forty-six: Maura Dooley, Life Under Water

Maura Dooley‘s latest collection Life Under Water has been shortlisted for the 2008 T.S. Eliot prize, which is in part why I picked it up; I was a bit uninspired trying to select my last month’s worth of poetry collections, so I thought reading a few of the shortlist was as good a way as any for making my final selection (although I still haven’t got all of December’s reading lined up).

I hadn’t read any of Dooley’s work (I don’t think) before this, and I enjoyed it. The collection has a broad horizon, with pieces mapping recent elections, lost rivers in London, the English Civil War, family life, the heart… Somehow though I look back over last week’s reading (yes, I’m late, I’m sorry) and there’s nothing particularly that grabs me or a sense of the collection as a whole that I feel I can write about. Last week was a rather depressing one, it has to be said, so maybe it’s that; or maybe it’s the weather, and getting to the end of the year. Sorry, Ms Dooley. I think it’s my fault, not yours.

Favourites were ‘Valentine’, ‘What You Will’, ‘Midsummer Lullaby’, ‘Lettered’, the shocking brilliance of ‘The Old Masters’, ‘Remark’, ‘A Tune for Dave Smith’ and this, ‘Moth Trap’, which grows on me more each time I read it: –

We looked to learn,
lit the lamp, waited
till something like a bloom
could be gathered,
its freedom tethered
by a shaft of light,

the way this lovely girl,
observing her own shadow,
holds up twelve years of life,
complicated filigree,
a thread leading home,
a rope to be cast off.

Life Under Water, Maura Dooley (Bloodaxe Books, 2008)

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