O’Siadhail has nine collections to his credit, two of which (Hail! Madam Jazz and A Fragile City) are included here in their entirety, along with selections from his other books. While he has given readings and broadcasts of his work throughout Europe and North America, O’Siadhail’s voice remains unfamiliar to most in the US. One imagines, since his first three books were originally written in Irish, a rich and seductive baritone gradually drawing listeners to him in ever tighter circles, putting the glamour on them according to the best traditions of the seanachaidh (the reciter of ancient lore, the troubadour poet, the chronicler of his time). Every generation looks upon itself as the one which lived during a period of unprecedented change, gazing into the abyss and wondering whether they will be noted for soaring or plunging, but none has garnered more attention than the notorious “Baby Boomers,” of whom O’Siadhail (born in 1947) is one. But his poetic perspective is not so narrowly defined. True, he writes of the lure of “Bohemia, that counterworld . . . unlatching its oyster of adventure,” but the significant events in his life are not the public, epochal events, but those more intimate, private, and (perhaps counterintuitively) more universal. The scenes he describes in his verse deal with the vicissitudes of love and friendship, the maelstrom of desire, the sadness of leaving, the “making headway by detour.” He expresses these in a great variety of traditional poetic forms, but his thoughts are continually fresh.
There are those who would be embarrassed to express a sentiment as bold and exuberant as, “I hunger for life.” But fortunately for us, O’Siadhail is not one of them, for he has “flown Icarusly near the sun.”