Martina Evans reviews Then Again in The Irish Times, 01 June 2019
Pat Boran’s seventh poetry collection, Then Again (€12.50, Dedalus Press), is described by the publisher as a mini Odyssey. The poems travel outwards taking in Paris, Sicily, Cyrus and Ireland, often focusing on paintings in galleries and churches or objects in museums. A magnificent prose poem for “an old friend … who fell in love with compost” meditates on “Death and the remaking of the world”. The fermentation and renewal that occurs in compost layers, especially “the gradual return” of growth, is central to Boran’s odyssey.
Like Homer’s, the journey is all about return. This is beautifully, neatly expressed in The Password, where a couple try and fail to remember a password, then “ … somehow, with the cuff of my shirt sleeve/I manage accidentally to touch Return/and as simple as that it opens and we’re in … ”
There are many returns here. In Virgin of the Crossroads poet turns a bend “to find her/stood there still/ in this winter’s night, a solitary girl/waiting for her bus,/her face beatific/in the light of her mobile phone.” There is a tremendous amount of warmth here in fine elegies for friends and all humanity. Boran’s gaze is equally tender resting on the fellow travellers in Stalled Train and Bus Stop or a 19th-century Indian painting as he finds parallels across distance and time.
In Race Meeting, Baldoyle, a photographed couple spring from the page, “He smokes, she holds/something beneath her nose, a sprig … ” the ending miraculously conjuring “the one thing that the photograph commemorates/ but has no chance of capturing: their breath”. References to breath and lungs recur frequently in these existential poems. Desire is a visual, convincing argument for human connections. Boran’s characteristic light touch is exquisitely deft. He opens intriguingly, “Lift the roof off this row of houses/and who might we prove to be:” before an assortment of characters appear and then, the sonnet turns or “zooms in … that could be you and me down there, /waltzing around our steam-filled kitchen/as if on the deck of an ocean liner/inching outwards through the thickening fog.”