Michael Farry: Asking for Directions, Doghouse Press, 2012
This first poetry collection is worldly while perusing the everyday; it’s sometimes startling or humorous, with subtle rhyme and understatement. Its strength is in the confidence to allow the poem to show the way without being over-told. In the signature first poem, the setting is Florence but the thematic sentiment asks for the poet to be left to wander uninterrupted in his native territory, ‘These thin streets lead nowhere but home.’
Asking for Directions is a chronicle of journeys; steps around churches, museums and monuments; flights to Krakow, Copenhagen, Stansted; Liverpool Street Train Station; driving to Dublin through by-passed towns and the bringing back of experience to share. In the poem, ‘British Museum,’ he says, ‘London Rain eroding all its unroofed monuments. / I stood and heard the drip-drip of empires.’ The book describes the poet as collector, a store of curiosity and merit, the setting aside of a find for future use and then the inevitable clearing, the editing of space like the shaping of a poetry collection. Farry describes this craftsmanship in his poem, ‘The Last Rocking Chair’ about his grandfather’s wobbly bequest, ‘staggered that he recognised / a connoisseur/ of the almost nearly perfect, / I took possession, / laid it to rest in the shed / under father’s willow creels / unravelling.’
Historian, retired teacher, grandfather, stamp collector and founding member of the Boyne Writers Group, Michael Farry was born in Coolaney, County Sligo, and lives in County Meath. He has published four books on the history of Sligo; the latest, Sligo 1912-1933, was released last year by Four Courts Press in their series, The Irish Revolution.
Farry observes the world at hand, the commonalities of here and there, the briars, weeds, spires, twine, markets, the ticking clock, mock gilt coffin handles and worn tiles of passing through. His poem, ‘Abroad,’ perceives, ‘At home in their footpaths, / only the language is foreign.’ He purveys waterlogged landscapes, ‘I could drowse down there, / astray in ever green / where silence is a common language.’ Here the poet upholds the silences between images and words, so the reader can stray in this design, soft under foot.
So this traveller draws comparisons in the bardic tradition of recounting the vagaries of stepping out. This rich and nostalgic fare is at its best in the metaphors of ordinary objects.