Sunday 14 June 2020

Poets in the Backroom 91: Anne Casey

It is the day before Bloomsday. Not Doomsday, Bloomsday, so we are having another Irish time of it for the next few days. Well, in Anne Casey's case, an Irish-Australian time of it.

Its hard to gauge where a good poem comes from. Michael Longley said "If I knew where a good poem came from, I'd go there", but we know one when we see it. I like to think its a conflict between the ruthless immutability of words and the mystery of feeling, with a double whisky strength jolt added in. You see and know the words but their combination provokes an outbreak of something else. Anyway the first poem I read of Anne Casey's had that effect on me.  

where the lost things go

we sat upon a golden bow
my little bird and i
indivisibly apart
we dived into the sky
and to the purple-hearted dark
an ocean we did cry
for all the lost things
gathered there
in rooms beyond the eye
the aie, the I, the ey

That last line has so many resonances, and so much meaning. Anne Casey’s poetry ranges from the personal to the political. It is often sensual, sometimes angry, always controlled and powerful.

Originally from West Clare in Ireland, Anne Casey is a Sydney-based poet/writer. She is another 'born again' writer, having had a career for many years as a business journalist, magazine editor, media communications director and legal author before returning to poetry as the best means to express her feelings on both personal and political issues.  She is author of where the 'lost things go' published by Salmon Poetry in 2017 and 'out of emptied cups' by the same publisher last year. Her poetry appears in newspapers, magazines, journals, anthologies, videos, music albums, podcasts, broadcasts, archives and art exhibitions. Her writing and poetry rank in The Irish Times newspaper's Most-Read and she has won or shortlisted for poetry awards in Ireland, the USA, the UK, Canada and Australia – including the Women’s National Book Association Poetry Competition; Overton Poetry Prize; Hennessy New Irish Writing and CĂșirt International Poetry Prize; and Fellowship of Australian Writers Queensland Literary Competition. She is or has been a member of the Advisory Board for 'Verity La' Magazine; Guest Editor of 'Not Very Quiet Journal'; and served as Senior Poetry Editor for the two literary journals of Swinburne University in Melbourne - 'Other Terrain' Journal and 'Backstory' Journal from 2017 to 2020. She has been enthusiastic in formulating a response in poetry, often in collaboration with other artists, to the challenges of climate change and global warming.

Here she is reading Singularity:

Anne's website here, lots of poem recordings, reviews, information:

An Interview with the Irish Times:

More poems in Poethead:


Staring back through that magnificent desolation
to this devilled blue globe, one dome suspended in light,
the other obscured by the shadow of where you stood;
immersed as you were in light particles
from long-dead stars, did you wonder
at our seemingly eternal journey,
cycling over and over from light
to dark to light? Reflecting on Earth:
seeing ‘home’ for the first time in that vast
perspective at once vivid and spectral; this silenced beauty
turning slowly over its own desolate truth:
the enormity of its one persisting challenge—
to somehow find our allied humanity
—a singular planetary alignment
as subtly elusive as one
perfect surface reflection.
As great and bungled.
As necessary as the light
we feed on, as desperate
to repel the dark, over and
over to separate and break us
apart from the spectre of some alternative reality,
time folded in on itself, suspending us in an-
other perpetual virtual truth
and the hovering ghosts of
what could have been.

(First published in Giant Steps)

In memoriam II: The draper

“The town is dead
Nothing but the wind
Howling down Main Street
And a calf bawling
Outside The Fiddlers”

My mother’s words, not mine
In a letter, kept in a drawer
These long years
She had a way with words
My mother

That’s why they came
The faithful of her following
Leaning in to her over the counter
For an encouraging word
Or the promise of a novena

Long before we had
Local radio
Our town had my mother
Harbinger of the death notices
And the funeral arrangements

Bestower of colloquial wisdom
Bearer of news on all things
Great and small
Who was home
And who hadn’t come

Who had got the Civil Service job
And by what bit of pull
The Councillor’s niece
Smug in her new navy suit
Oblivious to the circulating countersuit

“Would you ever think of coming home?”
Her words would catch me
Lips poised at the edge
Of a steaming mug

Igniting a spitfire
Of resentment each time
Then draping me for days
I’d wear it like a horsehair shirt
All the way back

Until the sunshine and the hustle
Had worn it threadbare
This extra bit of baggage
In every emigrant’s case
Their mother’s broken heart

I never thought to ask her
“Would you want me to…?
So I could look out at the rain
Circumnavigating the empty street
And shiver at the wind
Whipping in under the door…?”

I don’t miss that question now
On my annual pilgrimage ‘home’
My father never asks it
Like me, I know he feels it
Hanging in the air
Alongside her absence

I miss my mother
And her way with words

(Reprinted from the Irish Times)

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