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This review is taken from PN Review 251, Volume 46 Number 3, January - February 2020.

Cover of The Narrow Way of Souls
Deirdre HinesAbsence is Presence
Eileen Sheehan, The Narrow Way of Souls (Salmon Press) €12
One of the most sacrosanct symbols in Irish poetry is, was but may not always be ‘Mother Ireland’. The counter poetics that have been a hallmark of much recent Irish women’s poetry have contested female representation as emblem, icon and cipher. Eileen Sheehan is an interpid waypaver in her reweaving and re-representing ‘Mother Ireland’ in ‘The Narrow Way of Souls’, her third collection and first to be published by the ever enterprising Salmon Press. Deaths in this collection abound: the two deaths of the poet’s mother, the first from Alzheimer’s , the next her physical passing, the death of mythologies and their rebirth in the relationship between this world and the world of the fey, and the death of grief after a journey that encompasses seven stages (shock, denial, guilt, bargaining, anger, depression and hope), and that is akin to a journey through the Underworld.

Sheehan presents her collection in fifty four poems encircled by seven haiku. Each haiku encompasses the theme and tone of the subsequent poems. The opening three poems introduce her thematic concerns and are not preceded by any haiku. She chooses to relive a favoured memory of her mother in the opening poem, ‘The Greatest’, reliving the boxing match between Mohammad Ali and George Foreman ‘ talking him up/talking him into winning. Her firm right hook/landing flush on the jaw/ of her own invisible opponent. ‘ And that invisible opponent takes tangible form in the following poem ‘Alzheimer, C is for Carer’. Sheehan’s last lines carry punches that carry a weighty aftermath. ...


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