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This report is taken from PN Review 155, Volume 30 Number 3, January - February 2004.

The Poetical Remains of Madge Herron Marius Kociejowski

Should one write at all, while struggling against the past tense, of a person who is still alive? Certainly people speak of her still, sometimes affectionately, at other times with tightness in their voices. Sadly the woman who dismayed and enthralled us is no longer communicable. If words alone keep our souls pegged to the line, what goes when language goes? She slipped first into the Irish Gaelic of her childhood, sloughing the English in which she wrote, and then into silence. We shall hear from her no more. What remains, though, are echoes of her remarkable verses. Somewhere, in one of her poems, God knows where, a mole comes to the earth's surface, on a hill above Belfast, and asks, `What's the latest word on spectacles?' An IRA man makes a troubling appearance at the end of another poem, such that we cannot be sure what the author's attitude towards him is. And in another God rides on a bicycle through the air over Kentish Town, dropping a ladder, inviting the old ladies to come out of their houses and to climb heavenwards. She does in words here what Stanley Spencer did in oils, which makes me wonder if she is not a genuine primitive. If so, she'd be, in an area where so often bad passes for good, a rare case. The above examples, by the way, are paraphrases: there are no published versions to which one may refer and reset one's ear. As for the life, ...


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