Saturday, August 7, 2021

Pratik Spring 2021 Issue Highlight: Yuyutsu Sharma on Irish Poet Anne Casey's new book, "the light we can not see"

 Book Review





Mandalas of Healing

and Relief




Distinguished Irish poet Anne Casey’s new poetry collection, the light we cannot see, comes as a superb addition to the literature on our times clutched tight in the merciless grip of the ongoing pandemic. Away from her homeland, away from ‘the familiar shores’ of her childhood, she comes up with these exquisitely crafted poems that stir tumultuous currents in the quiet ocean of our consciousness and awaken us from a long stupor to look at our world where we “flounder against/ the splay of dying/the numb length of living.”

Casey’s book is a regal gift replete with high poetry of loss, love and exile, an evocation of a mislaid world of “a child of wind and rain, /stone and bog, stratified silt slipping/ slowly into a relentless seas.” 

                     —these bones

throb for home, to distance

themselves from decades

of these insatiable cliffs

of glaring glass and

crushing concrete—

floors and walls

 consuming all

the wildness

that once made us.


Gradually, the collection progresses into an elegant celebration of elements that shape her universe and in the process compel her to  return to her Irish roots. She builds a tactile world where humanity can thrive and thereby succeeds in  weaving a gripping web of deftly crafted poems sturdy enough to withstand the pangs of isolation in our turbulent times.

An Irish poet living in Australia, Casey’s adopted new home, she stares back through “that  magnificent /desolation of this devilled blue globe,” and weaves a tapestry of life, love, hope for the suffering humanity. She worries about the fate of the earth, desperate to fill in the dark, “to separate and break us/apart from the spectre of some alternate reality.” Out of her singularity, she desires to come to terms with the reality, replacing a Japanese man’s fancy phone to call the dead with a simple chat with her mother ‘by heart.’

The moments of intense pain and suffering caused by ‘a silently creeping curse, ‘ as  she calls Covid, are eased with her line breaks and word splits. The poems on the page transform into exquisite mandalas of healing and relief, exhibiting her struggle to slow down the suffering through her play with new forms and ingenious language reminiscent of Frank O’ Hara and John Ashbury.

For Casey is a wizard of winds, a master craftsperson, making us labor along with her in unraveling the core of her inherent message and meaning. She makes us marvel how regardless of space, time and terrain, we are all bleeding inside and industriously repairing our shattered selves each and every moment of our lives.

We are not wearing gas-masks. My lungs are

burning. Experts say the wild bushfires

ravaging this country are like the impact

of an atomic bomb. Over a million hectares

engulfed in flames. Many people have died.

Or lost their homes. The military have been

deployed. My son says it is the apocalypse.

Earth is trying to stop us Mum

before all the animals are gone.

There is no immediate solution in sight.

This is not a flashback scene. This is not fiction.

True to her masters, Boland, Heaney and Yeats, Casey brings in the magic of folklore and mythic figures and from the mouth of babies and speaking trees reveals the harsh truth of mankind in damaging world peace, unleashing an inferno of forest fires and other ecological hazards to strangle mother earth. Having drunk the blood of innocent creatures in history, as evident in one of her poems, human beings are akin to the weeping willows cursed to wander the earth for redemption. Casey evokes ancient Celtic goddess Bridget associated with fertility, health, poetry and witchcraft.  In the end, she herself starts looking like a modern-day shaman of spirits, marveling at the power of the human hands, “to raise up or hold down/their power to save or drown”

in the aftermath

of this smoke-choked summer—

almost enough

to lift

the smog of loss



our tainted antipodean








the light we cannot see

Anne Casey

Salmon Poetry, Ireland, 2021


Recipient of fellowships and grants from The Rockefeller Foundation, Ireland Literature Exchange, Trubar Foundation, Slovenia, The Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature and The Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature, Yuyutsu Sharma is a world renowned Himalayan poet and translator. He has published ten poetry collections including, The Second Buddha Walk, A Blizzard in my Bones: New York Poems, Quaking Cantos: Nepal Earthquake Poems, Nepal Trilogy, Space Cake, Amsterdam and Annapurna Poems. Three books of his poetry, Poemes de l’ Himalayas, Poemas de Los Himalayas and Jezero Fewa & Konj  have appeared in French,  Spanish and Slovenian respectively. Half the year, he travels and reads all over the world and conducts Creative Writing Workshops at various universities in North America and Europe but goes trekking in the Himalayas when back home.

Currently, Yuyutsu Sharma edits, Pratik: A Quarterly Magazine of Contemporary Writing.


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