St John’s Well, Carrigaline, October 2022. Photo by Mae McSweeney
Róisín Kelly is a writer from Ireland. Her first full-length collection of poetry, Mercy, was published by Bloodaxe Books in March 2020.
It followed the publication of her 2016 chapbook, Rapture, by Southword Editions.
She won the FISH Poetry Prize in 2017 and in 2020 was awarded a Literature Bursary Award by the Arts Council of Ireland in order to write her second collection of poetry. In 2021 she was awarded a grant by the Cork City Council Arts Office in order to develop her first novel.
‘Róisín Kelly hauls the mythological up into the contemporary world in this fiercely tender collection. Love and loss are laid bare again and again under constellations new and old, in skies above Greece, Portugal, America, France, and Ireland. Kelly’s intelligence and wisdom ignite each of these poems, whether funeral pyre or beacon in the dark light. Mercy burns with ruthless beauty.’ —Zsuzsi Gartner, author of Better Living Through Plastic Explosives
‘Mercy by Róisín Kelly is a debut that approaches both the personal and the political with passionate physicality. Here is a book that repositions the erotic in the poem in a manner that Eavan Boland would surely have appreciated… Mercy demonstrates a heady mixture of lyric earthiness and flight, and reclaims the lyric space as one of female desire… Kelly is a fearless poet, whose innovative use of the lyric form refreshes a tradition in danger of becoming moribund in Ireland.’ —Poetry Ireland Review
‘I have suggested an affinity between Kelly and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill. She may also have learned something from Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, that other doyenne of contemporary Irish poetry… By any standard, Róisín Kelly’s Mercy is an impressive debut. It’s a collection that one needs to savour slowly and to which one can return with increasing pleasure. The language has cadence and focus. The images are burnished. She is, by turns, visionary, savvy and passionate.’ —London Grip
‘Led by Eavan Boland, who is explicitly cited as an influence in Mercy, Kelly returns to women’s lives recent and distant, working poetically to perceive and explore the past. Her debut, like the other volumes reviewed here, provides a compelling and provocative account of the workings of time; like the histories they explore and represent, all of these collections are well worth returning to.’ — the Times Literary Supplement
‘I first came across Róisín Kelly and her work at the Cork International Poetry Festival few years ago, and was struck by the composure, poise and precision of her reading, and also by the intensity, depth and luminescence of her poems. They succeed in being both intimate and personal, but also undoubtedly political.’ —Victoria Kennefick, Unlaunched Books (podcast)
‘Mercy was for me a kind of lamplit and starlit exploration of self and wilderness, utterly glorious in its haunted depictions of the human body and the physical landscape.’ —Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Cúirt International Festival of Literature (live podcast)
‘The Irish-ness of the poet and the European-ness of the poet are two strong threads running through the collection… The first-person pronoun is used throughout the book and in a way which is clearly autobiographical: there are no personas here, no dramatic monologues. The poet sometimes speaks directly and without pretension to the reader, and sometimes to us via the beloved, and it is often an intimate voice, yet there is no trace of narcissism in the poems… This is a fine collection.’ —The High Window
‘These are expansive poems, rich in pictures and space, frequently evocative… Her delicate patterning of rhyme, controlling carefully the full and the half, offers a shape and texture to these poems which makes reading, and re-reading, a great joy… I suspect Mercy will be particularly loved by those intent on parallel explorations. Others may wonder how powerfully she will write a decade hence, alas when life has done its work. An engaging journey, well worth taking.’ —Dundee University Review of the Arts
‘Kelly, as great writers do, compels her readers to engage, and for readers of Rapture, that engagement is with the past… Kelly’s poetry is at once tender and savage, steeped in tradition yet brave in expression.’ —Los Angeles Review of Books
‘fresh, sensuous, and direct.’ —The Irish Times
‘Unafraid of sentiment…a master of endings.’ —Poetry Ireland Review
‘This brief collection shows remarkable emotional range. Kelly leaves the reader afloat on a tide of colour.’ —The PN Review
‘fierce and mysterious, beautiful and compelling.’ —Leanne O’Sullivan
‘an Irish poet of breathtaking sound and lyricism.’ —The Atticus Review
‘Love and violence collide in this poem. The way the writer interleaves terror and passion makes for a remarkable, tender and terrifying work.’ —Jo Shapcott, judging the Fish Poetry Prize 2017