Former St Dominic’s teacher publishes new collection of poetry

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A LITTLE girl loses an eye while playing on a stepladder left by a worker in her home. A trowel falls and half the world disappears. This moment of horror leads to years of meeting a special man, Mr. Lennox. Mr. Lennox is the specialist who fits her with a new artificial eye every year as she grows. When she was a teenager, he taught her how to wear makeup to highlight the prosthetic eye and give it a more natural look,

“He was explaining to me that the eye is not at all one color and showing me the flecks of amber and green in the dark blue of the iris.”

It’s the award-winning story at the heart of Maureen Boyle’s new collection of poetry launched this week by Arlen House. The World’s Last Spring leads to a contemplation of nature and the loss we will suffer in ecological collapse.

Maureen Boyle is a nature poet but also a storyteller. There’s a powerful sequence in the Bypass book about her father having to go to London for heart surgery. The poems are simple and direct and full of a sense of dislocation.

Her name is Pearl.
She comes from Saint Lucia.
She may be the hundredth nurse you’ve seen.
She is efficient and kind.
She calls you Mr. Boyle.

Other nurses had rudely joked about whether he had tattoos and had missed key dietary notes. When Maureen goes to town with her mother, they share the bus with the wives of prisoners who have visited the prison adjacent to the hospital.

The collection also includes his sequence of poems on Strabane which formed the basis of a Radio Four broadcast three years ago. This has already been published as a stand-alone book, along with photographs, many of which were taken by her husband Malachi O’Doherty.

Maureen lives in Belfast and retired last year from her post at St Dominic’s High School on Falls Road where she taught English. Her work is intensely personal and she has a fun long poem about her experience of first love called First Time.

“It was like a mix of Christmas and a visit to the dentist.”

Maureen Boyle has won several prizes for her poetry, including an Irish Chair of Poetry Fellowship to travel to the Isle of Wight to research the life of Ann Donne, wife of the metaphysical poet of 17th century John Donne. This led to The Nunwell Letter. This long epistolary poem seeks to recreate a letter sent by Ann to John while he was in France to tell him that their baby had died,

“I was more body, John than soul…brought down to earth by loss.”

Associate Professor of Poetry at Seattle University and Executive Director of the John Donne Society, Sean McDowell says of the poem in his new book “Metaphysical Shadows” that it shows “an admiral depth of perception and feeling” and writes: “Nunwell’s letter follows Donne’s own approach to watermarking a poem in such a way that it is made new and capable of inspiring other acts of poetic creation.”

The World’s Last Spring was launched at the Irish Secretariat in Belfast on June 16, published by Arlen House Dublin.

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