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Rough Translation

Galvin, Cathy
Format: Paperback
Publisher: The Melos Press
Published: September 1, 2016
ISBN: 9780995517301
20 pages


Cathy Galvin also uses vocabulary from a non-English source;  this time the slightly more accessible Irish Gaelic.  So this book contains a short glossary, too.  Galvin’s music is of a clipped, even curt, kind, and uses short, declarative sentences to considerable effect.  Her poems work by accumulating those short sentences with the details they contain and placing those details in flickering realisations.  An example of this comes from the second section of a poem called ‘Walls’, ‘He’s not in view but I can hear a breath/ – the well-made spade and phrase./My made things broke long ago./ They had little purchase on this world./ The Creed, letters I do not read./ Frail are the things that fall away./ Leaving us bone.’ There is a narrative moving these sentence-length, end-stopped lines, but it’s underneath the surface. And the effect is to slow the reader down so that they are forced to take in those details patiently and thoughtfully.  The details are of lives lead on the edges of the island of Ireland throughout the twentieth century, and often focus on the difficulties of women’s lives through this period. Thus, this short pamphlet of poems is a powerful and intimate meditation on the position of women in Irish society, with a range of riches which reward re-reading.

Manchester Review

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