Mickey Finn’s Air

10.00

Gerald Dawe

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‘Serious, often grave, but inculcated with such sympathy and passion and affection that any obscurity is the enemy. It’s as if what Gerald Dawe has to tell us is so vital that clarity — such a virtue — is a moral matter.’
— Richard Ford

Mickey Finn’s Air, Gerald Dawe’s eighth collection of poems, revels in how memory plays tricks with the passing of time as traces of the past are restored in the mind’s eye ‘like the torc’s beaten gold’. Bearing the loss of loved ones and the pressures ‘of the way things are’ Mickey Finn’s Air makes a ‘simple arc of sun’. From the encompassing vision of home life in ‘Déjà Vu’ through the startling landscapes of a remembered Galway to the present day worlds of south county Dublin and the American east coast, ‘everything becomes new once more’.

As Fiona Sampson remarked of Gerald Dawe’s Selected Poems — ‘Emotional intelligence will always distinguish the truly important poet.’

A Short, Masterful Collection

Gerald Dawe’s Mickey Finn’s Air is [likewise] elegiac . . . Dawe’s poems are more confident in their reconstruction of lost worlds.

In ‘Déjà Vu’ a sociable Belfast youth is spun across four pages of enjoyably unstoppable-feeling eight-line stanzas; Peacetime remembers the morning after a visiting carnival and picks out the “watchman” as a figure for the poet, “walking through the fair in broad daylight / with a hammer or monkey wrench in his hand // [ . . . ] knowing what’s what by the looks of him.”

‘Short Cuts’ offers another autobiography, in quatrains, initially naming gig venues, “Ginger Baker at the Ulster Hall / followed by Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton”, then place names “heading over the Salmon Weir Bridge / and gawping at the Cathedral”, then feelings, “the tumult in the heart that keeps / asking questions,” before naming another fixture of Dawe’s imagination, the books and albums whose publication are woven into his life, “the things you miss, the sea in winter, / the gorse fires, the field work, the night crossings, // the harvest moon, the shape I’m in, / the sense of movement, the fighting terms” and so on for stanza after stanza in what is a short, masterful collection.

— John McAuliffe, The Irish Times


. . . Dawe’s writing is skilful and ambitious, and retains a firm grip on reality and a sense of purpose that doesn’t allow for, or lose sight of, the reason he writes. He is wary of sentiment, to be sure, but nostalgia — an undeniable theme in the book — is a different matter. To that end, there are a couple of poems that reference the economic collapse in Ireland. These starker, contemporary snapshots sit somewhat at odds with other poems that have a more sepia-toned sensibility to them.

Even so, the last lines of one such piece, ‘Promises, Promises’, are emotionally warm, even as they describe the starkness of newly-built homes and buildings left empty when the property market crashed: ‘the half-lit caverns of office blocks / with the reflected moon in walls of glass.’
Overall, Mickey Finn’s Air is a powerful and cohesive collection. The poems stand as individual works but they also work in sequence, tweaking our idea of what memory is, and how it colours our sense of both past and present.

— Andrea Rea, Culture Northern Ireland

Year Published: 2014
Details: 48pp
ISBN PBK: 978 1 85235 607 1

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