most moving book to date, incorporates — in his own inimitable style — poetry, prose and photographs. Increasingly alert to ‘time’s undertow’, Coady finds intimations of transcendence in the everyday. ‘Dear Afterlife’ is his account in verse of the funeral of Dennis O’Driscoll; ‘A State of Light’ is a Connemara sequence set to music by Bill Whelan, while ‘On the Eve of a Tree-felling’ is shaped by undercuts of intimate emotion.
Coady dramatically affirms ‘woman’s death-defying miracle’ of childbirth in ‘The Other Half’ and also offers the deeply affecting ‘Palestrina and Amigo Holden of The Hill’ — invoking the ghost of the Renaissance composer to attend a country music ceremony and ‘send-off’.
Given Light is a book of memory and reimagining infused throughout with Michael Coady’s distinctive music.
comes out of a life, and gives due precedence to human life over art, and since this is the life of a poet, his unpretentious skill in handling his themes allows them to grow with their natural momentum and claim their real weight.— Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Dublin Review of Books
‘This is a quite remarkable collection of work. It rather goes beyond poetry, though poetry is its main driver. There’s great passion underpinning everything here, and a longing, whether it be in Raftery’s wish to go back to Mayo, or Coady’s musing on a possibly mislaid life as a trombone player. Not a loose note of sentimentality sounds anywhere. Life happens, and one is left with photos, things jotted in margins, and the empty margins themselves. Coady gives light and meaning to a past which is both our own individually and our own in the sense that it is shared. This is a book of sharing.’ — Fred Johnston, Books Ireland
Coady is a fine and tried poet by any critical measure, and this collection confirms his reputation. He ranges widely, but his poem dedicated to the late Dennis O’Driscoll, who died on Christmas Eve 2012, is quite extraordinary in its depth of humanity, concern, and simple, almost casual, elegance:
How strange—yet not strange at all
since life was in full swing—that on that afternoon
while I played at being my own
in High Street, Kilkenny,
you were headed into mystery
of ultimate lift-off . . .
Black-and-white photos pop up like illuminations in an ancient text, not so much explaining as decorating the text and subtly, perhaps, directing us to ideas of place. Prose pieces feature too, one striking example being Coady’s ‘Palestrina’ and ‘Amigo Holden of the Hill’, which is a meditation on a local `character’ and on greater things, such as a cowboy-movie-drenched childhood and mortality’s relentless ability to reduce everything to shreds of memory.
Coady makes no apology for rendering into story-in-verse the local and the loved, and this in itself creates a particular energy that vitalises his work. This is one of the great virtues of Coady’s poetry, this ‘amplifying’ of ordinary histories, stories, lives, into something that shouts rather than whispers, or, perhaps more accurately, sings. This is the plainchant of observed life. And few poets can compose its equal.
— Fred Johnston, Books Ireland
Year Published: 2017
ISBN PBK: 978 1 91133 730 0
ISBN HBK: 978 1 91133 731 7