Reviews of Slow Mysteries

Monica Corish writes that her task is: To catch the luminous from within, / light up from beneath, aboriginal light, / to make the paper shine / beyond reserved white. Time and again, she succeeds in this ambitious goal, and all that caught light makes for a collection with  the range and brilliance of an island lighthouse. Slow Mysteries is a book of marvels.

Theodore Deppe, Orpheus on the Red Line, Tupelo Press and Cape Clear: New and Selected Poems, Salmon Poetry

There is an imaginative theme in this collection that explores what we might call visitations. But in Monica’s clever and fresh reworking of the annunciation there is no suggestion of the fey or abstract but rather a rich sense of mystery and paradox and memorable detail. In other poems, Monica’s imagination takes flight using ancestral connections and family stories – of lighthouse keepers and their wives, ‘women whose husbands’ first wife was the sea’ – and immediate personal experience. As you immerse yourself in the pleasure and imagery of these poems you find it hard not to think of Monica as a lightkeeper with the lightest of touches, a beacon voice that gives light by knowing the dangers.… In her poems of the Rwandan genocide, Monica proves herself to be a safe guide for us to follow on the journey into darkness, and safely back out again. I would seriously counsel you to make friends of Monica’s poems.

Brian Leyden, author of The Home Place, New Island, and Death and Plenty, Brandon Books. Quoted in the Donegal Democrat..

This is such a good collection that it was hard to chose poems to highlight… As with all poetry, this is a very personal collection, even more so as Corish explores her experiences in Africa and her injuries that called a halt to this part of her life. It is a very rewarding collection with so much for the reader to take away with them to consider.

This collection opens and closes with maritime images, and it’s the restlessness and the untamed energy of the sea that stays with the reader…This work takes us through many lands. Corish is a sharp observer with an empathetic heart.

Clairr O’ Connor, Orbis #161, Autumn 2012

Slow Mysteries is familiar and yet enchantingly strange.  Monica Corish celebrates her homeland: “Cill Úira, Carrowmore, Knocknarea . . .” from the first poem, but it is a homeland peopled with wondrously idiosyncratic angels as well as lighthouse keepers, “sea-struck, rock-bound men”, and a child who lies in her mother’s womb “like the curled head of a fern.” These poems are brave, “allowing space for paradox.”  They give us humor, wisdom, and “what we cannot bear to touch:/ our own unbearable grief/ for the loss of unbearable joy.” Monica Corish has given us poems we want to hold like gifts, to open again and again.

Pat Schneider, Writing Alone and With Others, OUP and How the Light Gets In: Writing as a Spiritual Practice, OUP

Monica Corish’s poems celebrate liminalities.  Singer-crafted darts turn a girl into a woman (‘Becoming Visible’); an election defeat  turns a sober woman into a tipsy Cailleach (‘Cailleach’); the lighthouse keeper’s transfer of sexual allegiance from the sea to his waiting wife on the mainland (‘The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter’)… These songs that sing of the west of Ireland (Knocknarea of legend is her parish) avoid conventionalities, clichés, the overly familiar… domestic poems in which the ordinary is touched with sacredness.

But this is modern Ireland and young women get to Nairobi and Rawanda and Istanbul where they encounter ‘the shock of the sacred’… She assumes the role of witness, the one who is unafraid to detail the horror. The chief challenge, far exceeding the horror of the stench of the dead, is the knowledge that the Interahamwe, the Death Squads are ‘my brothers, my sisters, my self.’ … As she steps over the lintel that separates bourgeois realities from ultimate terrors, she demonstrates with a lucidity that bespeaks her pain and self-consciousness, the ways in which to survive…

This collection gives us religious poetry in a different key. It’s often quite quirky and whimsical.  ‘Cassiopeia on the saxophone, Orion on the guitar, the Great Bear on the drums’ rewrites Genesis in a very modern idiom… This collection breathes deeply and dances with the joy of creation.  It would make a good Christmas present for someone who lives in the fast lane.

Frances Devlin-Glass Ph.D. Tintean Magazine, Sept 2012