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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

67 – A collection of 71 poems

2nd edition now available on amazon; paperbook & ebook


The graffiti spreads like muck along the walkways

In the lifts and on the stairs;



The stench of urine everywhere

This calcified menagerie

Bakes hearts as hard as concrete

Solidifies old attitudes, buries hope

Deifies ignominy

Here, echoes of hollow laughter

Ghost through the floors

Children play high-rise hopscotch

And stilettos click rhythmically

Along tuneless corridors

Another circus of misfits

Adrift in the maze

Cocooned in captivity

In this graceless legacy

Of the stack-em-high days



The sun also rises over concrete

Over this puff-adder sky

And the pricked-up chimneys

Looking like piss-horns in the stark morning

There are no shadows yet

On this marbled plain

So tender in years

But so sparing with love

I shiver at the bus stop

Admiring this proliferation of granite;

So cold, so hard,

So like you….



God is not a good traveler

He has not been to Kinshasa

As far as I know

Nor has he been to Sierra Leone

As I am sure he would crow.

He has never been to Aleppo

Buachi, Zaria  or Es Sider either

Perhaps he should takes Kipling’s advice;

‘The first condition of understanding

A foreign country is to smell it’





‘Sorry sir, there is no more room for memories
The past is full up’

Just lately it seems to be turning out that way
Which, when you think of it, must make sense
How much history can be shovelled down one hole
Before it overflows with past events?

And what of the future,
Did it all start with a big bang in the past?
If it’s true, like they say,
How long can the present last?

Before the Expanding Universe swallows
Up all of time?
And nothing more can happen
Because something or other
Has crossed the dividing line




‘What kind of animal are you then?’, she asked me.
‘Well’, I replied
‘I do not growl like a bear, I roar like a lion’.
‘Ah, one of them, are you?’
‘No actually, I’m more of a bear to be honest’.
‘Oh, they’re fearsome creatures, they are’.
‘Not really’, I said ‘once you get to know them.
For instance, take me
The other day, whilst in my bear mode –
Brown bear, I might add –
I took a notion to frighten some motorists.
I spotted a likely candidate and stepped from
Behind my tree hiding-place
And plonked myself in the middle of the road.
Then a motorist stopped and began berating me’,
You’re an ugly brown bear, you should be ashamed;
Trying to frighten people

Get out of my way. Don’t you know who I am?
I didn’t, but he told me anyway.
I am Ernest Hemingway.




The world is full of poets
And most of them know it
Rhyming couplets with fucklets
Never thinking ‘dark chocolates’
Most of them over some visionary hill
Buying notebooks they will never fill
Looking for loves lost something-or-other
Or wondering why they never hated their mother.
Oh yes, a poet’s life is thankless
Almost as bad as a life lived wankless