Another American massacre, this time at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High, just on the other side of the state, and another trotting out of Maggie Smith's great poem "Good Bones" on social media. I'd be really happy to have no more occasion for it all.

So instead, I've been digging rather deeply into Annemarie Ní Churreáin's excellent first book of poetry, Bloodroot published by Doire Press.

And I stop to marvel at the subtle, rich, muscular dexterity of line after line. Okay, a for instance:

Let it be said, I cut a nick in my own skin
and by a spit, became blooded to them all.

So, a run of monosyllabic words, until we get to the single instance of pure alliteration "became blooded."

So, all that short vowel assonance followed by a mostly hard consonant stop: Let, it, said, cut, nick, spit, --ded.

So, those end words, assonant echoes, but each ending in a liquid, soft, open consonant: skin, all.

Or, the way Ní Churreáin constructs a brief lyric in "The Warning," a poem governed by such a strong, unyielding series of voices (just two lines each), but by an unforgiving and harrowing parallel structure.  Here's the poem in its entirety:

Give us your child, the Pica bird said
or else you go to hell.

     Give me what I want, the child said
     or else I'll tear this House down.

Obey house rules, the House said
or else this House will break your bones.

     Tell my story, the bone said
     or else we're all going to burn.

And yet, there are slight, slight tears in the poem, where the "child" and the "bone" are not capitalized, and the brilliant shifting of pronouns in the second line:  second person, first person singular, third person, and first person plural.  The poem's brevity and simplicity and pesonified voices also suggest something of the nursery rhyme.  And then at the heart of the poem is the urgent and necessary call for witnessing, to tell the story (and I am left wondering about whether or not we'll all burn anyway). 

There's much, much more to say about this book, especially the formal breadth of the poems, where
Ní Churreáin trusts the form that necessitates each poem, sustains these very individual voices, whether lyric, prose poem, narrative, or fractured meditation. I cut my teeth, academically at least, on the poetry of Muriel Rukeyser, difficult and hard stuff really. And Annemarie Ní Churreáin's poetry shares this kind of hardness for me, sung with her own distinct voice. These are the poets I think I must attend to, a poet where I stop and read perhaps one poem in a book, let it simmer and rest for a day, and then to another poem a few days later. I think they make me stronger for these times.