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This review is taken from PN Review 134, Volume 26 Number 6, July - August 2000.

OUR FATHERS DENNIS O'DRISCOLL, Weather Permitting (Anvil) £7.95
THOMAS McCARTHY, Mr Dineen's Careful Parade: New and Selected Poems (Anvil) £9.95

The 'fluttering heart' has a 'finite number of strikes' ('Only'). Dennis O'Driscoll has always mined the sadness of this, dramatizing the gap in the deceased's foreknowledge of his fate, right up to the last 'strike', and the gap in others' knowledge that someone is dead, right up to phone ringing in the night. From its opening poem 'Either' (as in 'either alive and well or decomposing'), Weather Permitting addresses this theme anew, with fresh examples of O'Driscoll's signature of cataloguing the mundane before the wrench into pathos.

The subconsciously willed gap in our own appreciation of what's to become of us is also familiar O'Driscoll territory. 'Churchyard View' is a sequence of observational fragments that treat human transience with ironic compassion and heart-rending imagery:

The child's coffin
like a violin case,
a pitch which parents' ears
can hear through clay.

One might bristle at the maudlin tendency at work here, yet the execution is always skilful and the end product almost always affecting. 'Interim Reports' displays O'Driscoll's quite caustic sensibility, assembling the grim set-pieces of final illness and bereavement (incorporating a parenthetical list of the side effects of morphine). It is somehow shot through with real tenderness.

O'Driscoll paces his thematic shoreline relentlessly, almost obsessively. However, he does swim out confidently to other places too. Weather Permitting contains examples of social satire, gallows humour, drollery, technical display. As with earlier collections, there is a 'Breviary', previously ...


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