In Witness Trees, Lorna Shaughnessy chronicles several mysterious journeys in a search for resolution; although the nature of the mystery may not always be specified, it nudges uncomfortably within wintry and unrelenting settings, reminding us of that dark but often unstated material world which forges human experience. Her poetry contains echoes of other European poets and thinkers, from Lorca to Ren Char, and the voice is a deeply serious one, a testimony to the corrupt, the unfinished, and the vanished evidence that lingers in personal and public history. She sifts through that evidence and revisits death from several perspectives, as in the chilling poem 'Hide and Seek':
Into the woods we follow the clues
you planted in my sleep:
your scarf hangs on a bush, a note
in your unmistakeable hand, illegible
to the child's eye.
Her painterly touch includes unsentimental and occasionally darkly humorous portraits of life in the North of Ireland, a recollection of the Shankhill Butchers, of having one's home bombed, and a moving account of Good Friday, 1998, set against the most domestic of backdrops.
"Shaughnessy writes with lyric intensity and an uncompromising music which never offers the reader the option of easy reconciliation, because the Witness Trees she speaks of symbolise endurance above all and despite all. This resonant collection offers a glimpse into someone else's soul-matter, through poetry that is beautifully formed and unflinching."
Lorna Shaughnessy was born in Belfast and lives in County Galway. Her first collection of poems Torching the Brown River was published by Salmon Poetry in 2008. Her poem 'Grasping the Nettle' was selected for The Forward Book of Poetry 2009. She has published two translations of contemporary Mexican poetry, Mother Tongue: Selected Poems by Pura Lopez Colome and If We Have Lost our Oldest Tales by Maria Baranda, both with Arlen House (2006).