The Shark Nursery

Mary O'Malley


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Carcanet Press Ltd
27 June 2024
ISBN: 9781800174146
86 pages

From the publisher

The poems of The Shark Nursery respond to a disturbed world. The experience of lockdown, of lives lived in an online reality, and of the animal world are the interlocking parts of the poems' world. The animal poems draw on the tradition of animals in Irish poetry and myth. From the wolf's touch to the rat's tweet, animals and fish refuse the roles human beings impose on them. O'Malley's animals find new language in the face of contemporary perils.

In fusing mythic with modern elements, The Shark Nursery is marked by rigorous attention to language and tone. Its poems weave between human, animal and metaphysical realms. In a space before noise begins, tigers visit cities and a white leopard sits on a lawn in Suburbia. In the strange, sealed off world portrayed in the 'The Ballad of Googletown' – an eerie, genuine ballad, where the familiar tropes and refrains of ballad are hung out to dry – lives are lived online and social interaction is unnecessary:

The cars are in the drive
And the bees are in the hive
They say the kids are safe inside
In Googletown

This new book promises, as Joseph O'Connor has written, all those things 'we go to Mary O'Malley for: truthfulness, seriousness, playfulness, too, and then a particular sort of hesitating and hard-won wisdom, a pushback against nonsense or sentiment or fakery, the beauty of plain words placed in careful order, carefully – and always, the bliss of musicality.'