In Collected Poems one of Ireland’s best-loved contemporary poets brings together poems from her six principal collections, Oar (1990), The Parchment Boat (1997), Carrying the Songs (1907), Hands (2011), Keats Lives (2015) and Donegal Tarantella (2019) – more than three decades’ work – a poetry of individual poems which compose a memorable, unpredictable sequence of discovery. The immediacy of our response to the beauty of our exploited planet inspire many of Moya Cannon’s poems. The perfection of very early cave art she sees as testimony to the centrality of art in our evolution as humans. Geology, archaeology, history and music figure as gateways to a deeper understanding of our relationship with our past and the natural world.
‘Whatever inspiration is,’ she quotes Wislawa Szymborska as saying, ‘it is born from a continuous ‘I don’t know’,’ from the confusion of adolescence to the very different confusions of adult life. There are dark confusions and those which are luminous and filled with joy – desperation and rapture are their extremes. Each poem makes a space in which the readers share experience and discover something uniquely their own as well. She regards herself as fortunate in having developed in a culture rapidly changing, in which the poetries of the world were becoming available, in which the situation of women was radically changing. She was at once a beneficiary and an agent of change and these poems retain that enabling agency.