Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Poems from the Backroom 128: Owen Gallagher

I've said before that the greatest thing of this series is not just enjoying new talent but rediscovering poets you know about and realising not only that they're still they are still with us but that they are even better than you thought they were. Owen Gallagher is one such, a poet with a pedigree who continues to deliver outstanding work.  He's a working class poet who often addresses political issues but wanders far and wide. He had a 'Poem of the Week' in the Guardian for instance, no mean feat, though it's the poetic equivalent of being tied for seven days or more to a railway track. Given the poem was about penis size, it made it even more of a risky venture. "This is truly nasty, trivial, untalented and utterly unnecessary", said one comment, adding, without intentional humour I think, "Get a grip". He's also had a poem about drink and the communist party, 'Marx and Engels almost drained this bar in Soho, finishing ‘The Manifesto of the Communist Party’ (from 'The Accumulation of Capital'), an under explored and under imagined topic which I have written about myself.

His range is wide as is his voice which moves from tenderness to anger. See, as examples, the two beautiful poems below about his mother.

Owen Gallagher was born of Irish parents, in the Gorbals area of Glasgow. He lives in London and his poetry has appeared in just about every literary magazine known to human kind including 'Agenda', 'Ambit', Asian Times, ' BBC Wildlife Magazine', 'Chapman', 'Cyphers', 'Dream Catcher', 'The Ealing Gazette, 'Edinburgh Review', 'Jewish Chronicle', 'Lines Review', 'London Magazine', 'Oxford Poetry', 'Poetry Ealing'  'Poetry Ireland Review', 'Poetry London', 'P.N. Review', 'Poetry Wales', 'Red Poets', 'Rialto', 'Smith’s Knoll', 'The Independent on Sunday' 'The Leitrim Observer', ''The Morning Star', and many more

He has numerous previous publications including 'Sat Guru Snowman', Peterloo Poets,  'Tea with the Taliban', Smokestack Books,  'A Good Enough Love', Salmon Poetry, which was nominated for the T.S.Eliot award, and most recently,  'Clydebuilt' published by Smokestack Books. 'The Sikh Snowman' an illustrated children’s picture book will be published in October, 2020 by Culture Matters. He has received poetry awards from The London Arts Board and The Society of Authors and his poems have been displayed on London buses and in public places in Ireland.

Here he reads 'Fathering Mother':

Authou Page for 'Clydebuilt' from Smokestack Books:


Three Poems in the 'Galway review':


Poems from the 'Glasgow Review of Books':


Fathering Mother

She went from tenement to tenement, 
wore a full apron beneath her coat,
carried a stiff-wired brush and a metal pail.

She was one of Ireland’s lost daughters, 
I, all clothes on bones, too young
to be schooled parked on each flat’s

outside stairs while she swept, scrubbed
till their stone was clean as our own.
Her hair was bramble and fiery red, her face

a pool of freckles. She dipped her brush in 
and out of what she called ‘the font’,
and sang Lovely Leitrim, a comforter,

in those acres of cold concrete,
that took her back into the flower-banked lanes 
of Ballinamore, leading cows to byres.

Once, I found mother on our own stairs,
tears pumping out of her. My tiny hands gloved hers. 
I was her father, her son, her skin, her tears.


Each time I flick a light switch
I see mother strapped to a chair
A white-coated man throws a lever. 
Her body thrashes like a live cable.

I nurse my heart with its image
of mother framed in the doorway,

dressed as if in mourning, 
her temples blackened

from repeated shocks.
I nurse my heart for the mother

who never came back. 
She lived in a darkness

no prescription could lift.
I am the soot from her chimney.


  1. 'flower-banked lanes of Ballinamore' to 'her father, her son, her skin, her tears' is just perfect evocation of the sorrows of Ireland

  2. So glad you liked the poem, Lindy!

  3. These poems are simply heart-wrenching. They remind me so much (although the circumstances are different) of my own mother, who was from Lismore, Co Waterford. Thank you for showing them - and her, and yourself - to us so beautifully.

  4. Owen I have said before your verses are so heartfelt and warm I know your words I sense their meaning being one of your family .
    Fantastic work and well deserved reviews .