Contemplations of Irish land and life by a poet of mixed descent with mixed feelings and mixed results. When a writer directly addresses the reader, as Hull does early in his first collection ("I want to tell you of the man with a meal bag . . . I want to tell you of McCarron's dance hall"), it is imperative that the poet impress upon his audience at least one of two things: why the thing needs saying, or why the reader needs to know it. Hull never fully conveys either here, which is why many of these largely descriptive poems fall flat; the urgency of revelation gets mired in the act of depicting a lackluster landscape. Much of the book centers on Hull's ambivalence about place, the volume's title referring to his settling just above the border of Northern Ireland, near the Republic's County Monaghan. Although he has lived in Ireland for over 20 years, Hull is of Irish-Italian lineage and comes from a "mixed generation" Irish-American family in London. Presumably this history, as well as the dynamics of the geographic region he inhabits, underlies Hull's feelings of being "Estranged in your own country, but not quite." The volume's more successful moments simply set the scene ("Slieve Beagh. A country where maps don't work"), allowing the reader room to envision the poet's world and then infer his alienation from it.
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