Frank Ormsby's seventh collection of poems reflects not only the beauty of the Irish landscape and the sensuous and aesthetic impact of the small farms among which he grew up, but also the continuing violence of the 'Troubles'. Close to the surface of mountain and bogland lie the hidden graves of the 'Disappeared'.
Ormsby continues to make vivid use of the short, resonant poems which were a striking feature of Goat's Milk and The Darkness of Snow. Here too the content is often delivered and reinforced through rich, contrasting images within or between poems: the scarlet flowers growing in a black kettle, the fuchsia that is both 'redolent of old battles' or a 'peaceful tapestry in the annals of stone'. Among the personae of the collection is the obliging father who volunteers to be buried by his children up to the neck in sand within sight of but some distance from the 'cold shadow of the mountain'.
The elegiac note that echoes through the poems rarely darkens the mood. Ormsby’s wit and humour, his sly sense of the absurd and what might be called his affection for the living and the dead draw the reader into considering the conviction that it is sometimes 'possible to believe / that joy grows irresistibly at the roots of everything'.
‘Frank Ormsby’s latest collection, The Rain Barrel, is one of his finest and follows on from a hugely creative few years – a volume of new and selected poems, Goat’s Milk (2015) and the complexly challenging The Darkness of Snow (2017) – both from Bloodaxe. Ormsby has just been named Ireland Professor of Poetry (2019-22), succeeding Eilean Ni Chuilleanain.’ – Gerald Dawe, The Lonely Crowd (Books of the Year 2019)
'The real surprise with Ormsby is that it's full of subtle provocation. He does really unflinching work.. there are several poems about the disappeared, and he cannot leave them to be forgotten - I really admire him for that.' - Colm Keegan, speaking on RTE Radio 1's Arena (Poetry books of 2019) about The Rain Barrel
‘One of the happiest events of the year was the elevation of Fermanagh poet Frank Ormsby to the post of Ireland Professor of Poetry. His latest book, The Rain Barrel, has been hailed as containing some of his best work.’ - Damian Smyth, Belfast Telegraph (Best Books by Northern Irish Writers 2019)
‘In confronting Northern Ireland’s violent past amidst its seemingly idyllic setting, Ormbsy has successfully managed to convey not just the individual personal cost, but also the depth of the communal loss… This honest Ulsterman is not afraid to challenge us, but he also gives us comfort.’ - Emmanuel Touhey, The Irish Times [on The Rain Barrel]
‘The poems in Frank Ormsby’s seventh collection, The Rain Barrel, treat familiar objects with a slant charm, giving them histories, personalities, and minds of their own…The cadences of Ormsby’s verse create a subtle music, and (though he rarely uses set forms in this collection) makes use of rhyme that brings out the distinct accent of his poetry.’ – Seán Hewitt, The Irish Times
'In Frank Ormsby's seventh collection of poems, a majestic charm is cast across the Irish landscape and the small farms among which he grew up... Ormsby's deeply intimate connection to his surroundings is both sensual and self-aware, openly suspicious of the delicate language of tenderness, whilst poignantly drawing on the continuing violence and conflict of Northern Ireland after The Troubles.' - Jade Cuttle, PBS Bulletin
Frank Ormsby: three poems from The Rain Barrel
Frank Ormsby introduces and reads three poems from The Rain Barrel: ‘Untroubled’, ‘Under Fire’ and ‘Women at Funerals’. Neil Astley filmed him reading and discussing his work at his home in Belfast in April 2019. Separate videos are posted of Frank Ormsby reading selections of poems from each of his three Bloodaxe titles.
Frank Ormsby: two poems for Seamus Heaney
Frank Ormsby introduces and reads two poems in memory of his friend Seamus Heaney, ‘Towards an Elegy’ and ‘With Seamus Heaney in Mind’, from The Rain Barrel.
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