Above is the box of 21 books submitted for this year’s Strong/Shine Award for best first collection by Irish poet. The award is funded and administered by DLR County Council as part of the Mountains to Sea festival.
I have spent the last few months getting to know these books intimately, especially the four shortlisted titles, which have kept me company through the recent sun-drenched spell:
Eleanor Hooker, The Shadow Owner’s Companion. Dedalus Press.
Mary Noonan, The Fado House, Dedalus Press.
Rebecca O’Connor, We’ll Sing Blackbird. Moth Editions.
Michelle O’Sullivan, The Blue End of Stars. Gallery Press
Reducing the field to four required much meditation and rereading, as well as some exceptionally difficult choices. In the end, however, I believe the four books selected do most to freshen and cleanse the poetic palate, to unsettle the tradition, to freight the reader’s memory with images that while beautiful often linger in a most disturbing fashion. In the end, more than anything else, I wanted to see stress. I wanted to see language subjected to pressure. Control. Or the poet experiencing and surrendering to the very forces of her language. A controlled lack of control. Something like that.
The time is soon approaching, however, when I must choose one of the four as overall winner. An unenviable station.