The Toga and The Rose is Sheighle Birdthistle’s latest collection of heartfelt poetry.
An Irish poet who founded the Poetry Corner in Aix-en-Provence, a group that meets monthly in the English bookshop, Book and Bar, Sheighle’s work is a wonder to read and arresting to listen to.
As I said to her after reading the collection the first time, there were moments when I realised I was holding my breath until the end of the poem, as if breath or movement would break the spell and silence might help ensure an ending I could cope with.
Her poems navigate the roller coaster of life’s events and emotions and she captures many of them with a choice of words that invoke powerful meaning and create suspense. From the darkest depths to the cusp of enlightened contentedness, it is a ride worth taking.
‘a life that should have been yellow, coloured grey’
to the desolation of Syria where
‘the falling leaves drop like huge tears of sorrow,
On the poppies scattered at their roots.’
and the absence of words in A Starry Night,
‘Words, stars, words blending
And rending us poets rigid with wonder
As we ponder.’
The poems of the Son and Daughters,
The Four Souls of My Body
‘we love each other, in different ways,
tempests and gentle torments,
Flowing like angels wings’
From family to humanity, we are affected by emotions both familiar and far from the hearth.
The Lady hostage of Burma,
Katrina of New Orleans
interspersed with many starry nights, sometimes bearers of hope, on other occasions harbingers of catastrophe, predictable only in their unpredictability.
Sheighle will be reading from The Toga and The Rose this weekend at La Comédie du Livre literature festival in Montpelier, where you can buy a copy of her book or via O’Mahony’s Booksellers and a range of online bookshops.
A grand weekend of literature of not just poetry, but also a focus this year on Scandinavian writers, including Jón Kalman Stefánsson, who the Shadow International Foreign Fiction Prize Team just voted as their choice for the top prize for his book The Sorrow of Angels.