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Review: The Spanish-Italian Border, by Róisín Tierney

Jackie Wills, The North, No. 55, January 2016

Róisín Tierney has a liking for the surreal... Poems in The Spanish-Italian Border sometimes walk that line, suggesting the quirkiness of Catherine Smith and the deadpan weird zone that Matthew Sweeney's work explores. Tierney is often playful - well her title gives that away - and there are strong poems in this collection about childhood.

... Tierney's good at creating tension in which tenderness has to fight to be present. Her collection opens with bittersweet narratives recalling the insights into cruelty always present in childhood - kittens eaten by the tom, a bullied farmhand, a handsome bullock off to slaughter.

Her trademark though, is her versatility and attentiveness to a world of knowledge and information, exploring animal behaviour, art, ancient Egypt, making this collection busy and eclectic, suggesting a need to be everywhere, interpreting or dreaming.

... Tierney's promise to the reader is a large cast and multiple voices and as you read, you give yourself up to the fabulous, the mad, the tragic and the heroic. To Chorrojumo she pleads, 'be easy on me. / I live in a time when fiction is easy.' But in 'El Rey de Jamón' she proposes, 'We shall drink to the sad and the merry...' which sums up the strange assembly Tierney has gathered in her invented villa on a non-existant border.