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Featured Poet: Martin Mooney

Eyewear is very glad to feature Martin Mooney (pictured) this Sunday, on the eve of his reading for the Oxfam Poetry Series in London on July 4.  I first met Mooney in Belfast, in 1987, introduced to him by Medbh McGuckian, and we struck up a friendship.  Corresponding trans-Atlantic by letter in the days before email, we put together an anthology of contemporary poets from the North, which was launched in March 1988, in Montreal during a conference on Irish writing.  Martin came over for the launch for a few weeks, staying with me.  It was an exciting time - Paul Durcan, Terry Eagleton, and Michael Longley were there, as well as Senator David Norris.  We were the cover story of a Montreal daily paper.  I was not yet 22, Martin was around 24 or 25. On one of the last days of his visit we drove across to the border to Burlington and met Paul Muldoon for Chinese food, after a reading he had done.

After that, we fell out of touch, and went our separate ways.  He went on to become an arts administrator, civil servant, creative writing teacher, and publican.  He also wrote short fiction, reviews, and for the theatre.  Life happened.  In 2009 I read his third collection, and was pleased to see he still had the touch that had so inspired me when I was a younger poet - Martin taught me much about Irish and British poetry, and argued for the value of Wordsworth.  My poetry since the late 80s has been strongly influenced by Irish poetry, especially that from the North.  Anyway, enough about me.  I am very glad he will be reading from his excellent fourth collection, The Resurrection of the Body at Killysuggen, for the series I run.

Mooney's poetry remains a touchstone for me - it is highly-intelligent, especially sensitive to politics and history (he has a fondness for Cold War images and communist references), weather (he likes snow), the local, and, adds to this a strong sense of craft, subtle music, and humour.  He's one of the best Irish poets writing under the age of 50.  Below find a few of my favourite poems from his latest book.

Moscow Road

In the cold light of spring it’s a photograph
from Picture Post: factories, gasometers.
Moscow Road is cutting a swathe

through wetlands towards a horizon of cranes
and windsocks, of cargo ships. There’s
been a light drift of snow and the Nissen

huts are sugared with it. Nothing moves,
until a turboprop comes in to land and scares
a single pearl-grey heron from the reed-beds.

It beats past Bauhaus offices, a refugee,
a ghost from the show trials, over our heads:
ration-books, industry, the war years.

Portrait of a young nobleman holding a lemur
for Janice

Conspirator, swordsman, amateur poet,
his pet on its silver chain has the skinniest arms
and widest eyes in the whole chateau.

Blind-looking, feral glamour stares and stares
at something you can’t see. Imagine
fur and weeping scullions, maps of the wars.

They don’t, as a rule, live long. What will he do
when its brittle bones are buried in the keep?
Who will he find to talk to? How will he sleep?

poems by Martin Mooney; reprinted from The Resurrection of the Body at Killysuggen; with permission of the author.
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