Review of Blood by Nigel McLoughlin a Book of Poetry

blood by Nigel McLoughlinBlood, by Nigel McLoughlin is beyond words. Moving, deeply riveting, and most of all standing as both a marker (for lessons learned, in discussion of terrorism through poetry) and inspiration.

Boldly mixing Irish myth, and the rich imagery we associate with all traditions of Irish writing, with a more modern view of terrorism, and bloodshed, this book covers several aspects of the concept ‘blood‘ – from the spilling of it, to the ties and links we hold to our ancestors. Perhaps we don’t know where we come from, but its fairly certain our blood, and our genetics do, and they tell tales of pillage, conquest, bloom and the amazing and often indefinable pulse that keeps us, and our heritage – our remembrance of ‘where we came from’ alive in its fractured, fragmented forms.

Throughout the images that I was being offered, distilled in poetic form, I kept thinking and tracking the theme – and in every poem, whether clearly stated, alluded to, or understood via reference, each poem does relate to ‘blood‘. Be it family, ancestry, or the actual act of spilling it, sometimes more than one concept of blood appears in the poem.

Images, and concepts have remained with me – the poems where he talks about having to allow and aid a doctor in getting blood from his six month old son, who has meningitis touched me, as a parent. I remember doing something very similar with my then four year old son, though in our case, it wasn’t meningitis.

My favorite poem is ‘Going West’ (I was at was here or here now!). Its opening paragraph, two lines, is short but moved me almost to tears. The implication that we’re leaving things behind, heading for the ‘richer’ parts of the world, towards cities, and ‘freedom’, and a new life on a new continent, that we’re also diminishing ourselves, becoming poorer. Losing our heritage, and that there’s few left to ‘hear’ it die, or even, in some cases, mark its passing. Having moved recently, and brought my children from the world I grew up in, to another part of that same Empire, yet, still, slightly foreign for me, this poem touched me incredibly deeply.

Another incredibly moving, yet deceptively simple poem is “Split Second” – which shares the idea of needing to stay conscious, after a serious injury, in this case, caused by an explosion.

Legacy, that talks about the plague, but also of the fact that we can’t leave behind the only people that understand us, after all, stories are only truly worthwhile when people understand. Though we can leave accounts, without perspective, without reference, words can be rendered meaningless – and without someone to advocate them – to continue to share them, people forget.

All in all, there are 52 poems in this anthology, each as well crafted and interesting as its companions. Not one poem in the book seemed to ‘let down’ the tone, and though some were slightly weaker than others, in many cases, their weakness is what made them stand out and gave them a different kind of strength.

This book of poetry formed the basis for his PHD, and is an amazing testament to the voices that come out of higher education. Having read this anthology, I feel honored to be given the chance to study under him, at some point in the next three years, and more importantly, urge anyone without that opportunity to grab a copy of this book, so that you too can find some influence, some inspiration in his words and images.

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