About this book
At the center of this new collection—the work of over a decade since his previous book, Coming & Going, New & Selected—is the sequence, “God’s Pattern,” meditations on the Stations of the Cross, an old devotional form of pilgrimage or “pattern” still practiced in rural parishes of the poet’s native country, Ireland. The meditations are interrupted by several “distractions,” hence the book’s title. Forming a more casual sequence of sorts, from a longish work in progress, are the poems from “Hospital,” a mythic institution we all have to visit some time or other, where comedy and tragedy are also frequent visitors.
Theme and treatment vary throughout the collection from somber reflection on the fate of a drunk in a cheap hotel room (“Cantata for the Feast of Saint Anonymous”) to the scathing Celtic-style satire, “The Gingriad.” McAuley is well regarded for his knowledge of experiments with traditional forms and rhythms; herein are blank-verse narratives and elegies, a Haiku sequence (the result of an argument about Haiku); a “Triptych” and other sonnets; a variation on the topographical poetry of the seventeenth century (“A Famine Field in Kildare”); even a carmen figurata (“Cross,” “station” III of “God’s Pattern”).
The range of subjects is broad: “Brother Cornelius” recounts the life of a deaf-mute monk; “A Shift in the Wind” is about sailing; “Breathing” is, of course, about drowning. There are several poems of place, like “A Famine Field in Kildare,” “Easter, Key Biscayne,” “Holyhead,” and “Samarkand” (which turns out to be a beach in Oregon). Childhood memoirs (“The Sorrowful Mysteries,” “The Shirt”) and painterly (“Self-Portrait, with Masks”) or music-derived (“After a Chorus from Mefistofele”) studies in verse continue persistent themes from McAuley’s earliest work.
About the author
James J. McAuley has graced the printed page for more than forty years. Born in Ireland in 1936, he received his B.A. from University College, Dublin and his MFA from the University of Arkansas. This long-awaited volume is his seventh full length collection. McAuley now lives (and writes) with his wife and son in Ireland.
“These are songs of experience certainly. But with all the innocence and accomplishment of a real poetic vision. “
—Eavan Boland, author, The Lostlands: Poems
“Beautiful and charged with energy . . .”
—Diana O’Hehir, author, Spells For Not Dying Again