The Rain Barrel
Published by Bloodaxe Books
Frank Ormsby's seventh collection of poems reflects not only the beauty of the Irish landscape and the sensuous and aesthetic impact of the small farms among which he grew up, but also the continuing violence of the 'Troubles'. Close to the surface of mountain and bogland lie the hidden graves of the 'Disappeared'.
Ormsby continues to make vivid use of the short, resonant poems which were a striking feature of Goat's Milk and The Darkness of Snow. Here too the content is often delivered and reinforced through rich, contrasting images within or between poems: the scarlet flowers growing in a black kettle, the fuchsia that is both 'redolent of old battles' or a 'peaceful tapestry in the annals of stone'. Among the personae of the collection is the obliging father who volunteers to be buried by his children up to the neck in sand within sight of but some distance from the 'cold shadow of the mountain'.
The elegiac note that echoes through the poems rarely darkens the mood. Ormsby’s wit and humour, his sly sense of the absurd and what might be called his affection for the living and the dead draw the reader into considering the conviction that it is sometimes 'possible to believe / that joy grows irresistibly at the roots of everything'.
From the reviews of Frank Ormsby's Goat's Milk and The Darkness of Snow:
'Frank Ormsby belongs to that extraordinary generation of Northern Irish poets which includes Ciaran Carson, Medbh McGuckian, Paul Muldoon and Tom Paulin. He is a poet of the truest measure… From his earliest work Ormsby has favoured a natural shapeliness… A plain-speaking, down-to-earth utterance may be the norm, but it teeters on the verge of taking flight, and sometimes gives way to an exquisitely refined lyricism.’ – Michael Longley
‘Goat’s Milk: New and Selected Poems, by Frank Ormsby, reminds us why we missed this poet’s wry and concise voice during the 14-year gap in his writing life; and the new poems extend and ratify his unique angle of vision.’ – Patricia Craig, Irish Times (Books of the Year 2015)
‘Continuing an impressively strong start to the year for Irish poetry… Frank Ormsby’s latest is both a retrospective as well as a vehicle for new work. It evokes both his family life and Fermanagh’s rural past in a poetic form which, as Michael Longley puts it, “teeters on the verge of taking flight”.’ – Michael Conaghan, Belfast Telegraph, on Goat's Milk
‘Ormsby has found his place and time in The Darkness of Snow. Ecological and political, personal and historical, these are songs of reconciliation by a poet who was always, in fact, a generous maker of his own peace processes, and exceptionally wise in the art of being human.’ – Carol Rumens, PN Review
‘Frank Ormsby has had a long and illustrious career in northern Irish letters… With the publication of his latest '70th birthday' collection, The Darkness of Snow, it’s easy to see why: here is a book teeming with wisdom and good humour, a book that combines formal dexterity with verve and wit… the fourth [section], The Parkinson’s Poems, is notable for its profound and often funny meditations on the nature of the condition, following Ormsby’s recent diagnosis. Yet it’s the closing narrative poem, The Willow Forest, which might be the book’s masterstroke. Taking as its subject the aftermath of an unspecified war, it presents us with a cast of depersonalised characters… and leads us in an entirely unexpected direction, reminiscent of the work of Zbigniew Herbert.’ - Tara McEvoy, The Irish News
‘“Fervour” seems an apt description for what Ormsby has been undertaking in his lifelong commitment to poetry. He has written – quietly, diligently and effectively – for more than 40 years now. His first full collection, A Store of Candles, was published in 1977 and The Darkness of Snow marks the latest chapter in that “mad desire” to pursue perfect poems.’ - Pól Ó Muirí, The Irish Times