Denise McSheehy with her remarkable second collection, The Plate Spinner, is this month’s Featured Writer. I’m really pleased that Denise is Featured Writer as I have known her for years and value her distinctive and highly unusual poetry. She is a very private poet and you won’t find her on social media or online. (But I just hope I can do her justice as I am recovering from flu which has knocked out my brain cells.)
This book was published by the always-industrious Oversteps Books at the end of last year and the cover shows this wonderful installation created by Caitlin Heffernan called We could have been anywhere which to me perfectly complements how Denise finds the extraordinary in the ordinary, in domesticity, in family ties, in the smallest details which she draws for us again and again with insightful and painterly accuracy:
The sun brightens into the wide circular mouth
of the fruit bowl
a glass pane mists
and the floor, plain blocks
of honey coloured wood
and brown tiles, records
the movements of the day.
You know this
by the deepening of a shine.
(from One Sound Playing)
The poems Denise has chosen to send are possibly among my biggest favourites in her new collection. I love Alchemists’ short lines and their surprising endings, the observed details, the way the simple language carries so much and then opens out into richer diction, erudite in the vocabulary of inflexion….Their narrative – the human heart. Shelter is an extraordinary work, very finely wrought, not an extraneous word. Like a drawing by Durer. She is a master of the unspoken, of white space, of perfectly judged shifts of tone.
Her poems are both sharply defined and honed for she is a true draughtsman and this leads to their feeling so warm and breathing on the page. It looks effortless but can’t be. Among other themes such as light and form and colour she explores time and memory in several poems but often these themes inform on one another,
All the things he didn’t
do don’t matter now.
And all the things he did
(from What is there to be afraid of?)
Inner and outer landscapes continually converge – the empty shell of a snail, a dried-out orange, bottles bulging in a plastic bag, the small sounds of drinking, the short days of winter, the layers of winter colour on the sea, the secret pleasure of ear wax all stitch together the rich tapestry of this book. Here’s a memorable modern take on The Listeners. It perfectly demonstrates her poetic powers… better than I can explain.
The middle of the night and the phone rings.
But someone is there.
We listen to each other
In the dark and quiet we listen
there is between us not even breathing.
Yet I know the moment
What could be said
will now not be said.
the neutral purr
and I wonder who was out there
at five in the morning
who’d listened unknown as I had listened
listened to my silence –
Then quietly gone, cut off
blipped out in to the darkness.
You can find the book here as this book deserves careful reading and re-reading and you will need your own copy, believe me.