Constantly inventive and unerringly precise, the poems in Notions, John Kelly’s debut collection reveal an author at home with both the stand-alone lyric and the longer, apparently improvisational pieces that contribute so much to this book’s extraordinary brio and style.
The breadth of cultural reference is perhaps a given, but Kelly’s real achievement is to make sense of a sometimes teeming field of vision. From the natural world to the troubled north of his youth, through encounters with art – and its creators – to poems that chart the seismic changes that come with love, fatherhood and loss, Notions is a book full of humour and play, wonder and woundedness.
“These are very remarkable and compelling poems. With strong narratives and events, vivid and surprising language, and a marvellous square-on exactness.”
— Bernard O’Donoghue
“…probably the best debut of the year …”
— John McAuliffe, The Irish Times
My football bag was blue.
It was often searched
in case there was a bomb in it
in lieu of boots.
Or an Armalite in lieu of togs,
or gelignite in lieu of Brut,
or the names of likely targets
on some incriminating list
in lieu of Nualas and Siobháns
who might agree,
in lieu of nothing else to do,
to kissing at The Ritz.
“The poems … are filled with simple yet powerful moments … where human connections and their importance are highlighted amidst the clamour of everyday life.”
Read Laura Sheary’s review of Notions in The Journal of Music