“The road is full of perfume. Urine. Bile.
These nine initial words from Jayant Kashyap’s poem ‘History’ in this issue sum up what Backstory poetry is all about. We want it to drop you into a moment that will impact you—a backward glance that informs our present, our future. Learnings from past events are front and centre in ‘Historically Sensible’ also, a lightning streak through striking human foibles of the past hundred years by Kevin Higgins, ‘likely Ireland’s most-read living poet’.
The impact of present-day events on emerging generations is adeptly captured by Jack B Bedell in ‘Sometimes the Alligator Gets to Write the Ending’, while Cheryl Pearson slays with a poignant retelling of “the most kissed face of all time”—that of a beautiful young woman whose body was pulled from the Seine in Paris of the 1880s.
But it’s not all blood and death in this issue … well, maybe just a little bit more… Michael Aiken’s ‘Beelzebub asks the virtuoso of sadism for advice’—with its “mangled bits of jellied hoof” and “worms mashed with maggots”—is absolutely worth the gore. Interwoven between its extraordinary imagination, gruesome lyricism and raucous blashphemy, you will find insight informed by the poet’s unique take on religious histories.
Jane Clarke’s ‘On the Boat’ also draws on the religious past, with its poignant portrayal of Irish women immigrants—“On the boat we were mostly virgins”—fleeing poverty with their suitcases of hopes and dreams. Meanwhile, another celebrated Irish writer, Nuala O’Connor, brings us a riot of colour and, yes… maybe just a hint of exsanguination… in her wry ‘Frida Kahlo Visits Ballinasloe”.
Paul Casey delves into stone, floodplain, skyline and tideline, melding beauty-past with the sometimes-terrible beauty-present in an always-beautiful hymn to his native Cork city in Ireland. Anne Elvey also carves lyrical exquisiteness out of soil and groundwater in her divine ‘Calcium’. Patrick Stack brings us a wind-borne missive from the past in his haunting ‘Samhain’, and in a timely lament to the loss of her childhood home to bushfire, Dr Wendy J Dunn rounds off our testament to the elements rather beautifully.
Including stunning works by Jenny Blackford, Sandra Renew, Fiona Perry, Cynthia D. Nelson, Denis O’Hagan, Natalie D-Napoleon and Brian Jerrold Koester also, we are pleased to present an embarrassment of poetic riches in this issue. Our heartfelt thanks to all our poets for sharing your beautiful work with us, and special thanks too to Savannah White, our ever hard-working Assistant Poetry Editor.
Anne Casey, Senior Poetry Editor.