Black Irish

A sense of loss permeates Michele Madigan Somerville’s collection of poetry, Black Irish. Loss of love, loss of youth, loss of time, loss of life, loss of innocence. Yet never loss of hope. The collection opens with a funeral and moves ceremoniously through the gray landscapes of Irish diaspora. There are drinkers who fancy themselves writers, boxers who entertain thoughts of murder, and many nods to the secular saints, Irish and otherwise, of the contemporary world: John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Howard Stern, Sarah Silverman, and even Spongebob Squarepants, to name just a few.  Yet if this procession of saints gives Black Irish the feel of a prayer book while the heft of the poems contained therein conveys the gravitas of a lifetime of novenas, the poet’s sly sense of humor lends the collection a natural air of buoyancy. This humor is especially evident in a piece titled “Boob,” which finds the poet meditating on lactation, breastfeeding, and young love: “When my third child came, she knew exactly what to do;/she wasn’t fifteen minutes in the material world/before she started guzzling like a field hand./She was beautiful! I called her ‘Breastina.'”

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