Tim O'Leary
Manganese Tears
October 2018. 34 pp. ISBN-13 978-3-901993-68-8
£6.00 (+ 1.50 p&p), €6.00 (+ 1.50 p&p), US$8.50 (+ 2.50 p&p)
“True poetry has the intellectual and formal rigour to tell us stories of the way we live. In Tim O’Leary’s Manganese Tears, there are wonderful elegies for the village community of the poet’s childhood, and most powerfully the slow dying of his mother whose “life has moved downstairs / with the vase of shrivelling daffodils” and the limited horizons where “Each kiss is a kiss goodbye”. The grieving is genuine, but what makes it especially moving is the intellectual honesty, for the poet his mother’s “thankyous” meaning “as much as / amens muttered during mass – / religiously bare”. Even for friends in the village, refusing to admit they were ever ill, “the steel is in their gazes, / and the gazes at the abyss”. Love is what holds personal and communal life together, as the chemical element Manganese holds together the health of both body and brain. But with tears.”
William Bedford

“Reading Tim O’Leary’s poems is a ringing reassurance that lyric poetry is alive and kicking, that elegy and eulogy can thrive in perfect harmony, in contemporary parlance. From the clever title, signalling the chemical benefits of crying, O’Leary’s vibrant language energises and remakes the genre: “Hugger-mugger with death, you cut out / like a Doodlebug descending in silence”. Every poem rich and fresh: language, form, music, the subtlest rhyming – it is all there from the first 12 poems of this pamphlet and continues as the remaining pieces explore relationship through the various lenses of history, archaeology and travel. “Wind of wolves. Dog-pack rain”, a wallop of surprise, a skilful turn of phrase on every page.”
Wendy Klein

“These fine poems address the surfaces and depths of life and love with originality, care and insight. Tim O’Leary’s language continually delights, its precision and economy not precluding inventiveness and musicality. Forms and tones vary, rhyme dips in and out, sounds and ideas chime against each other, and sentences straddle lines and stanzas without ever losing their poise. Equally impressive is his ruminative inspection of his subject matter. These are poems to be taken whole and lived with for the rewards they bring.”
Robert Etty

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Table of Contents

Excerpts from Manganese Tears

Walking to the Bridge

What succour is it easy
to give back, when you’ve lost count
of the times she’s forgotten
what her memories fed her?
How lucky she was.

How long will her last legs last,
or the will to trust my care?
Her thankyous mean as much as
amens muttered during mass –
religiously bare.

Each kiss is a kiss goodbye,
as every moment withers
in this dumbing of her days.
Stymied at the stream’s edge, I
see pink ripples split

on the strict stone pier, then worm
together, swollen-hearted,
writhing between bank and berm –
boneless flesh for gulping bird
and skulking seasons.

Park View

Dust of blizzard smothers the land
soon whiting out meanderers

wind-whittled twists in snow-bestoled
arms: young bucks; sad philanderers;

heel-draggers; pandering mothers;
the wan face of an iron knight –

blessed alike for their investment,
weightless in the weight of pure white.

Taking flight for Dublin or Doone
and western lands, for the stalling

heartbeat and billowing soul, to
undertake a hermit’s calling

and comprehend some new last end,
even in the faintest falling.

Reviews of Manganese Tears

"[...] from the apt and clever title signalling the chemical benefits of crying, this pamphlet, only 34 pages long, is suffused with elegy [...]. This poet has a range of skills and techniques at his disposal, which he uses to good effect. The way he turns observation neatly into fresh imagery is a real delight, dropping in original verbs [...]. The poet also offers an intense distillation and what I can only describe as a breathless compression in shorter poems. [...] Hammering down an extended metaphor is a calculated risk, which may irritate a reader, but this poet handles it with aplomb: skilfully, even playfully. [...] The final poem in long loose stanzas synthesizes all the strengths which make this pamphlet unique, along with the layering of language and image mentioned earlier. "The Rituals" pulls together themes of life, death, fantastical afterlife, through a real or imagined clearing out/cleansing/moving on through the main actions, large and small, which hold us together in our respective worlds until we are no longer."

Wendy Klein The High Window (July 2019).

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