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Ink Pantry review of Her Father’s Daughter

Natalie Denny of Ink Pantry has reviewed Her Father’s Daughter for the Poetry Drawer section of the website.

‘My page has been empty for months. Forgive me for filling it.’

Nessa O’Mahony’s ‘My Father’s Daughter’ explores the nature of the imperishable and pronounced bonds between fathers and daughters. We embark upon a poetical journey, combining the autobiographical with the historical through two father-daughter relationships spanning two different periods of Irish history.

Nessa’s poetry is a raw and at times a painfully honest depiction of her family life, especially those memories surrounding her father and grandfather. The finished article is a commentary on love and loss including the reconstructive and subjective power of memory.

From ‘His Master’s Voice’ that looks at life through the eyes of the family pet to the powerful ‘Portrait of the Artist’s Father’ which is a personal invite to observing a dying man, Nessa holds little back in creating her images and exhuming her past.

The poem I identified most with was ‘Those Of Us Left’ which comments on the turbulent aftermath proceeding the death of a loved one. It resonates as it accurately portrays the confusion and stark anger which is very typical of grief but not as often spoken about. The gritty realism in the words leave you uncomfortable but enlightened.

The collection is split into five sections, each focusing on a different area. There is a whole part which utilises nature, weaving rich imagery and juxtaposition to refresh how we perceive sentient beings. There’s a particular reference used to different birds of prey which compares relationships with nature, providing interesting contrasts.

Nessa explores the idea of her own immortality in ‘Walking Stick’ when she details adopting the walking aid that was previously her father’s.The cyclical process of life is a running theme, particularly the role reversal of child to an adult in a parent’s latter stages of life. This is a experience many people have with their elderly parents which Nessa captures beautifully.

‘Her Father’s Daughter’ explores illness in ‘Waiting Room’ and the failing of mind and body while exploring the impact on relationships. It is a body of work that can transcend the ages and has something within that would resonate with many.

Overall the collection is a heartfelt, vivid and moving tribute.

http://nessaomahony.com/?cat=4

https://twitter.com/Nessao

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Her-Fathers-Daughter-Nessa-OMahony/dp/1908836857/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1453651415&sr=8-1&keywords=her+fathers+daughter+nessa

Reviews, Uncategorized

John O’Donnell reviews Her Father’s Daughter

Extract from ‘Postcards from the Edge’ by John O’Donnell, Poetry Ireland Review, Issue 117, December 2015

The heart of Nessa O’Mahony’s collection, Her Father’s Daughter, is a poignant and affecting series of reflections on the death of her own father. The book opens with ‘Giving Me Away’, an uneasy father and daughter road-trip which O’Mahony views initially as a sort of atonement by her father – ‘Because you had never walked me down the aisle / you sit 330 miles in the passenger seat, / watching the speed-dial, / miming brakes’ – as they head towards her ‘new start’ in Britain. However the tell-tale signs O’Mahony observes along the way reveal her father’s decline: ‘I know you’ve already /left me on this trip, / at Holyhead, at Dublin Port / before the ship embarked.’ Later we are shown the agony – for relatives – of the slow death of a loved one: ‘It has been a year / since you left / the hospital whites, / and were swalled up / by your own chair’ (‘The Long Goodbye’). Elsewhere O’Mahony looks further back; in ‘Walking Stick’ the story of her grandfather’s life is told by reference to his stick: ‘An honest thing: / ash shaft, plain, / crook smooth’ which has been ‘Crafted to bear weight, / the tonnage of trench-foot’, before being ‘Decommissioned once again / into night-watchman jobs / in Coventry, in Cricklewood.’ A case is visible on the striking cover of the same grandfather ‘kitted out as the pride / of the Munster Fusiliers’ (‘Casting Lots’), in which poem O’Mahony also hints intriguingly at the choice facing her grandfather and his brother: ‘who’d go, / who’d return / to farm and family.’ At times O’Mahony feels guilty writing about the illnesses and deaths of loved ones. In ‘Her Master’s Voice’, dedicated to the late James Simmons, she considers Simmons’s elderly dog Charlie on the day his master’s coffin is carried out: ‘He can’t know that a stranger / will come soon, tidying, / sweeping up, thieving a poem / like a starving cur grabs a bone / where she finds it.’

 

‘Portrait of the Artist’s Father’ is really a portrait of the arist writing about her father’s illness: ‘I trawl for metaphors, / imagine corollaries / for the fluid filling your lungs’, before acknowledging the perceived impropriety of so doing:

 

My page
has been empty
for months.
Forgive me
for filling it.

