May Swim

Katie Donovan


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Bloodaxe Books Ltd
23 May 2024
ISBN: 9781780376868
96 pages

From the publisher

By turns lyrical and sardonic, this timely collection from Katie Donovan is characteristically watery – candid and uncompromising in its refusal to inhabit the safer reaches of the shore. Themes of loss, widowhood and ageing co-exist with observations of her wild garden and its inhabitants, including a mangey fox she helps to survive.

Small acts of salvage are often all that is possible, such as the permission given during the Covid-19 pandemic to go 2km from home. This allowed Donovan to swim at White Rock, her local beach, thus staying afloat through the fear of that brutal time and what came next – the death of her mother. In some of these poems the comforting delusion of rescue is highlighted as a flawed but human necessity. Other poems give voice to the remorse that is the haunting of a failed rescue.

Whether writing about her hybrid car, the death of whales from ingesting plastic waste, or abortion now being legal in Ireland, Donovan’s idiosyncratic range of tone and subject continues to enthral and engage the reader thirty years after her debut collection, Watermelon Man, arrived with its ‘distinguished and open language’ and ‘bold statements of identity’ (Eavan Boland).

In 2017 Katie Donovan was awarded the twenty-first O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry 'for the intensity and conviction of her poetry, in recognition of the great range of both her craft and her subject matter, and in appreciation of her dedication to the witness and the vocation of the writer'.