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Book Review: The One Who Swears You Can't Start Over
by Bridget Haggerty

I have known Ethna for some years. As the co-publisher of my book, we first met at a Chicago book fair. What I could not have anticipated was meeting a woman with a gift for words that can move me to tears; to laughter; to joy in reading and re-reading the well-turned phrase. And, inevitably, to envying the skill.

I have her first book - "Caravan."
Many of the pages are dog-eared, the favorites clearly marked by the accidental ring of a wine glass put down, while leaning back to savor the pure delight of whimsies such as "Dancing the Boys Into Bed." These are the "young poems" and I hope she doesn't mind me saying that. Or sharing that particular poem here:

Crazy with giggles, a knee-high tornado
is dancing my skirt into knots.
His younger brother's slung across my shoulder,
bobbing his head to some infant dream.

They are the princes of Baba
and I am the palace queen
with regal peanut butter on her cheek.
We are kissing the world goodnight,

skimming a child's cha-cha
across the wooden floor, prancing our feet
to the beat of the baby's hiccups
in the bedtime world of Baba.

Sway, boys, rock the giddy room
to bits. I'll blanket down the castle
and toss some stars above your cribs,
then gently dance you into sleep.

I now have her second collection. What a treasure. And what a huge leap since Caravan. The skill is even stronger. More confident. And just as enviable. But, what sets this collection apart is the depth; not that Caravan wasn't deep in places. It most definitely was - but here, we get a glimpse of a life in full measure, cup full or not. No holds barred. It's an exhilarating read - from the hilarious "Why I Lied My Way Through Childhood" to the excruciatingly painful yet powerfully beautiful series of poems on losing her mother to Alzheimer's.

It's difficult not to try and gulp it all down in one sitting. But that's not the best way to truly appreciate Ethna's work. I have a feeling that this second book is about to become just as wine-stained, tear-dampened and dog-eared as the first. Perhaps even more so.

When you press the oars
into the river, the boat moves
forward. You're surprised
a moment - B follows A after all,
and the world goes on.

(First verse from "Later")

The One Who Swears You Can't Start Over is available through Irish Books & Media
Caravan is available through Amazon.

 

Fri, Nov 24, 2017

Holly and Ivy hanging up and
something wet in every cup*

Not so long ago, Irish Christmas decorations were much simpler than they are now. The children gathered holly and ivy for adorning, windows, doorways, mantles and pictures, and the father would carve out a turnip in which would be placed a large red candle. This would go in the window to light the way for the Holy Family on Christmas Eve. Only in relatively recent times did an Irish family have a Nativity scene and a decorated tree in the house. As for Mistletoe, it's quite rare in ireland and is generally associated with ancient Celtic and Druidic fertility celebrations; this is most likely where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from.
*Old Irish Christmas toast
Image: Pashley Manor Gardens.



Click for More Culture Corner.




Caravan
by Ethna McKiernan

I have her first book - "Caravan."
Many of the pages are dog-eared, the favorites clearly marked by the accidental ring of a wine glass put down, while leaning back to savor the pure delight of whimsies such as "Dancing the Boys Into Bed." - Bridget Haggerty
Click for Caravan

 

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March 4, 2011
   
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