From self-imposed distance (“I stand back from the streetlight at her school gate”) to a distance that cannot be bridged in a single lifetime, the poems in Theo Dorgan’s extraordinary new collection tell the story of Orpheus, the musician-poet, from artistic awakening through to the cost of remaining faithful to his calling.
In a book presented in two halves, and composed throughout in sapphics – in English, one of the most challenging of poetic forms – Dorgan’s contemporary Orpheus is part-drifter, part-troubadour, part-lover, recognising deeper patterns in his behaviour, but always of this place and time. In the book’s second half, the locus shifts farther out into mythic space with a parallel narrative from the Greek world that both mirrors and interweaves with the first half’s here-and-now.
Together they offer a fresh, adventurous and unexpected take on a foundational mythic figure.
“… a deep understanding of the power
and alchemy of myth …”
— Carol Ann Duffy, on Greek
“[C]ontains some of the most moving and beautiful love poems written by any poet writing in English over the last few decades” — Philip Coleman, Dublin Review of Books (on Nine Bright Shiners)
Métro Saint-Michel. Everything much too loud
after a day of silence by the river.
At the interchange I plunge out, unheeding,
shouldering through crowds
to the far escalator. I turn, look back,
she’s stood there looking up, deep wells of sorrow
in her eyes. From the turbulent crowd she signs
I just can’t go on.
Hard fluorescent light, waterfall of black noise,
then a fainting away of all except
that resolute, beseeching figure. Her
I batter my way down, panic-struck, fearing
the worst. A loud hiss, the sound of doors closing,
rumbling rubber wheels, light on the last carriage
red, vanishing, gone.