Dermot Healy’s poetry distils the essence of a gift he exercises more often and elaborately in other forms — for narrative, dialogue, characterization, and acute insight and observation. In this new work — set in and around his home on the ocean’s edge of Sligo, in London and further afield — he captures the every day’s ordinary dramas and ‘small habits’, noting at the same time the hallway ‘where something is after happening’.
Moynagh Sullivan in the Irish Literary Supplement enthused about his poems’ ‘vigorous movement and the feel of dance and joyful noises’. Rough-edged and refreshing, The Reed Bed displays further instances of idiosyncratic comedy and convinces us of a singular capacity to be at once visionary, quirky and moving.
Healy’s verse shows the range his writing is capable of, and the risks he is prepared to take. As with the narrative journeys of his novels and memoirs, his poetry is not content with just one epiphany. It must know what happens after joy and after revelation, driven by a brave necessity which strives to be thrilled again and to know what comes next.
These poems are remarkable for their searing sincerity and for the humanely frank intelligence with which they try to comprehend the possibilities of people, their fears and insecurities, their paranoia and inarticulacy, and finally their deaths. All this is perceived from the potentially terrifying and opaque distance from reality which characterizes Healy’s world, in which moments of clarity often precede a vertiginous fall towards a state of understanding which is overwhelming.
— Colin Graham, The Irish Times
Generally favouring a brief line and short stanzas, Healy creates a mood of regret and grief that is modified by the harshness of nature into a tough stoicism. There is no self-pity here in the recollection of severed relationships or evocations of loneliness, rather there is a realization that life is best faced by staring into the terrifying infinite spaces that Pascal spoke of. A metaphysical froideur is never far away in Healy, even in the most domestic of his topics.
— Rory Brennan, Books Ireland
Year Published: 2001
ISBN ebook: 978 1 85235 626 2