Your heart lifts when a fat envelope flops on the doormat
containing a new collection of poetry. Your heart sinks when the title hits
the eyeball: Autumn Beguiles the Fatalist.
Come back A J Ayer - all is forgiven. Despite the meaningless verbal
decoration fronting the cover, like some Byronic hero in drag and down with
the a touch of the vapours, it's an highly entertaining read: fun, great rhythm and sometimes rhyme. The
themes are the usual suspects with a wry, twist; especially, a distinctly
Flann O' Brien touch to the poem titles. In fact, the contents page almost
reads like a surrealist tract. 'God's Insomnia', had me chortling before I even
read the substance of the poem. It's a shame about the cover title, for
elsewhere Foley deflates pretension or rarefied, precious human endeavour,
for example in his poem,'Broken Kings at Nightfall'.
And substance is, at times, a problem. After, the fun has died down, after
being thoroughly entertained, is there anything else to be savoured in the
work here? There are times when verbal decoration, surface playfulness, is
all that Foley offers. In 'God's Insomnia', the end-line hits like a
punch-line, makes you titter, entertains, but nothing important has been
said. As well as a belly-laugh, I wouldn't mind more of a mental stir, some
abstruse thought or phrase to disturb my mental equilibrium. In fairness,
Foley does occasionally make you think, his words do disturb more than
surface dust. His inventive poem, 'The Theories of Order and Chaos', has the
particular mirror universal laws:
impenetrable mysteries of disorder and turbulence
eventually came to address.
Too late for
me, as it turned out, The laws
Of the old
clockwork universe were deep in my bones.
being turned to dust by osteoporosis
emphysema stopping her breath,
the oldest lament: I
Things all so
differently if I had my time again.
At last, some interesting mix of ideas, grounded in something more heartfelt
than surface cleverness, but then Foley hits Les Dawson mode in the last line
of the last stanza, ever the performer:
hold back the question: What things?
Somehow she heaved herself upright on thin brittle
ruined lungs found enough breath to shout:
wouldn't take so much cheek from you for a start.
I bet this goes down a storm at readings, try the odd working men's club,
black suit, kipper tie, 70s sideburns and keep 'em laughing. Yet, laughs can
This cannot be dismissed as light verse. It is accomplished, witty, well
constructed poetry and it is great crack, surely, for those days when one has
had enough of something turgid,
say Ezra Pound or some such other heavyweight master of wilful obscurantism.
In truth, I warmed to the collection. It entertained from cover to cover, the
sort of copy that would keep a smile on one's face on a delayed journey, but
at journey's end, I'd leave the book on the seat for the next passenger. The
work does not stay with me. It does what it does very well, but it does not
do enough. A delightfully light collection, take it, then leave it.
But I could be wrong,. Consider the closing poem:
Don't lay me
in earth. I've always loathed not just the concept
ground (a third of that unholy trinity - soil, faith and blood)
physical stuff itself - clay, clabber, mud and muck,
clinging, dark. Also, you get eaten by maggots.
not deliver me to, but emancipate me from earth
In a final
burst of incandescence - not to rot, dinner for insects,
But to blaze
and be liberated into air, free from responsibility
And the same
of the sweating self, not to be circumscribed
detectable ... either halfway to distant stars ... or lodged
throat (for eavesdropping at source) - though more likely
In between, whirled
round the globe. To soar above - or infiltrate
-- But never
to serve. Eternal the freedom and rapture of dust.
['The Nature of Dust']
I don't know about Fatalism, I admit, somewhat indeterminately, but as I
hover between a mote of disappointment and active approbation, I certainly
have been beguiled.
Daithidh MacEochaidh 2007