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POETRY REVIEW 67 by Tom O’Brien
The Co. Waterford-born playwright and novelist, Tom O’Brien, who had two plays produced in London last year, has brought out a curious collection of poetry, titled 67. A collection of 71 poems from Tin Hut Tales Publishers. Written over a period of twenty-five years he describes them as being “of their time” and some were written “in the heat of the moment”, scribbled on bits and scraps of paper on buses and trains, or on the building sites where he worked. There is a surge of anger, a sideswipe at society, and at other times tender memories of a rural Ireland he had left behind, knowing there was no golden dawn, no rose-tinted place to return to. At other times, the poems are like graffiti and have an instant savagery and frank use of language. At other times, they are like notes to the 20 or so plays and books he has written. Why he is not better known in his home county is still a puzzle to me.
The opening poem Russian Roulette As A Cure For Depression catches your interest ” The first time I pressed the trigger/ I knew I was immortal”. He has graffiti poems, Bollocks To The Poll Tax and an ironic transitional poem from a rural community to heartless urban wastelands in Put Another Log On The TV. Then a poem like Don’t Make Your House In My Mind, hits the sad side with lines like: “You promised sex without frills” and “Shared lives going down the long slide”. A poem like Old Acquaintance reads like the synopsis to a play, but it is a poem you will return to and find another ‘home truth.’
The Clonmel and Fethard writer Joe Ambrose, who went to college in De La Salle, in his story Shapeshifter, tells of Irish people moving to England, and it catches well the sentiment that Tom O’Brien tries hard to suppress – ” They tried to live in England, the bucolic Irish provincial lives they’d actually left behind on Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore. Hillbillies let loose upon the slick city. Peasantry who like peasants all over the world lived to eat, shit, sing, breed and die”. Tom O’Brien catches that dichotomy time and again, especially in My Time – “This then is my time/ A ribbon of memories/ Stretching back to an age/ I can hardly remember/ Anymore”.
I am glad Tom O’Brien didn’t ‘tidy up’ these poems that echo a line ” Sorry sir, there is no more room for memories/The past is full up”.
I am also enthused that Waterford City and County Council have funded Stagemad Theatre to present a Tom O’Brien play later this year.
Liam Murphy Munster Express