“Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife” Anne Walsh Donnelly (The Blue Nib)

Anne Walsh Donnelly Demise of the Undertakers Wife cover“Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife” is Anne Walsh Donnelly’s debut short story collection due from The Blue Nib in September 2019. Some of the stories previously appeared in Cránnog, Henshaw Two Anthology, Ireland’s Own Anthology, Creative Writing Ink Journal, Writers’ Forum and The Blue Nib.

Each story features characters facing an issue, such as loss of their home or a long term partner, that, in some cases, leads to a desperate solution. The stories explore themes of anger, betrayal, death and loneliness. Some characters reach redemption when they reach out to others for support to conquer their demons. A secondary theme that runs throughout is sexuality and the appalling effects of societal and religious pressure to conform and repress in favour of maintaining the status quo. The characters put their stories in their own words.

The title story starts with a father about to bury his adult son and a request for a larger coffin so the son’s dogs, poisoned by bullies, can be buried with him. The undertaker has his own problems: a spendthrift wife and his own son had left to live and work aboard, plus he’s haunted by an image of his wife in a black Audi with another man. The undertaker has gone as far as getting solicitor’s advice as to where he’d stand should his wife leave him but he doesn’t know whether she’s actually planning to leave. So far, the undertaker has turned a blind eye but when he remembers his son telling him about the black Audi just before he goes abroad, he resolves to do something to shock his wife into realising she can’t take him for granted anymore.

Anne Walsh Donnelly describes writing as “it is my playground. I experiment, take risks, run wild on the page, always hoping my work will resonate with the reader. I write my emotional truth and bring my whole self to my writing.”

Kevin Higgins describes Anne Walsh Donnelly as “by far the most daring poet to emerge in Ireland of late. The starkly honest and overt sexuality which pervades Anne’s poetry make the work of pretty much all her contemporaries appear repressed and backward looking in comparison. This publication would certainly have been banned in the Ireland of the past. Indeed, she is one of the few poets around whose work has the glorious ability to get moralistic, supposedly liberal eyebrows twitching. Anne’s poems are pretty perfectly formed hand grenades which she tosses about the place with abandon while maintaining a deadpan face. I think this publication is the beginning of something great.”

Anne Walsh Donnelly’s poetry chapbook “The Woman With The Owl Tattoo” (Fly On The Wall) was published in June 2019.

“Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife” is available for pre-order from The Blue Nib.

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The Blue Nib Chapbook 4

The Blue Nib Chapbook Contest 4 CoverThis chapbook features the three winning poem sequences chosen by Judge Helen Mort. Entries are open to new, emerging and established poets and consist of eight poems not previously published in The Blue Nib.

Helen Mort writes in the introduction, “Trying to choose between poetry pamphlets is very different from choosing between individual poems… Judging pamphlets feels like a much slower, fuller process – to extend my tortuous and inappropriate analogy, it’s the fifth or sixth or seventh date. As I read and re-read these submissions, I found I was getting to know them like characters, like people. It’s a cliché to say it, but this was a difficult task. All the entries felt substantive and engaged with an impressive breadth of material. I was stuck by how outward-looking all the collections of poems were, how they refused insularity, self-pity and narrow focus. The entries which I gravitated to all had a searching intelligence to them, all showed a commitment to using poetry as a way of interrogating and understanding the world.”

Pat Anthony took First Prize, “Place and people are inextricably linked in this evocative collection of poems. They bristle with observational details that a less skillful writer might miss – a man pedals night into day, the moon is scrawled with the arpeggios of an accordion player. Each voice here is convincing and urgent. Memorable, exact and compelling.”

Extract from “Along the Manzanares”,

“the night air of Madrid wrapping
around our shoulders with
dusky blues until we are

that lover caught up in his
serenade, singing his adoration
to the Lady of Spain even as
he contends with the bowing
and scraping of violins
across the water

where orchestras play a cadence
to his pining accordion and
notes lodge in the diamonds
of the hurricane fence hanging
bubbles too delicate to pop”

Mike Farren took Second Prize, “From the first poem in this collection, I was intrigued and hooked by the strange confidence of the work… The pieces that follow are richly sensory – ‘summer smells of money’, the body is a quarry. Alert and attentive writing, poems suffused with an original language for memory.”

Extract from “Antlers”,
have the equipment

“Find them on the forest floor:
they are necessary,
they are sufficient,
they are yours.

Clamp them to your temples.
Then speak.”

Sharon Flynn took Third Prize, “From the first, these poems feel like recipes, full of rich details and imperatives. In one piece, surgery before pain relief is described with a clarity that makes the reader shudder. Visceral and haunting, unabashed and sharply observed, full of found material curated with skill and emotion, which is no mean feat.”

Extract from “Recipe for the Somniferous Sponge of Ugone de Lucca”

.“                                   Mix in a brazen vessel.
Place in it a sponge, seized from the ocean,
and boil the whole as long as the sun shines
in the dog-star-days or until the sponge
hath consumed it all.
.                                       Make the sea-sponge damp
and hot. Apply to the nostrils. When sleep
has been inhaled, let surgery commence.”

The Blue Nib Chapbook Contest 4 is available from The Blue Nib