Winner of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature
Shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection
Caitríona O’Reilly’s first collection The Nowhere Birds introduced a new writer of remarkable maturity and narrative power. The book’s holding pattern is set by questions of location and flight, beginning with views of childhood and adolescence, then moving outwards in poems of daringly imaginative range-finding.
Whether describing a derelict harbour, an Alpine sky, Renaissance statuary or an octopus, O'Reilly manages to etch her images into memory with lapidary skilfulness. Such moments of imagistic stillness interact with a noisier world of human relations, yet the drive of her poems is towards lyric release and detachment. Above and beyond its wealth of detail and cosmopolitan bustle, The Nowhere Birds honours its title with an acute awareness of what goes on at the fringes of experience.
'Though Caitríona O'Reilly's work is seldom less than beautifully intricate, there is an amplitude here, an exuberance which jousts in a thrilling way with her particular refinements. Though she might be, in her own words, "rational and unafraid", she keeps reminding us of "the primitive darkness", its fearful disorderliness. Whether enthralled or appalled, she beholds and magnifies the world and its strange creatures (including ourselves) in poems that are formally versatile and linguistically copious. Caitríona O'Reilly's The Nowhere Birds is a stunning debut collection.' - Michael Longley
'The most startlingly accomplished debut collection by any Irish poet since Paul Muldoon's New Weather in 1973.' – Patrick Crotty, Irish Times
'Although this book moves from childhood through adolescence and student travels to adult relationships, it charts this journey through a dream-world filled with natural imagery that either terrifies and repels, or that expresses libidinal desires intimately understood. At times eerie in their invocation of spiders, bats, and the claws of birds, these poems are drawn through such witch-like details to the edge of the known world, where they lift off into a surrealist vision of exemplary lyricism.' – Selina Guinness, The New Irish Poets
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