It is a rare thing to find a collection of poetry in which each individual poem has the power to affect you in some way. O’Sullivan’s latest book, And so it is, miraculously manages to do this almost effortlessly. Reading through the collection I found myself re-reading each poem, each line, always savouring the way the words played around. I kept the poems in my head, reading silently to try and grasp at meanings, and I read the poems out loud to hear the way they roll off the tongue. There is a magic around these poems, hard to define but strongly felt.
From the beginning we are greeted with strange but pleasing ideas. The opening poem, Knowing what it’s about, starts with a woman who’s the quiet one / in any group of women thinks it / a fair morning’s work, this setting free / a bee that’s tangled to one of a dozen / webs on a garage door.
This scene feels ordinary, almost comical, given the way the woman and what she thinks is described. It is a small thing, this action, made into a larger feeling, a fair morning’s work. But when we get to the end of the poem, O’Sullivan puts forward a strange notion, as the bee flies away into a life ‘more direct than / ours’, she says, ‘knowing what it’s about’. It is an interesting thought, and it touches on a more fundamentally human question of purpose. It is this subtle movement towards these kinds of feelings that make these poems so interesting. Where we start with a bee being freed from a web, we are left with a feeling that is almost too human.
There is also a side-serve of poems that deal with many different subjects. To be able to identify with O’Sullivan’s poetry becomes much easier. From the questions raised by the age of technology in poem The Reality Problem, to thinking about the nature of language in poem The less than genuine article, to the closing lines of the collection, ‘Nothing is truly in- / significant, you say, not even that bit / about a billion years in This week then,’ And so it is is broad in its imaginings. This broad spectrum of subjects, styles, and questions makes it easy to sink into the familiar and find something to enjoy about this collection.
Each poem acts like an individual, separated from the next, different and new. There is no sameness in And so it is, no repetitiveness. But while the poetry has this quality to it, there is no sense of isolation, no jarring moments that make you cringe. The differences somehow come together, the poems weaving together, creating something entirely different as a whole. And this is what makes the collection work, the seamless integration of different ideas and feelings tied together through O’Sullivan’s words.
Reviewed by Matthias Metzler
And so it is
by Vincent O’Sullivan
Published by VUP