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Magnum Mysterium | Bloodaxe Books

Julie O'Callaghan

Magnum Mysterium

Julie O'Callaghan

Publication Date : 25 Jun 2020

ISBN: 9781780375144

Pages: 65
Size :216 x 138mm
Rights: World

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
      for Christmas
      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).

‘Julie O’Callaghan’s heart-rent grief delivered her deep inimitable surprises in Magnum Mysterium.’ - Martina Evans, The Irish Times (Best Poetry Books of 2020)

‘Expressing maximum grief with a minimum of words, O’Callaghan never loses her fine sense of absurdity… O’Callaghan’s brand of funny has always been deadly serious… fear and existential dread are brilliantly wrapped up in her genius killer-humour…’ – Martina Evans, The Irish Times [on Magnum Mysterium]

'It is that element of “getting over”, in every sense of those words, an always adept handling of language and line, and an honesty of poetic voice, which gives this fine collection its power. In poems that are deceptively simple ‑ a hallmark of the best of O’Callaghan’s work – Magnum Mysterium illuminates and lifts emotions we all have to live through. I read and re-read it finding something fresh and astonishing every time. - Enda Coyle-Greene, Dublin Review of Books

'The final section of the book comprises a series of poems 'After Dennis O'Driscoll', and this is a wry, clear-eyed, and powerful exploration of life after great loss.' - Niamh MicGhabhann, Poetry Ireland Review

'A lovely book. O’Callaghan’s poems are usually short, odd, off-the-cuff-seeming, soft-centred, comic bonbons. Imagine a free-verse Wendy Cope, with hints of Lorraine Mariner and Matthew Sweeney. She somehow keeps that lightness of touch even here, where she’s writing about the deaths of her father and of her husband, the poet Dennis O’Driscoll. It’s an effortless read, a book that made me laugh and almost cry, often on the same page'. - Tristram Fane Saunders, The Telegraph [on Magnum Mysterium]

‘O’Callaghan’s poetry is revelatory, the chat isn’t always comfortable or comforting. She has a gift for surprises. The section ‘After Dennis O’Driscoll’ is lament and celebration, the poems more subdued and thoughtful, but never maudlin… This collection is thoughtful, balanced and well constructed. It is as good a record of the poet engaged truly and honestly with life as one will discover.’ – Fred Johnstone, Books Ireland  [on Magnum Mysterium]

‘Julie is a very distinctive poet. She’s well known and admired for her punchy, demotic poems written in a way from the sidelines of life - the kind of poems that seem to be instant and immediate, but in fact are craftily and wittily constructed. This book is a continuation of that, but it’s a much darker book as well.’ – Peter Sirr, Books for Breakfast podcast, reviewing Magnum Mysterium

‘Julie O’Callaghan is an Irish American poet, whose effortless, accessible style captures the light and dark of every situation, of every conflicting emotion. There’s an off-the-cuff elegance to her work that is brilliantly displayed in ‘Zen Christmas’ – from the collection Magnum Mysterium, which describes the poignant absurdities of the festive season.’ – The Simple Things

'No Can Do is the clearest, most poignant, most sustained voice. The poems seem effortless and are immediately accessible and yet achieve great emotional weight, by the lightest of means. The freshness and wit of this poet’s original voice have gathered scope and gravity. With this book, Julie O’Callaghan becomes an important poet in the English language.' – Judges Citation, Michael Hartnett Award


Julie O’Callaghan: ‘After Dennis O’Driscoll’

Julie O'Callaghan introduces and reads her poem ‘After Dennis O'Driscoll’ – from Magnum Mysterium – at the UCD Special Collections Reading Room.

Julie O’Callaghan: ‘Island Life’

Julie O'Callaghan introduces and reads her poem ‘Island Life’ – from Magnum Mysterium – at the UCD Special Collections Reading Room.

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).


Ireland & EU: Click here to order from Books Upstairs in Dublin

USA: Click here to order from Indiebound or


BOOKS BY Julie O'Callaghan

Tell Me This Is Normal

Julie O'Callaghan

Tell Me This Is Normal

New & Selected Poems

Publication Date : 27 Jan 2008

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Related News & Publicity

News & Publicity

Julie O'Callaghan's Magnum Mysterium: Reviews & RTE Radio 1 interview

Julie O'Callaghan's Magnum Mysterium: Reviews & RTE Radio 1 interview

Press, online & podcast review coverage for Magnum Mysterium; interview on RTE Radio 1's The Poetry Programme; 'Zen Christmas' is Poem of the Week in Telegraph...

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