A philosopher of the near-at-hand natural world, his work contains touches of Wordsworth, too, in his reckoning of the glamour and grief, the terrors as well as the joys of a nature that "happens/ too hugely for any containment", while a haiku series called Basho on the Dodder signals another informing influence.
For me, his strongest poems (including Keaveney's Well, A Burrishoole Gate, Callows Water Barrel, Capstone, as well as the wonderfully odoriferous Marl Excavations, and the elegiac Foxhall Sunset) are those in which he exercises a sensuously immediate descriptive power allied to some particularly inflected human awareness, carrying all off in rhythmically satisfying free verse lines or stanzas. He does this in the lovely Species, for example – where an innocent immersion in the natural gains a rhythmic velocity that testifies to its unforced truth, a truth that manages to incorporate a memory of a father's childhood presence, and to "lead him by his grainy/ fertilizer hand to stoop with me there,/ over wonders of cuckoo spit,/ spider and cowslip, on a headland". And he does it again in Piecework where his profound feeling for the natural (mushroom picking) is fused to a warmly sympathetic understanding of a changed Ireland.
Poems like The Owl or Dust, Mistletoe or The Badger on Orwell Bridge show Deeley's imagination at full stretch, yet remaining relaxed and attentive to the signs that the natural world (even in the city) offer him...
The Bones of Creation is for the most part a well-shaped collection that gives a fine sense of authority, of a consciousness neither brash nor timid, simply speaking its own home and away-from-home truths, knowing that the natural contains "powers beyond/ the powers of reckon and render". He possesses a mature, individual voice, an assured sensibility, and a humane openness to, and eco-understanding of, the world.
In one of his poems, a night fisherman on the bank of the Dodder river silently goes on fishing through the darkness – calm, patient, deft and, seemingly indifferent to his own craft – and suddenly "without to do, will land the fish". The best of these poems have just such an attentive, delicately exacting, successful touch.
Given the way we imperil our planetary home, poetry such as this – heartfelt, craft-conscious, unsentimentally engaged – is timely, and deserving of our attention.
 

 

© Patrick Deeley 2013. All rights reserved.