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).
‘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]
'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).
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