Poetry Book Society Recommendation
Tell Me This Is Normal is a generous selection of Julie O’Callaghan’s poetry, ranging from the Edible Anecdotes her readers gorged on in the 1980s to her most recent work confronting a very ‘scary’ 21st century with an armoury of lively and defiant language – as well as a baseball bat under the bed.
She is a singularly acute observer of human behaviour, with a sharp Swiftian eye and an alert ear that have made her one of the finest and funniest practitioners of the monologue in poetry. Yet, notably in the poems charting her father’s illness and death, she can also strike an elegiac and heartbreaking note, while her poems set in the court of Heiain Japan unscroll with great poignancy and delicacy.
Among the most admired poets of her generation – whose work has been championed by Wendy Cope, George Szirtes, Selima Hill and Carol Ann Duffy – Julie O’Callaghan writes poems which ‘seem effortless and are immediately accessible and yet 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 (Chicago)
‘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).