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Review: Gangs of Shadow, by Michael O'Neill

Michael O'Neill's work builds a bookshelf in your head. One way it does this is to refer to previous poems. ... Traditional, maybe, but these poems remind me not only of patrician poets like Hardy (in "Convergence", for example) but such ardently contemporary poets as Adrienne Rich whose magnificent poem "A Long Conversation" is well known to O'Neill. Like him, she suggests poems are meetings, between eras, between formal modes, between twin souls and between opponents Here are lines from "Human":


and not a crucified


body no tortured form on this tree


though don't you think


we venture drinks in hand


in an upper room where you


receive our words with


a smile that says you may


very well be right I


just made the image...


If O'Neill's beliefs are correct -- that poetry has a history-making facility, that it constitutes a record of its own culture and a record of wider culture also -- then his poems are models.