The Holocaust was an eruption building up over two thousand years. Our world stood by as ordinary men became mass murderers. The fallout of this epochal event continues to affect our world. In trying to face the Holocaust we stand between the last surviving eyewitnesses and a generation often cut off from the past.
How does poetry respond to the extermination camps? After them, what hope is there? These poems bear witness to the Jewish trauma and its meaning for all of us. The fruit of many years of immersion in the testimonies of survivors, The Gossamer Wall is a new departure for Micheal O’Siadhail. In this book-length sequence, he evokes the Holocaust in a stark, narrative style of great intensity.
‘The collection strikes me as almost utterly unusual, awesome, in its way. The straightness, with no sign of facile hype or self-congratulation; the rhymes, somehow, against the odds not belying but bringing home some truths in a fresh voice and vantage point’ – John Felstiner, Stanford University
'This book is a series of poem-sequences in witness to the Holocaust of the European Jews... What distinguishes this book is the great skill and sensitivity with which these events are selected and told. O'Siadhail calls on an array of traditional verse forms, these being among the most serviceable vessels we have for carrying overwhelmingly difficult emotional content (think of Wilfred Owen's sonnets on the agonies of trench warfare when reading O'Siadhail's sonnets set in the camps)... Think of other poem sequences dealing with such material, for example Ruth Whitman's The Testing of Hannah Senesh. In the best of them, as in that book and here, an infinitely-long story, untellable in its entirety, is condensed into a few intense images, a sequence of clear and resonate notes' - Sarah Kafatou, Harvard Review
‘This is nothing short of the history of the holocaust, from Hitler’s ascent to power to the liberation of the camps and the aftermath. This is an extraordinary and wonderful work’ - David Hanley, The Enchanted Way, RTE Radio 1
‘The Gossamer Wall is really one long narrative poem, which addresses meticulously, and with great sensitivity, that most evil episode in human history when civilised man coldly planned and carried out the extermination of six million men, women, and children for the crime of being different. The book is an exceptional achievement, evidence of the poet’s wounded fascination before such human evil and testifying to a painstaking labour of something akin to outraged love for all those who suffered’ - Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times
‘This is a beautiful book. Thank you for writing it’ - Peter Tiefenbach, CBC Radio 1
‘His book, which argues the importance of not narrowing down life in all its jazzy, rich complexity to the ideologies of blood and soil, also carries some chilling Eastern European resonances… I believe that work such as O’Siadhail’s help us to hear the stifled voices – the voices of the six million whose voices can be heard behind the gossamer wall' - Declan McCormack, The Sunday Independent
‘Nobody immediately thinks of a book of poems as a page-turner. Yet you pick up Micheal O’Siadhail’s The Gossamer Wall and you won’t put it down without reading it from beginning to end' - Ciaran Carty, The Sunday Tribune
Micheal O'Siadhail reads two poems
Micheal O'Siadhail reads two poems, 'Between' and 'Transit', from his Collected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2013). This film is from the DVD-book In Person: 30 Poets filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce, edited by Neil Astley, which includes five poems from his Collected Poems read by Micheal O'Siadhail.
North America: Time Being Books