Ireland. Night. A grotto the the Virgin Mary illuminates a deserted road. Overhead, the soundless roar of the Milky Way’s glittering traffic reminds us of a past that runs parallel to our own uncertain times. Olives ripen in a Portuguese valley. The sound of gunfire approaches a Paris café. Irish women revolutionaries march towards their future. Tigers prowl through County Leitrim’s rural townlands, whose names emerge like neon signposts through the dark: Red Marsh, Small Watery Place, Round Hill of the Boys.
Róisín Kelly’s Mercy is an attempt to reconcile her Catholic background with her pagan heritage, transcending the limits of a world in which everything is connected. Both intimate and political, this powerful debut collection combines a passionate exploration of self with an awestruck confrontation of wilderness.
‘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 person 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… Although these poems deal with self and identity, Kelly is a poet alive to the wider world of today, and a poet who refuses to create a polite disconnect between the worlds of past and present… Kelly is a fearless poet, whose innovative use of the lyric form refreshes a tradition in danger of becoming moribund in Ireland.’ —Jessica Traynor, 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
‘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