As someone who’s no stranger to the dark elements that often typify “western” poetry, with its grim politics and heady ruminations on the foibles of childhood, I occasionally forget that language itself is a kind of music, a form of primeval celebration, of which poetry is perhaps the most refined expression. But there’s no forgetting a lesson like that when graced by the verse of Roisin Kelly, an Irish poet of breathtaking sound and lyricism.
Just check out a poem like Skating to Byzantium, a playful homage to Sailing to Byzantium by William Butler Yeats that nevertheless manages to exist quite well on its own merits with lush descriptions of the “beer-brown river” and “the stars’ bright traffic,” so much so that a familiarity with the source material—while it adds extra depth—isn’t actually necessary to enjoy the poem. Roisin’s work resonates with just that kind of accessibility, even as it acknowledges those who have come before.
Listen, I don’t claim to be the first editor to laud Roisin’s work (she’s already appeared in Poetry Magazine, for Yeats’ sake!) but in a few years when Roisin Kelly becomes a household name for poetry-lovers, remember: I called it.
Roisin Kelly is an Irish poet who was born in Belfast and raised in Leitrim. After a year as a handweaver on a remote island in Mayo and a Masters in Writing at National University of Ireland, Galway, she now calls Cork City home.
Her poetry has appeared in POETRY, Blunderbuss, The Dark Horse, The Baltimore Review, the Aesthetica Creative Writing Anthology 2014, and Best New British and Irish Poets 2016 (Eyewear 2016).
In 2016 she was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series, as part of which she read at the Dublin International Literature Festival. That year she was featured poet in The Stinging Fly‘s summer issue, and her work was published in The Irish Times after it was shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award.
Roisin’s first chapbook, Rapture, was published by Southword Editions in November 2016 and has been described by Cork poet Leanne O’Sullivan as ‘fierce and mysterious, beautiful and compelling.”
She goes on, “One of the great rewards in reading these poems lies in the way Kelly illuminates aspects of our relationship to physical space, drawing into presence strange and sometimes nightmarish possibilities. What a wonder this collection has been to read. These poems, whether they resound deeply or quietly interrogate their own margins, have made a foothold in my imagination, opening a path that I will keep returning to.”
Image of Roisin Kelly by Simon Curran