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Review: The Ark Builders, by Mary O'Donnell

Glyn Pursglove, Acumen 66, January 2010

Mary O'Donnell also brings to her work a strong sense of history, of the relationships between the individual and history and between time and place. In The Ark Builders that sense of history is everywhere involved in feelings of love and loss and explored within a non-doctrinaire feminist
awareness. A visit to the Puccini House/Museum in Torre del Lago brings together past and present, life and art:

... the tarnished medals hold her, automobile,
boats, portraits of his women: irritated, she pulls
from her companion's arm, considering a world of
his, his, and more his. Beauty, love,
the vaunt of life in time, so clearly at the heart,
now draw themselves around as if to comfort.
Absence and adventure, they taunt.

Considering Puccini's Women

(The rhyme on vaunt and taunt is typical of the unfussy craftsmanship of O'Donnell's work). Poems on Fairy Rath (a pre-historic earth-banked fort in Ireland) and on Santiago De Compostela explore faith and superstition, while others (such as Seven Monaco Haiku) lightly evoke the particularities of place. All these poems are fluent and well-made, and the collection makes satisfying reading.