The Donegal Blues
If blues are, as they say, a Feeling, then the poetry of Moya Cannon has a strong claim to be their most lyrical expression more especially in her recently published collection of new and selected poems entitled "Carrying the Songs". From the first poem the reader is carried on a stream of lyricism and it comes as no surprise to the reader that the final stanzas should underline the importance of music and its ability to express that which poetry possibly cannot:
can seldom be told in words
the heart's moods are better charted
in its own language-
the rhythm of Cooley's accordion
which could open the heart of a stone,
John Doherty's dark reels
and the tune that the sea taught him,
the high parts of the road and the underworlds
which only music and love can brave
to bring us back to our senses
and on beyond."
As the music masters the airs and tunes that express our inner landscapes, so the poet masters the words that articulate them for:
It is carried about the way something essential,
A blade, say, or a bowl,
is brought from here to there when there is work to be done.
Sometimes, after a long journey,
It is pressed into a different service."
In the collection, Cannon uses words in the same ways as the musician uses chords and notes to explore the emotional self.
Like the Blues Singer does with the chorus, Cannon lays down the line of her main theme with the title poem "Carrying the Songs" which uses a Frank Harte quote as an epithet: "Those in power write the history, those who suffer write the songs," a theme that is to re-echo throughout the collection. There is no doubt that without suffering the poet cannot write poetry but it is also through the writing of these poems that the poet, and by extension the reader, can achieve a sense of peace and understanding. The true achievement of Moya Cannon as poet is that she can share this wonderful sense of peace as with the gem of a poem that is "Bright City"
across the road and on to the Claddagh.
In light which has turned the canal, river and estuary to mercury,
even the cars on the Long Walk are transfigured
Five swans beat their way in past the mud dock,
heavy, sounding their own clarion,
carrying the world's beauty
in on their strong white backs this Saturday morning."
Moya Cannon's "Carrying the Songs" is a collection of rare and fragile beauty which brings with it a sense of peace and fulfillment. It deserves our fullest attention.
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