‘After Image’ Poetry Book by Mary Turley-McGrath
In her fourth collection of poetry After Image, Mary Turley-McGrath focuses on reflections about her natural surroundings as they stir the soul in inspiration, and provide peaceful meditations and kernels of wisdom to feed the spirit. Mary Turley-McGrath’s lyricism is lush. Her images crystallize feeling and leave one in evocative remembrance of places, perhaps never seen, but hazarded by her luminous figures, i.e. “avian sky etchings” (“Mumuration”) “…then beamed a chaos of dappled, flickering shadows on alders, beech and birch, like disco strobe lights” (“Diorama”).
These illusive images of sight and sound, fleeting fragments, sift and ping one’s thoughts. They are savory spice on the tongue, at once striking and delectable. Her work must be revisited for these gem moments, satisfying and complete, a textured whole unto themselves.
The poet has organized her poetry collection bringing together disparate, yet familiar thematic and human elements in ‘Tesserae,’ ‘Annaghmakerrig’ and ‘Winter Poems.’ In the first section there are poems of loss supplanted by what is found, and history’s movement estranging one from his or her life, until revelation comes. Mary Turley-McGrath also references war and dislocation, of the desecration of the familiar into a dissolved identity that refugees struggle to overcome. And she contemplates works of art and ancient architecture as they land in powerful images she crafts beautifully. I particularly enjoyed “The Cordoba Scrolls.”
In the ‘Annaghmakerrig’ section the poet encapsulates the feeling evoked by the amazing Tyrone-Gutherie Centre, its shimmering lake, the shy wildlife, the lush environs, captivating in all seasons. It was there Mary Turley-McGrath stayed during a residency awarded to her as the winner of the Trócaire/Poetry Ireland Competition in 2014. And it was there, pursuing my own journalistic writing, that I connected with Mary and we exchanged information and discussed our work.
Because I am familiar with the lovely environs, this section particularly resonated. Her poems brought the visions of the Big House and cottages set against the 500 acre wooded estate and alerted me to the varieties of birds that I did not see when I was there, because I focused on other activities. Her specificity and well drawn figures of speech align me with new eyes as I read this section. I see the gorgeousness of the gardens and grounds, the many varieties of trees, the effects of the light on the lake, the shadows and darkness. Above all, with each of her poems I retain the comfort and peace that encourages artistic inspiration, enlightenment and wisdom.
I particularly loved “A Heron” enlarged to philosophical ruminations about the Bennu bird of Egyptian myth. Yet, all of the poems are profound in their meaning. In wisps and fragments they remind me of the Tyrone Gutherie Center, Annaghmakerrig in that time I visited. Every time I pick up After Image, I revisit beauty in my mind’s eye, in the rereading of this glorious section.
‘Winter Poems’ is a collection of impressions of darker feelings, bleaker tones, absence, loss and evacuation caused by war’s devastation. Some of these poems, as in the other sections, reference art. ‘In Black and White’ is a nod to the photographic work of Josef Sudek, who captured Prague and its environs after the two wars. And ‘Evening’ is a fitting close in remembrance of the inequity of those casualties of war thrown into conflicts and the darkness, displaced from their homes as the poet references a new age Aeneas.
After Image is a quiet read that comforts with its beauty and airy, yet profound quality. Nevertheless, its undertones remind us there is so much work to do to soothe those terrorized by present upheavals. Amidst the loveliness of the natural landscape, humans have made their impact. It must be for the good. We cannot afford anything else.
Posted on February 22, 2022, in Carole Di Tosti's Book Reviews, The Writer's Tower and tagged After Image, Annaghmakerrig, Mary Turley-McGrath, Tyrone Gutherie Center. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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