 

O’Mahony should not reproach herself: Graham Greene’s famous insight that there is ‘a splinter of ice in the heart of a writer’ came to him in hospital, as he listened to and watched from a nearby bed the tears and cries of a mother whose son had just died, thinking: ‘This is something which one day I might need.’ A writer does need a good editor, howerver, and there are a couple of curious glitches in an otherwise attractive presentation. A more ruthless editor might also have advised against the inclusion of one or two less successful pieces. At its best, though, O’Mahony’s forthright, heartfelt style is affecting, and further exploration of her family hinterland will no doubt yield up other secrets.

Uncategorized, Workshops

Horses for courses – 2016 Here I Come

I’ve discovered that I’m at my happiest in a classroom. There’s nothing nicer than sharing a big room with a large table and lots and lots of like-minded people. As a writer, it’s been one of the great joys of life to be able to work with other writers to develop their voices; it reminds me of all those wonderful teachers who made such a difference to me over the years. Katie Donovan will forever have my gratitude for being the first professional writer to tell me that I had something worth developing – my own voice. I took a course with her at the Irish Writers Centre in 1994 or early ’95, and her encouragement gave me the courage to persevere and to take risks.

So that’s why I’m so excited to have the chance this year to extend my range of teaching to new areas. I’ll be co-teaching a course on poetry with the wonderful Peter Sirr at Borris House this April; the course is being organised by the superb Margaret O’Brien and Nollaig Brennan of The Story House, and you can get more details on http://www.thestoryhouseireland.org/#!our-next-course/c573

I’m also visiting Listowel Writers’ Week for the first time this year, and will be facilitating a 3-day beginners creative writing workshop. I’ve heard wonderful things about Writers Week, so am thrilled to have the opportunity to experience it first hand. There are more details of this on http://writersweek.ie/creative-writing-workshops-2016/

And of course I’m teaching once again at the Irish Writers Centre, where my popular Finding Your Form course will be running again this Spring. More details on http://irishwriterscentre.ie/collections/beginner/products/finding-your-form-with-nessa-omahony-spring-2016.

So plenty of reasons to be cheerful this year – and that’s just the ones I already know about.

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From Wales to here

 

66_Nautical_Miles_1024x1024

I spent three of the happiest years of my life living in Wales. I was studying for a PhD at Bangor University and living in a mid-terrace Georgian building, with a bay-window fronting out onto the Menai Straits and the Snowdonia Mountains. I was immersed in books  reading and walking and researching and couldn’t have conceived of a better life. Money was tight, of course, but that was good training for the freelance writing life that was to follow 😉

One of the greatest joys was finding out about Welsh culture and literature. Up to that point, the only taste of it I’d had was a brief exposure to the writings of Dylan Thomas and the extraordinary privilege of hearing R.S. Thomas at the Irish Writers Centre, sometime in the 1990s. So I had no idea of how culturally rich a country Wales is, what extraordinary pride the Welsh take in their writers and painters and scholars, and how little lip service is paid to the notion of the arts and culture. Their devotion is genuine and manifest. Their separate language is visible everywhere, and heard constantly, in the north of the country at the very least. If you want to work in the public services there, you need to learn the language, you don’t get away with a nod or a wink. And the landscape is dotted with stone circles commemorating the holding of one of their large cultural festivals, or eisteddfod.

What I also discovered was how close Ireland and Wales are. Although it is indeed 66 nautical miles between Dublin and Holyhead (or so the old Stena banners used to claim), at its closest point (between the Llyn Peninsula and Wicklow Head) it’s only 27 nautical miles, and there are historical records of the regular raids that Irish pirates made on the Welsh coast throughout the centuries. Many place names in Wales contain words for Ireland or the Irish in them, and even St. Patrick is commemorated in more than one early Christian church there, including the glorious Llanbadraig on the coast of Anglesey.

So I was delighted when the Irish Writers Centre agreed to hold an event exploring the many cultural links between our two countries. There’s a fantastic panel lined up – sublime poet Nerys Williams (who lectures at UCD), exquisite prose stylist Simon Holloway (who lives outside Bangor and teaches at Bolton), Lleucu Siencyn, head of the agency that promotes and develops literature in Wales, and Jonathan Williams, a Welshman who has become one of Ireland’s most influential literary agents. There’ll even be a Welsh male voice choir. What more could you possibly ask.

So join us on Thursday 26th February, the Irish Writers Centre. More details on how to book are here: http://irishwriterscentre.ie/products/66-nautical-miles

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Visiting the Creel, Westport Quay, 27th November 2014

I recently paid a visit to the Creel, Westport Quay, where I read poems from Her Father’s Daughter.  Thanks very much to John McHugh and James O’Doherty for inviting me. While there, I met a lovely man called Oliver Whyte, who filmed this short interview with me, as well as a reading from the book. The interview is here

The film of me reading ‘Deserted Village’ is here:

Thanks to Oliver for doing that, and for uploading it on Youtube.