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This review is taken from PN Review 1, Volume 4 Number 1, October - December 1977.

ON THE PERIPHERY Padraic Fallon, Poems (1974), Dolmen Press and Oxford University Press.

Brought up in Galway and working for most of his life as a customs official in Wexford, Fallon knew the parochial hinterland of Ireland, not as pastoral or legendary terrain, but in its actual hidebound lethargy, marginal ('our wedge / Of world, here on the very edge') and yet circumscriptive ('the eye / And the boundary of his being'). It is 'the one simple thing, matter', which dominates his landscapes, where 'Men with meanings/Inside' must 'endure the wide stare of things'. The small houses of Wexford, 'laboured up from bits of earth', risk absorption back into the mud, like the 'tiny trickle' of the soul itself in another poem 'Dwindling back into the earth'. The world Fallon depicts has 'exhausted history', locked in the 'Eternal precincts/Of a huge present tense' where old men sit on the jetty,

Unhinged now from giant epics
And with as little space as
Dead starfish.

For Fallon, birth is 'a passport into things', bringing the 'displaced person'

To take up residence in the usual fears,
Loves and longings of the starbacked earth.

In its recurrent counterpoint of 'the usual' and the unexpected, the providential entrance or departure, his poetry finds its accustomed tensions. Love is 'the miracle' that 'Will open up the land'; Christmas 'On the west periphery' seems at first to be an event happening 'Elsewhere':


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