Introduction for Angela Carr’s poems
I first saw Angela Carr perform some of her poems at a Stinging Fly launch in the Irish Writers Centre last year. Her performance and her words held the audience electrified. Speaking from a personal perspective, her poems on that occasion captured all the rage and sorrow of a generation of young people caught in the fall of Irish Celtic Tiger and living with its economic consequences. The acumen of her words touched a nerve that all who heard her felt and shuddered.
Angela’s poetry has the capacity to be at once tender and menacing, intimate and political, at once inside and outside her subject matter, juxtapositions coexisting comfortably next to one another. There is much to savour and ponder over in her collection, of which these three poems are just a modest sampling, demonstrating her breadth of range and her effortless craft at presenting complex ideas simply, visually and with heart.
Irish Writers Centre
The Tiger’s Tail
City: a howl of chemical laughter;
menace fingers the air, seeking purchase
in the drunken smoulder of narrow streets.
Young girls toss iron curtains of ebony hair,
shared tribal head-dress; Tiger sucklings,
knock-kneed, moon-eyed calves, they perch on the heights
of borrowed triumph: Prada, Miu Miu, Louboutin.
Fierce children, almost feral, wresting frenzied
joy from the teeth of new calamity:
night yawns deep but they do not know it.
Car headlamps sweep the junction, horns blare;
ground shifting beneath them again, the girls
totter into the bloom of darkness,
each on milky limbs, pale and slender as a birch.
Newspaper, fanned in layers
on the bathroom floor and, as Mum cuts
my hair, it falls in black half-moons—
currachs on a fragile paper sea—
circles clear of financial sharks
and political undercurrents,
buoyed by the chequered raft
of an unfinished crossword
and cast up on the mottled shore
of last week’s births and deaths.
A craw wind catches me and I trip
past gatepost guardians, the turn of railings,
into the hospital grounds; hypodermic
drinks darkness deep, shows it to the light:
an apple’s skin can never know its core.
In the sting of a burnished room,
glass and disinfectant hold me safe and distant,
the scratch of gown makes me smaller than I am.
A cracked voice cuts into the hollow
of the machine, as it spins and slices me
like ham. Don’t worry, it says. You’re almost done.
Inside the blink and grind, the growl of plastic—
deep and still—I see a field in the half-light
of summer’s dusk, grasp a long feathered grass,
the nub of its soft head, wet like a kiss.
Three black lines, track to another somewhere,
pass the house and barn—their cut silhouette,
gentle, an inevitable homecoming.
I find a face in a tree, there: black eyes,
truffle snout, mouth agape in silver skin.
I hold its gaze, in the drizzle of darkness,
humming to myself; the tree bends to listen.
I hum the song again, in the quiet room
where they tell me, spinning tree, grass, night
through and through my fingers. Back out on the street,
the wind shifts; I brace for the oncoming squall.