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This review is taken from PN Review 257, Volume 47 Number 3, January - February 2021.

Cover of Some Lives
Aoife LyallSome Lives, Leeanne Quinn (Dedalus Pres) €12.50,
Kingdomland, Rachael Allen (Faber) £ 10.99
Leeanne Quinn’s intimate and astute second collection, Some Lives, is suffused with the paired sensations of passing through and being passed through: the sense of the body as both a solid and a stateless thing; as fundamental to our being as it is extrinsic to our worth.

Many of the poems within confront loss, and the struggle to articulate the emptiness of absence. Quinn speaks to small, hard truths beyond our grasp: ‘I have found the records, / checked its phase on your date of birth / and mine, now that you are no age’ (‘January’). She recognises the paradoxes through which we attempt to reconcile the unfathomable – ‘I think of the you that is / and is not’ (‘Other Worlds’); and with that, the lonely need to turn an echo into a conversation; ‘O how we both know precisely // more than the other now — you, / how to go, me, how to go without’ (‘Smoke’). And, ultimately, how it all comes down to guilt: the guilt of still being able, even willing, to live without them: ‘As I write / I am almost ashamed to let you know / I am here and still alive’ (‘Any Weather’).

Loss can often leave us as separated from the living as it does from the dead: ‘I never knew the world as something / to be in, until it pushed me out’ (‘Shells’). In her position as outsider, Quinn takes up the mantle of obser­ver, and inquisitor. In ‘The Distant Past’ she posits the question ‘but why ...


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