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Guest Review: Lockton On Keegan

Katherine Lockton reviews Don't Go There by Colm Keegan

In putting his debut collection together Colm Keegan draws on a great many resources including input by service users from Depaul and extracts from spoken word plays.

There is much to praise in Keegan’s Don’t Go There when it is at its best.  His use of simple, clear language where he plays with and explores the imagination and curiosity of a child is the biggest triumph in his collection. It is a world where “they say that even the blades/of the helicopter came from/the seed of the sycamore tree.”

It is simple yet evocative lines such as:

Today’s streets are colder

without their smiles

under the orange streetlights.

that really show what Keegan is capable of when he is in his stride. Keegan is at his best when painting pictures for the reader as his use of transparent language allows him to produce an uncomplicated, vivid image that we can see in our minds.

Keegan is also great at conjuring up a forgotten Dublin:

the thing that never goes away

is that everybody spoke like this once.

We are what was before.

Again, it is his use of clear diction and arresting, engaging vocabulary that creates an image of a rarely seen Dublin far away from the one portrayed by the media:

Sometimes I think of Dublin

like a huge dirt ridden blanket –

moth eaten


like something

shrouding a homeless man

something he tries to

smooth and smooth

something he thinks

can keep him warmer

but it never can.

The simplicity of Keegan’s words mean that he can create violent images;

he wants to take your butterfly

crush it in his hand

make you eat the broken wings

without overpowering the reader or being over-poetic or trying too hard.

Another aspect of Keegan’s poetry that makes it stand out is his use of rhythm:

Are you alright?

Are you alright?

they say.

While trying to reason this.

How close we came.

which effortlessly allows the reader to take in all that he is saying and creating.

Keegan’s collaborative poetry with service users is perhaps the most interesting part of the collection as the poems within that part have a childlike innocence and romance to them. In poems such as ‘Nicola’ we are invited into a world of “main” men, “secrets” and “oil slicks” where we watch over shoulders at the unfolding of a romance:

All became clear at your front door.

You threw your arms around me and we kissed.

We held each other tight for seven years.

There is also a lot to say about the failings of the collection, such as the choice of the collections’ opening poem, the prosey nature of some poems and the lack of image. On the whole Keegan presents us with a very mixed collection of good to mediocre poetry but when he is good he is good.

Katherine Lockton is a young British poet, who lives in London and sometimes reviews for Eyewear.
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