Item description for Nelson & the Huruburu Bird by Mairead Byrne...
This long-awaited first collection from Mairad Byrne functions as a selected poems and includes poems written in the years before and after her immigration from Ireland to the United States. The poems in this collection are taken from three unpublished books, An Interview With Romulus and Remus, Cycling to Marino, and The Pillar.
Poems from An Interview With Romulus and Remus, the earliest book, launch the collection. These poems are high-energy: raw, charged with gusto, delving into the city of Dublin and the small towns of Ireland, often from the strangely exultant standpoint of the marginalized. Core poems here celebrate the euphoria of childbirth---and the energy thus generated propels the book in headlong flight towards America, where the last seven or eight poems in the section are set. The high lyricism of the free verse, colloquial, driven poems about Ireland give way to bare bones, stark list poems about America, e.g., the four alphabet poems "My American Dream," "My Japanese Nightmare," "The Native American," and "The Sky Is The Limit," which, although comprised solely of automobile make and models, manage to sketch out a brief history of ruptured American frontiers.
The second section of the book, poems from Cycling to Marino, is lusher and more meditative. It moves from intensely lyric poems addressing childhood and youth in Dublin through a group of formally stark and fragmented poems relating to Irish history---particularly history of emigration---to a finale of love poems. This section also includes four found poems, one of which, "A Salute to the Cape Verdean Community in Boston," marks another immigrant community, as voiced in comments found in a visitors' book accompanying an exhibition of photographs at Boston Public Library. Other found poems in this section include an incomplete alphabetical list of common verbs in the Irish language---verbs which are very far from common in English---and which again, in the most restrained way possible, sketch out a violent and ruptured history; and the ironic "Love Poem," which is simply a bald, unsatisfactory, and somewhat hopeless series of cues for a course evaluation form. Nevertheless, this section moves surprisingly towards love, buoyed by the long poem "Grooming," a rumination on the glory and bind of motherhood, celebrates the luxuriance of a daughter's hair as ransacked in the act of nit-picking. The section concludes with a bouquet of short love poems, ending with the acerbic "Truce," which parleys the tensions of domesticated heterosexuality in terms of vegetables and body parts.
The third and final section of the book, poems from The Pillar, is dominated by the long poem "The Pillar," which uses the memory of Nelson's Pillar in Dublin---built to honor Admiral Horatio Nelson's victory (and death) at Trafalgar in 1805 and blown up by the Irish Republican Army in 1966---to come to terms with the weird unsatisfactory legacy of colonialism in Ireland: a broken language, a broken culture, but life goes on, generally at full throttle. Just as the memory of Nelson's Pillar is shored up and surrounded by the shards and scraps of the blown-up monument, and city streets, the poem "The Pillar" is surrounded by shorter found and prose poems, and wound around with a series of longer perambulatory poems set in Dublin and Ithaca, New York. The same trajectory from Ireland to America which is seen in the other two sections also appears here, as does the formal tension between lush lyricism and tightly-modeled found poems. Though gusto and humor remain constant, the raw energy with which the book started out is disciplined into horrified nostalgia and light-headed pilgrimage by book's end. The journey towards home replaces the notion of home itself: "I think I must know as much about sidewalks / as anyone in this world---/ I don't know that I love them" and "A cracked American sidewalk / is not so different to anywhere else / Everything about the sidewalk is minor / No need to say secondary."
This is a substantial book, formally unusual and very significant in terms of the Irish poetic tradition, and a key work of diaspora literature. Taking Nelson & The Huruburu Bird as a work bridging two cultures, it will be interesting to see what Mairad Byrne, now settled in America, will do next.
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Mairead Byrne is the author of poetry collections THE BEST OF (WHAT'S LEFT OF) HEAVEN (Publishing Genius Press, 2010), TALK POETRY (Miami University Press, 2007), SOS Poetry (/ubu Editions, 2007), and Nelson & The Huruburu Bird (Wild Honey Press, 2003); and poetry chapbooks including State House Calendar, An Educated Heart, Vivas, Kalends, and The Pillar. Collaborations with visual artists include Jennifer's Family (photographs by Louisa Marie Summer), Lucky (illustrations by Abigail Lingford), and three books with Irish painters. Mairead Byrne is the co-founder, curator and emcee for couscous, a poetry/music/performance series which has been running monthly for five years in Providence, where she is employed as Professor of Poetry + Poetics at Rhode Island School of Design.
Reviews - What do customers think about Nelson & the Huruburu Bird?
a masterpiece of modulation Apr 16, 2003
I read these poems and said yes; yes, there's a brightness, yes, there's a resonant voice, yes, the varied conceptualizations are ingenious, yes, I saw, yes, I touched, yes, it remains. I think there'll be volumes more; Flo-Jo blown into motion. This volatile stuff is chameleon poetry, dazzling all the cosmic accesories, of verdant verbiage, with wit; the book shook. Read the poetry that's been lived in, its running commentary, investigation, controlled mutation, labor-exploratory station, mad scientist jones. It's an inventor's notebook, a painter's mannered design, a scholar's close angle, the aviator's dashing plan; blueprints, I mean, of a perspective, the scene. The long poem "The Pillar" stands as a remarkable treatment of the form, its possibilities, near-infinitessimal variation wobble. I bogus U knot...just trust me, if you want to write, join the debate, or read to enlightenment, look for as many vehicles of language as you might conceivably sample, maybe, all the way to customary usage. Although, the book is something a bit unconventional; dare I say, revolutionary? We see that there's fuel in the underground, storage tanks, sloshing rare brews, blot tests. Where else can you catch sight of the bashful huruburu bird, or, see speedwellbuttercup under the monkey-puzzle tree? Don't you tempt me. I say, raise the cup, pour the libations to poor poetry, vowing a helix of laurels, for another, another day. Find out today, enter, lights on, reaction. Of course, I said yes.
Stellar! Feb 4, 2003
This book is destined, I think, to be considered one of the most important poetry books of the 21st Century in both Ireland and American. I'm not joking. This poet writes as well as -- and often better than -- Plath, Patrick Kavanagh, Bishop, Lorine Niedecker, and Ashbery. These are all very different writers, obviously -- which is in part to say that this writer and the poems in this book are so versatile and disparate in form, content, and style that I am nonplussed and frankly awed by this poet's versatility; her conceptual, lyrical, and narrative gifts are so stellar and strange that I have trouble thinking of Mairéad Byrne as one person.
It is a long first book (128 pages) that reads like a "Selected" volume. The book is divided into three sections: 1. "From _An Interview with Romulus and Remus_"; 2."From _Cycling to Marino_"; 3. "From _The Pillar_" -- which makes me think it is three books in one. The credits and acknowledgements pages are extensive: she's published widely in both Ireland and America, in both countries' best journals. She's been widely anthologized in both Ireland and America.
I see that Wild Honey Press is a new Irish press and that this is its first full length book. And, too, I can see why the press chose to inaugurate or christen its full length publications with this book: this book is absolutely stupendous-and this poet is a major Irish poet; what's more, Mairéad Byrne is a major Irish poet writing as an immigrant in America, writing thus from and in two traditions, in two countries, taking on, getting from, and contributing to the American poetry milieu in ways that I have not seen, and do not expect to see, American authors doing.