Monday, December 3, 2012

Asking for Directions by Michael Farry

Michael Farry, retired teacher, poet and historian lives in Trim and is founder member of the Boyne Writers Group and editor of their magazine, Boyne Berries. Several of his poems have won prizes. Called Asking for Directions, this collection  of forty poems has a general theme of place names, travelling, foreign locations and people on journeys.


With many contemplative aspects these poems have lines that stand out for consideration. In 'Asking For Directions', the poem of the collection title, the speaker is in Florence and wishes to lose his look of familiarity with the surroundings; "I crave/ the look of knowing nothing worth asking for". 'When I Returned', a poem dealing with the teaching of the pronunciation of  'Auschwitz' to Irish children, is  affecting, especially when the speaker likens the 's-c-h' section to the word 'school'.
'Shackleton on South Georgia' is a wonderful cacophony of noises using assonance and alliteration; "shells shatter, blue whales moan and die, try-pots/ bubble, factories boom". The words just jump off the page and ring around the readers head. I particularly liked the imagery in 'Fuerteventura, 2008'; "we endured the thrum of convoys droning in/ from the north, across the irrigated coastal colony,/ delivering pale human cargo, tourist foot soldiers."
'Turlock, California' questions the thought pattern in naming the dry Californian town, founded in 1871 by John William Mitchell from Mayo and named for Turlough; 'Or was it homesickness/ for the squelch beneath his heels,/ drizzle on his face...'. Farry writes in 'Western Trilogy' of the generation who grew up watching westerns and the comfortable familiarity of the films. A  three-part poem; (i) High Noon, (ii) The Man Who Shot  Liberty Valance  and (iii) Vera Cruz, the speaker tells how "I could play Will Kane at the drop of a gun,/ I've perfected his expressions/ especially that disenchanted look." These lines were so affecting that I almost stopped reading to ape the look before I moved on.
'I Taught You To Drive' is a poem that hits you hard. On the death from cancer of one he taught to drive, the speaker loses the unthinking instinct, and finds that, "Driving to your funeral/ I found it necessary/ to plot each manoeuvre,". In 'If I Could Lay Down All The Clothes I Ever Wore' Farry uses a clever concept to address the passage of time, "by Longford laughed at the broad lapels,/the flares. The Shannon bridge festooned/ with floral shirts...", and also reveals in the poem the speaker as the third son born but the only one to survive.
Right or wrong, I'm hugely drawn to poems by their titles, and who could not be interested in a poem titled 'My Interest in Polish Poetry has Been Aroused', telling of the speakers journey as he "probed the Polish poetry enclave/ in the chain store bookshop'. The two closing poems contemplate the end. 'My Sycamore' is about the choice of coffin, "But no false handles please./ I abhor such gauds,/ prefer the plain functionality" and 'What time is My Funeral?', affecting in its question " - on the riverbank where I ask,/ Have I the correct change for the fare?/ Did I lock the back door before leaving?".

A thought-provoking collection, with a diverse range of subjects, I found this book of poetry brought forward many different emotions, causing one to stop and think on many occasions. Some clever visions of contemporary society, this is a very pleasing collection.
Published by Doghouse Books.
www.doghousebooks.ie

4 comments:

  1. Very accurate review. This was probably my favourite poetry book this year.

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    1. Thank you for your feedback Peter. There were some lovely poetry books published in 2012 and this was one of them.
      Dublin Duchess

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  2. Thanks for the lovely review DD and for the comment Peter!

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    1. Hi Michael, I'm glad you were pleased with the review,
      Dublin Duchess

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