Skip to main content

Review: Adam O'Riordan's queen of the cotton cities

Edited by Roddy Lumsden, and tall-lighthouse press’s Pilot series is an exciting, enterprising and much-needed addition to the world of poetry publishing: showcasing the work of eighteen up-and-coming and wonderfully varied poets, all under the age of thirty. Adam O’Riordan is one of the first to receive the Pilot treatment, and his wonderful pamphlet showcases the fruition of his years studying under both Andrew Motion and the late great Michael Donaghy.

The first thing you notice in reading this selection of O’Riordan’s work is the sheer ambition and range of his subject matter. Opener ‘Trawling’ takes the sweeping birds eye view of Larkin’s ‘Here’ to the zooming precision of the ‘Google Earth’ level: encompassing the ‘satellite / as it travels in Trappist silence’ through to a coffee cup ‘slid[ing] along the galley’ of a ‘lonely trawler’; ‘the smell of spilt diesel, fish guts, / blood and brine, gravity in flux’. The off-kilter half rhyme here is perfectly executed: the reader gets a real sense of the boat in motion, wobbling and struggling its way out of the harbour.

Elsewhere, and the unfortunately titled ‘NGC3949’ disguises a brilliant poem that takes this galaxy of uninspired name, one which lies in Ursa Major and whose formation mirrors that of our own, as a point from which to explore the effect that love, and lost love, have in deceiving our senses. ‘Years down the line’, the poet tells us, ‘you swear blind / the cut and sway of a dark form is her’, only to scatter the rich images of the poem with a punchy ending: ‘Not her – or your idea of her – and never will be. / It doesn’t matter how beautiful your guess is.’ The effect is one reminiscent of Donaghy’s tendency towards the revelatory final line, but O’Riordan’s poem shows a certain uniqueness that steers it clear of plain imitation.

Besides, much of O’Riordan’s other poems display a distinctive voice and perspective all of their own. ‘Heels’ is a brilliant poem, exploring that which sets the ‘iron wire’ of a girl’s ‘Achilles tendon aching’, and is worth reading if only to see a young male writer skilfully handle such a distinctly feminine subject. Other highlights include the pitch-perfect ‘Chicago’ and the richly descriptive ‘Cheat’, all making the lasting impression, in this convincing selection of only sixteen poems, of a poet of mature skill and winning intelligence. His first collection will be worth waiting for.

Adam O'Riordan, queen of the cotton cities. tall-lighthouse, ISBN 978 1 904551 33 1, £4 (to buy a copy, email, or visit the website as listed above).


Popular posts from this blog

Way More Than Luck: 27.2.18 - the launch

Some tips on putting your pamphlet together — winner of the 2013/14 International Book & Pamphlet Competition

There's only this weekend left to submit your pamphlet of poems to the most prestigious pamphlet competition in the land: The Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition 2020

This year's judges are the hugely celebrated writers Imtiaz Dharker and Ian McMillan. Find out more, and enter online, here. You've got until midnight this Sunday 1st March.

Here are some tips I've put together, as winner of the 2013/14 competition for my short collection For Real. Good luck!

• First off, I should mention it took me a good few years to get the pamphlet into shape, and like almost every winner, I entered the competition more than once before winning. Treat the experience as a learning curve: the positive pressure of a deadline and of your work being judged carefully and seriously will help you to improve whatever the outcome.

• Front-load your pamphlet. Every editor in the land knows that you put the very best poems at the front of a book. The first three poems in your pamphlet s…

Poetry in Motion

Why one Reds supporter is committing his love for Liverpool FC to verse

Liverpool FC and poetry have a lot of previous – from John Toshack’s Gosh It’s Tosh collection in the late 70s, to the verse of Dave Kirby and Peter Etherington in the fanzine Red All Over the Land, to the lines written by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, a University of Liverpool graduate, in the aftermath of 2012’s Hillsborough findings. Now there’s Ben Wilkinson, Reds fan and book critic for The Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement, who’s compiling a series of poems commemorating the club’s legends. “Football is part of the fabric of life, and anything that’s important to people finds its way into poetry,” he says. “Wilfred Owen’s poem 'Disabled' describes a soldier who loses the use of his legs, meaning he can never play football again. Philip Larkin’s 'MCMXIV' compares boys queuing to join the army to fans outside Villa Park. These poems have stood the test of time because t…