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This review is taken from PN Review 172, Volume 33 Number 2, November - December 2006.

SPRAWL CONOR O'CALLAGHAN , Fiction (Gallery) €10

Conor O'Callaghan is one of Ireland's finest younger poets. His first collection, The History of Rain (1993), staked out a world familiar to most of his readers, describing a geography of house and garden, river and sea. That book's rhythms, full of pauses and trailing verbless clauses, added to O'Callaghan's ability to convincingly suggest allegoric depth, meant that his poems were never simply anecdotal or purely reliant on their fluent phrasing. His second collection Seatown (1999) took its title from the part of Dundalk (in the NE of the Republic) where he grew up and then lived. That district's paradoxical sense of sea and town, and its situation as a border outpost between two worlds, meant that a mysterious inbetweenness loomed over the entire collection. The successes of O'Callaghan's first two collections, how-ever, do not prepare readers for the exuberantly wide range of Fiction, which from its title onward seems set on clambering free of local habitations.

O'Callaghan's strengths, his lyricism and often unreadable ironies, continue impressively, as in 'Inland' which ends:

        Take dawn, the way it floods
our curtainless room. Drifting out and in

its wake: petrels, white caps, the tide rolled back to Wales,

a lopsided yawl run dry on the unseeded slope
of the lawn by breakfast. I wish.

But Fiction is quite different from, and much bigger than, its predecessors: alongside many memorable lyrics is a pair ...


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