Anne Casey’s out of emptied cups -Reviewed

Reviewed ByEmma Lee

Emma Lee reviews Anne Casey's out of emptied cups. As well as her position of Reviews Editor for The Blue Nib. Emma Lee writes regular reviews for The Journal, The High Window Journal, London Grip and Sabotage and ad hoc reviews for other publications. Her collection “Ghosts in the Desert” is available from Indigo Dreams Publishing. A pamphlet “Mimicking a Snowdrop” was published by Thynks Press in 2014 and her full-length collection, “Yellow Torchlight and the Blues” has been published by Original Plus.

Anne Casey’s out of emptied cups

Anne Casey's out of emptied cups"

(Salmon Poetry)
ISBN 9781912561742, 10pp, €12

“Anne Casey’s out of emptied cups” has a broad sweep ranging from personal relationships, #MeToo, climate change and leaving a home country to make home in a new country giving rise to that awkward limbo of not quite belonging to either. It starts with the personal, “if i were to tell you” ends

“when i smell your neck to
fall again over the handrail of our
romantic balcony landing in the toy-scattered
couch of our reality
                                                                                            that is where

when i tumble on a crumpled butterfly ensnared
once more by that man-boy-man who tore my wings
(never mind i put them back together in time)
on dark days you can still see scars but on bright ones
                                                                                             that is where

i would tell you
that is where
the light shines through
the strongest.”

Finding those small moments where love is found; love for a partner and love between a mother and son where reality intrudes on the romantic. Although romance is allowed in “nothing happens in the burbs” where “we lay in bed talking about nothing” but get up to get cider, “making an occasion out of nothing” and returning to bed unhurried because “we had nothing on// and there is nothing, absolutely nothing/ i would change.”

The mood changes in a group of poems about sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse. “final offensive” is direct, complete poem below:

“the nuclear weapon
of the sexual predator
no-one will believe you.”

“If wallets were skirts” substitutes the disbelief sexual assault complainants meet into questions given to a man reporting a stolen wallet. The man’s reaction is left for readers to imagine. 

A tender note, “Dear son”, explores the difficulty of bringing up a son to respect women to counter an environment of toxic masculinity. The poem starts,

“It’s not about the trail of breadcrumbs 
across the floor that I just vacuumed and washed”

and ends

“It is about 
being the kind of man
who makes your Mama want to weep
with pride.”

Anne Casey moved from Ireland to Australia, and reflects on being no longer at home in Ireland but not quiet accepted in her new home, “‘You’re not from here?’ [*politely]” ends,

i am: not from-here, no
– longer:       of  there
where i    come from    has
risen        into        the mists
that visit    the places   that
where i come from       had been
and where i     came to
         yet remain
herein       halfbeen halfbeing

i coexist:
in the      nowhere

The fragmented layout reflects the fragmented sense of what home means. 

“Thank you for shopping with us” is a till receipt for 250g beef steaks that cost,

“15.455 litres of water
26 kilograms of 
carbon dioxide
330 square metres of land
6.5 kilograms of grain

Sundry other costs

Deforestation (weekend special)
rainforest going at 1-2 acres 
per second

Greenhouse gas emissions &
global warming…”

It’s intended to make readers think about the costs of seemingly every day items. There are also poems about the war Syria, “Lament for Aleppo” and “Category Four” is about hurricane Irma.

The final poem, “All Souls”, gives the collection its title looking at the healing power of nature

“A kookaburra laughing
carries me home through the clearing
where the wattles are bursting
their golden crowns dancing
against a brooding backdrop and
rainbow lorikeets will swoop
in later lifting our hearts
out of emptied cups
away with them into
the heavens.”

Anne Casey’s poems often pull in two directions: their delicate construction often contrasts with the subject. They don’t shy away from tackling harsh realities yet still retain a sensitivity towards trauma. These poems don’t preach but record and describe 
showing tenderness towards victims and are persuasive towards readers. Anne Casey uses form to support meaning: poems fragment when victims’ stories are often punctuated by gaps, by struggles to find the right words or, in the case of child victims, struggles to find understanding of what’s happened to them and what was done by someone they should be able to trust. “out of emptied cups” shows a strong awareness of craft and rhythm which makes these poems linger in memory long after reading.

Find out more about Anne Casey’s out of emptied cups at Anne’s Website, here.

Anne Casey’s previous collection where the lost things go is available at Salmon Poetry

Anne Casey Interview with The Poetry Book Club