Is, Is Not

Graywolf. May 2019. 160p. ISBN 9781555978419. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781780374628. POETRY
In award-winning poet and short story writer Gallagher's new collection of verse (after Midnight Lantern), carefully constructed reveries are a bridge between then and now, consciousness and belief, and, more prosaically, Ireland and America, the author's two homelands. And so fairies come and go, the dead hover, and hearth fires play tricks with daylight. This is the joy of poetry, for both writer and reader: each poem is handmade on the page, with the slow brickwork of stanza by stanza, and it can aim high: "As the diamond is bound by light, so are we/ breath-bound into our/ shining. But for that, the stone/ of us would gray us past silence/ into some deeper, earned/ neglect." Yet even as a diamond flashes on the finger, imperial and yet somehow false, feeling stolen form "the mother/ of the beloved," one might also wish for something messier, earthier, more urgent. The elevated language—"when the health headlines in the candelabra of the moment"—can sometimes dull rather than illuminate the underlying feeling.
VERDICT Gallagher has written 11 volumes of poetry, and this newest offering is not a small collection of work. Readers of quiet, thoughtful poetry will find much to savor.
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