Magnum Mysterium is Irish American poet Julie O’Callaghan’s first collection since Tell Me This Is Normal: New & Selected Poems (2008).
Her new poems have evolved from the early monologues – written in American demotic – to poems of heartache on the death of her husband, the poet Dennis O’Driscoll. But even in these harrowing poems she never loses her ear for the absurdities of modern life – including the grieving process where she can “see” her husband alive and doing what he loves ('Cyber You'):
I need to see you
living and breathing.
I go to YouTube
and there you are being you
(the tiny you)
with the tie I bought you
sitting on a chair
on a stage in Santa Fe
asking Seamus questions.
In Magnum Mysterium Julie O’Callaghan has continued writing poems which 'seem effortless and are immediately accessible and achieve great emotional weight by the lightest of means' (Michael Hartnett Award citation).
‘These poems are agile, heartfelt and original. They expand with repeated readings, earning the reader’s trust as they echo voices that are recognisable all around us, if not within us as well.' – Leslie Ullman, Poetry
‘O’Callaghan’s subtle ear for the intonations of speech, her appalled delight in the things language is made to do in our consumer-crazed era…and her shrewd handling of line-endings mark her as a true poet, someone with an almost deranged interest in the possibilities and impossibilities of words.’ – Patrick Crotty, The Irish Times
Julie O’Callaghan: Tell Me This Is Normal
Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed Julie O’Callaghan reading a selection of poems from Tell Me This Is Normal in April 2008 in one of her favourite places, the Long Room Gallery at Trinity College Dublin, the subject of the first poem she reads (for many years she worked as a librarian at Trinity). These are: ‘The Long Room Gallery’, ’No Can Do’, ’Home’, two poems from ’Edible Anecdotes’, ’The Great Blasket Island’, ’Lettergesh Strand’, ’Problems’ and ‘Scary’. This film is from the DVD-anthology In Person: World Poets, filmed and edited by Pamela Robertson-Pearce and Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books, 2017).