Oisín Breen’s poetry never fails to use every colour of the metaphorical palette to paint the beautiful imagery that I have come to love. After reviewing Flowers, all sorts in blossom, figs, berries, and fruits forgotten for the Summer 2020 Edition of Literary Heist, I was intrigued to be reading Lilies on the deathbed of Étaín and Other Poems. From poem to poem, Oisín is able to deliver such a unique experience that you would almost be convinced that his poetry had different authors if it weren’t for the highly specialized way he’s able to tell a consistently lovely story.
As I imagine her,
she who was always the first;
she who was poisonous, bearing bright red fruit;
Ioho, driving her crown unknowing into her wounds;
As I imagine it – cleaved from her –
This is the loss of plenty.
Even in this small amount of text, taken from Oisín’s poem Lilies on the Deathbed of Étaín, I find great beauty, torture, pain, toxicity, and loss.
While every poem in the book brought me great joy to read, there was a gem that constantly played with sound. If ever there was a poem to be read aloud, that poem is The Love Song of Anna Rua, and here is a bit of text from that piece.
Anna- Aye-Anna- Aye-Anna-
It is a sad thing to think on,
Before we begin again.
It is sad to think that we imagined.
Aye- Aye- Aye-Anna-
Yet here I am,
And HERE you are.
Spectral, grinning, making daisy chains from the
past tense, and in verse throwing shapely
flowers: a sepia existence that may never be
Yet here we are
Should we read the repetitive parts of the poem like a song’s chorus, like a religious chant that everyone says at once? A line near the beginning of the poem reads: “All poetry is songliness,” and I think that’s the author’s way of telling us to read it like a song. I imagined a room full of happy people, everyone standing and swaying with a pint in their hand while singing it together. The part that you want to sing can be a sharp and amazing contrast to the part you want to speak. “Aye- Aye- Aye-Anna-” gives you a much different feeling than “a sepia existence that may never be expunged.”
There is so much to sit and analyze about Oisín’s newest book of poetry. If you love the kind of poetry that is easy and exciting to read, even though it can take some time to figure out, this is the poetry for you. Lilies on the deathbed of Étaín and Other Poems will take you through gorgeous scenery and an array of emotions. I highly recommend that you put this 54 page book of poetry on your Spring reading list.
While this article is ending, your exploration of this book is just beginning, so let me leave you with words from The Love Song of Anna Rua.
Where there is an ending,
So too is there a start.