AUDIO READING FROM THE COLLECTION: ‘ELEGY FOR PATRICIA DORRIAN’
Carnivorous is the eighth collection from Co Down poet Moyra Donaldson. Drawing on myth, nature and memory the poems speak of the extraordinary in the ordinary. Fluidity of self and of time, an evocation of the natural world, our human need to try make sense of our lives – themes that are expanded and developed in this latest book. As Damian Smyth commented, Moyra Donaldson’s poetry has grown to ignite unexpected perceptions and magnify them.
‘Carnivorous implies that we partake literally and metaphorically of the flesh of other beings. Our relationship to the natural world is complex and fraught, and Moyra Donaldson is not afraid to examine its consequences. In these searching, intimate, sometimes harrowing poems, she recognises the capacity of language to transform ourselves, to chart a region where ‘Rivers and land and self and time/ flow through each other’.
‘Moyra Donaldson takes the long view of history, ‘the womb before the world’ and her sense of the physical and the visceral permeates these poems. This is a world of real consequences, of emotion rendered into striking images. Buddleia seeds that follow ‘the railway lines, using the pull of air/ from trains to escape the big houses’ becomes a metaphor for the power of imagination. With great wit, these poems are by turn moving and delightful and the presence of the natural world, and of horses in particular, grounds the work where our current longing meets the folk belief of the past. Carnivorous asks readers what they will stand up for now – sometimes blazing its angers and at other times via measured lyrics of real musical power. This is a book to savour, a volume to return to as the poems reveal their fullest meanings. Behind all the work is that ‘small, secretive animal of self’ that Donaldson captures. Her special skill is to convey both the yearning and the cost of that ‘milli-second of suspension when we/ remember the miraculous’.
Elegy for Patricia Dorrian
To have your daughter taken
and not know where to find her,
not even the bones of her, body
that you carried in your body,
the bones that belong to you,
her sweet baby bones.
There was searching in sea tides,
boots of cars, sheughs and ditches,
in holes in the ground, in closed faces.
Could the body of a girl be folded
into an oil drum, sealed and dumped
as if rubbish; the most appalling of places
and in your imagination worse even –
but not worse than not knowing.
You wouldn’t let them forget her:
you begged for one man with a conscience –
none were to be found. From posters in shops,
on telegraph poles, newspaper articles
each new anniversary, year after ever forever,
your daughter still smiling at the gone world.