Michael Longley The Ghost Orchid

ISBN 13: 9781856861588

The Ghost Orchid

 
9781856861588: The Ghost Orchid
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A collection of poetry with the author reading his own work. He talks about love and loss, life and death. The poems are mainly set in Britain and Ireland. Michael Longley won the Whitbread Prize for Poetry.

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Review:

"Irish poets learn your trade/Sing whatever is well made," Yeats thundered, a mandate to which Michael Longley has long proved equal. Love poet, mythologist, translator, and visionary, he dreams above all of an ideal peace but writes achingly of "history left ajar," of World War II's legacy and Northern Ireland's too-casual violence. In "The Ice-Cream Man" (from 1991's Gorse Fires), Longley draws one victim into his family's fold: "Rum and raisin, vanilla, butter-scotch, walnut, peach:/You would rhyme off the flavours. That was before/They murdered the ice-cream man on the Lisburn Road/And you bought carnations to lay outside his shop...."

Longley's most recent volume, The Ghost Orchid, contains fewer direct accounts of the Troubles and a host of transformations. There are adaptations of "Ovid's lovely casualties," notably "Arachne" and "Perdix"--in which Pallas Athene turns the young Daedalus's nephew into a "garrulous partridge." She "dressed him in feathers in mid-air and made him a bird,/Intelligence flashing to wing-tip and claw." There are also seven Irished translations from the Iliad and the Odyssey. Home from battle in full armor, Hector is amused when the "nightmarish nodding" of his helmet terrifies his baby son. Two poems later, in "Ceasefire," an aged Priam makes peace with Achilles: "I get down on my knees and do what must be done/And kiss Achilles' hand, the killer of my son." The son, of course, is Hector.

Longley has been called "a keeper of the artistic estate, a custodian of griefs and wonders," and he does his best to balance tragedy with ecstasy in hushed love poems such as "Snow-Hole" and "Couplet": "When I was young I wrote that flowers are very slow flames/And you uncovered your breasts often among my images." Elsewhere, Longley commingles love and nature with less intensity but with no less awe or brilliance.

About the Author:

Michael Longley was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1939. He was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and studied Classics at Trinity College. Strongly influenced by the classics, he has alluded to his love of Homer in many of his poems. Early in his career, Longley worked as a schoolteacher in Dublin, London, and Belfast. He founded the literary program in the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and in 1970 he became the assistant director of that organization. In 2010, he was honored with the title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a member of Aosdána, an affiliation for Irish artists. He is married to the critic Edna Longley and has three children. Michael Longley has written nine collections of poetry. Holding honorary doctorates from both Trinity College, Dublin, and Queen’s University, Belfast, Longley was awarded the prestigious Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2001. He has received numerous other awards for his work, including the American Irish Foundation Award, the T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize, the Whitbread Prize, the Hawthornden Prize, the International Griffin Poetry Prize, and the Ulster Tatler Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015. He served as the Ireland Professor of Poetry from 2007 2010.

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