Maggie's Waterfalls

Posted by Ken Edwards on Tuesday, April 14, 2009 Under: writing
Maggie O'Sullivan's Waterfalls, promised for I forget how many years by Etruscan Books, is out at last. Completed 10 years ago, it's the companion work to red shifts (also published by Etruscan, 2001); the two books are a kind of diptych comprising the poetic project her/story:eye.

This beautiful book draws on Maggie's Irish roots, and on (in her words) "riddle, lore, tale, song, lament, elegy" and  "the Great Famine of 1845-52, the clearances, dispossession and exile". Here's a sample spread:

Colour reproductions of her collages bookend five sequences: pre-text; that bread should be; winter ceremony; own land; WATERFALLS. It's a fine exemplar of Maggie's multidimensional work, at least the verbal/polysemous and visual aspects of it; her live delivery (which has often converted those not previously convinced by the page) is something else.

Maggie O'Sullivan's work (though she has lived for many years in rural Yorkshire) is in part a product of the London poetry scene of the 1980s, and in particular Bob Cobbing's Writers Forum workshop and associated events, projects and publications. For those new to the parallel tradition in British poetry, this was an important counterpart to the Cambridge explosion and diaspora associated with the likes of JH Prynne. (I make no apologies for deliberately re-introducing that name: monitoring the reception of the Reality Street website and this blog in particular reveals that "prynne" has been one of the most popular keywords bringing googlers here, and it's always worth trying to get people to learn something new, isn't it?)

Oh yes, I have one reservation: beautiful as this book is (edition limited to 75, 80pp, casebound, printed on thick, good quality paper with, as we have seen, colour reproductions), it does cost £30, inclusive of UK p&p, which will not worry many Maggie O'Sullivan fans but may deter the casual inquirer. Perhaps Etruscan Books can be persuaded to do a paperback edition?

The Etruscan website is out of date, I'm told, so I suggest if you want to find out more, go to Maggie O'Sullivan's site. Or order by post: £30 cheque to Etruscan Books, Elm House, Stowe Lane, Exbourne, West Devonshire EX20 3RY.

Now to other things: I am off to hear David Byrne, playing his and Brian Eno's songs, including from the great Talking Heads albums of the 1980s (that unjustly forgotten decade again). He's on at the Brighton Dome tonight. And then I have tickets for another past hero, Bob Dylan at the Roundhouse on 26 April. I can't wait. I'll report back.

In : writing 

Tags: poetry 
blog comments powered by Disqus

About ...

Ken Edwards This blog is written by Ken Edwards, co-founder and editor/publisher of Reality Street, and it's mainly about the press. Ken's personal blog can now be found at