About this Book
The range of poems in Massacre of the Birds moves from an encounter with water creatures in ‘Hanging House in a Canal’ to the appearance of a satyr in O’Donnell’s back garden in ‘Muse.’ Mythic nature abounds, but wake-up calls to social denial also appear in ‘#MeToo: 12 Remembered Scenes and a Line’ and ‘It Wasn’t a Woman.’ She speaks of the endangered biosphere, of losses incurred by forced migration, but also about the attritions of time in a mother-daughter relationship. A beautiful collection from one of our most accomplished poets.
“At last a proper creative response to our times. With the most gracious authority, Mary O’Donnell speaks truth into the storm of wounds mankind is causing to nature and the feminine. These poems ‘witness the grace of wing tilt and wind’, and map where we stand on the ‘lakeshore of conscience’ as nature’s ‘vanishing’ happens all around us. As the collection progresses Massacre of the Birds successfully charts the full spectrum of female experience. Here are the lyrical, sensuous spaces of our intimacies. And here too is a bold, political reckoning of the many painful injustices women have suffered for too long. O’Donnell’s work is a deeply satisfying fusion of poignancy and forthright power; her poems are both a healing for our ills, and a vital demand for action.”
“What I admire most about Mary O’Donnell’s poetry is the way she reaches beyond her formidable Irish roots to embrace, aesthetically and thematically, a global poetic that joins hands with Adrienne Rich, Federico García Lorca and Tomas Tranströmer. She blends the sensual with the mystical, the exotic with images from home. From finding the transcendent in something as simple as trying on a pair of sandals, to allowing imagination’s flight in ‘dancing to Cuban rhythms/ rum on my tongue,/a reek of skin, all body,/ burning up’—Mary O’Donnell takes us along with her on the journey of a life rooted in tradition, but too large to be contained.”
“In her new book Mary O’Donnell demonstrates a thrilling preparedness to breach boundaries and interrogate the world from fresh angles. The voice is urgent, with poems that can be both passionately political and devastatingly personal in turn, whether it is exploring the experience of refugees with ‘a whole sea like a judgment on us’, a woman’s aging process or the writer’s complex relationship with the art of poetry. There’s anger with our casual plunder of the natural world and at our obliviousness to the suffering of those we seek to hide away. But there’s also joy, a capturing the numinous—what O’Donnell calls the ‘perfect stealth / of these moments’—when it offers itself in language that is precise, charged and hauntingly beautiful.”
“Mary O’Donnell writes with the vigour and tremulous excitement of youth, now enriched with the wisdom of the years. Her lyricism is laced with raw courage and rare sinew, her compass being both meticulously local yet still global in its vision. In this astonishing collection, amongst many other subjects, her pen ponders upon the unwitnessed death of an aged aunt, the fancy skirts of an unwashed lettuce, the slaughter at Bataclan, with equal ease and elegance. As a poet, Mary O’Donnell stands with Heaney and Boland, Kavanagh and Clarke: as a living writer, she stands alone.”