"Packed with history and supposition, these 36 inventive and diverse poems explore the temporal nature of beauty and love with both intelligence and cunning."
It is no surprise that Dubliner McGuinness is best known as a playwright of both original works (The Factory Girls and Dolly West's Kitchen) and adaptations (the Tony-winning A Doll's House), for his best poems are lyric monologues written in the voices of public or historical figures: "A Woman Untouched" is about a contemporary Helen of Troy, for example, while "Rosa O'Doherty" portrays the life of a 17th-century Irishwoman. McGuinness makes good use of irony in his poems. In "Innocent X," a poem about Velasquez's painting of the pope, the poet wonders how the artist could paint love into a face that "has not known" it. "Money, perhaps," is the only answer that comes to mind. "Money is always perhaps." The poem ends by pointing out that the pope is "celibate and lonely. Handsome is / As handsome does, and lonely is lonely." Other poems center on the ironic nature of human beauty. The speaker of "The Ballina Fox" (who is—and isn't—a fox) remarks that "I'm handsome. / I don't expect thanks." While some poems grow prosy at times (especially long-lined pieces like "Mrs McDermottroe" and "Double Dutch"), most are concise and lyrical enough to evoke song. "Rosa O'Doherty," for example, consists of six sonnet-like stanzas with a notable rhyme scheme.Read full book review >