The Death Poems: Songs, Visons, Meditations explores death in a range of forms – celebratory, visionary and contemplatively, using subject matter as varied as the dust heaps of remains that accumulated in 19th century London to the environmentally toxic ship graveyards at Alang in India. Formally dazzling, Beirne’s complex and textured meditations are sobering, spiritual and, in the end, sustaining.
‘Gerard Beirne’s intense, unflinching visions of the grim and grizzly are not for the faint-hearted. His insistent focus on the detailed mechanics rather than the abstract condition of Death (more common in poetry) gives these poems the feel of some dark medieval compendium.
With echoes of Lear’s soliloquy on the heath, Beirne concludes What I Am Scared of Most is Nothing with the confession: “I sing when it’s stormy / when it’s calm I weep”. The singing here will chill you, without doubt, but the sheer intensity of the language in which these visions are related – despite or perhaps because of the subject matter – is unquestionably life-affirming.’ —Pat Boran
‘Digging My Own Grave is a brilliant title for a first book of poems. It speaks of a wisdom beyond the author’s years … Beirne’s poems live up to the promise of the title … Beirne has a feeling for language and the power of language, a fine sense of where the poems ends, a rich imagination.’ —Poetry Ireland Review
‘By far the most memorable novel of the year for me was Gerard Beirne’s wonderful The Eskimo in the Net… Just like the central character, Jim Gallagher, the reader is drawn into the depths of both a mystery and a personal voyage of discovery … Wonderful clear prose and sensitive observation in a tough environment make this an outstanding debut work, scandalously ignored by this year’s Man Booker judges.’ —Graham Ball, Daily Express
‘The haunting central image of this book provides an opening sentence that is easily the best I have read in a long time… a very ambitious first novel …this book is so good it is hard to believe that such a mature work is a first novel. It is a vivid and very moving attempt to make us kiss the cold realities of individual existence.’ —Paul Pickering, Daily Express
‘Beirne’s descriptive writing is superb. He evokes the atmosphere of the town brilliantly, along with the surrounding landscape…they (the characters) have all stayed with me. The narrative was compelling, seeping into my being.’ —Books Ireland
‘This first novel by the Irish poet and short story writer has one of the most intriguing beginnings I have ever read …. vivid and sensual.’ —New Books Mag