DAMIAN SMYTH Writing Things
Templar Poetry 2018
“English Street is a huge achievement. To me it seems like an extended exploration, specifically, of syntax. Each poem seems to be asking how much can you hang on a sentence, on a sub-clause? It’s the syntactical turns that are the engine of each poem, and the deftness with which they are deployed is astonishing and unnerving, both. The syntactical turns mean the reader is constantly being blind-sided by what comes next. Because who would have thought such a thing could come next, within the same sentence? Those syntactical turns are doorways, slippages, trapdoors even, into enormous heavyweight material – history, insanity, cruelty, and over and over, the realm of the dead. The syntax mirrors the point of the book – that we’re here, and the dead are beside us, so much closer than we reasonably like to think. And that they never go away.” Sinéad Morrissey in The North, Issue 61, January 2019
"Damian Smyth's ... outstanding collection English Street, with its highly charged poetic excavations of a small, historic area of Co. Down." Patricia Craig in The TLS
"The conversational style is typical of the collection as a whole. It’s a hard style to achieve without descent into banality, especially over a long collection. Damian Smyth never puts a foot wrong. ... A collection of depth and maturity, humour and compassion." Angela Graham in The Lonely Crowd
“The poems in Damian Smyth’s new collection English Street are a masterclass in form. They manage to be dense and airy, loose and tight, muscular yet endlessly capacious … Maybe the airiness emanates from his use of the vernacular, the occasional intrusion of the exotic, his wry humour. He has achieved a very local music, the air of authenticity …” Paula Cunningham in The North, Issue 61, January 2019
Templar Poetry, 2014
'This is a big, widely-navigating collection of well-crafted poems ... In these deeply engaging, even moving lamentations on the futility of war, murder and historical and personal immediacy, Smyth has permitted us to view, peeking out of our familiar fields, a rough-hewn Ozymandias of identity.' - Fred Johnston in Books Ireland
'Smyth positions himself well to chronicle vanishing eras of social and national history, but his poetry refuses to offer any simple or glib answers on the nature of how we live, engage with other cultures and protect our notions of ‘home’.' Richie McCaffery in Elsewhere
'Remarkable turns of phrase and quantum leaps between (a dissected mummy transforms into an innocent woman slain in a street battle ... with home, resettlement, exile and violence – particularly recent conflict in the Middle East – all abiding themes. And that’s just scratching the surface of this massive, soaring piece of work.' Will Barrett in Campus (The Poetry School)
Templar Poetry, 2012
This sequence of nine-line terza rima poems marking years from 1962 to 2010 was published at the sixth Derwent Poetry Festival, Masson Mills, Matlock Bath, one of the three winners of the 2012 iOTA Shots Awards for short poetry pamphlets.
Smyth's fourth collection is a single sequence of 70 'brief elegies' in terza rima, written between May and July 2009. The poems provide an occasion for the registering of several griefs, each intensely felt and cumulatively dramatic, personal but neither private nor exclusive.
‘This profound and moving collection charts the journey towards the realisation that in the end there is perhaps only surrender to the inevitability of loss.’ – Poetry Ireland Review
Smyth's third collection continues and radically deepens and broadens the imaginative exploration of his home town in a sustained performance across 20-line poems.
‘It is the poems that count, for precision of language and range of allusion, for the characters who populate the street, and never leave, and most of all for the wonderful lists and catalogues – culminating in The Inventory of Mrs E J Coulter, Pawnbroker – “the ordinary made memorable by art”. – Irish Independent
'Market Street is unlike anything else in recent Irish poetry. Together with Lamentations, it shows Damian Smyth as an ambitious poet with formidable gifts. This is a work to be treasured.’ – Poetry Ireland Review
'Well-made, beautiful poems, rich with local anecdote and mythic resonance, containing astonishing images ... An excellent book'. - Poetry Review
A long poem, based on stories of kinship and murder, war and shipwreck, personal pilgrimages from one generation to another and the strokes of good or bad fortune which make each possible, based on stories from the newspaper of the same name in continuous weekly production since 1836.
‘Seven chapters long, it is a powerful, poignant and often deeply personal poem which takes its inspiration from, and is deftly inter-woven with, just some of the stories which have featured on the pages of the Down Recorder down through the years … it is [his] intimacy with the area, his empathy with the people who over the years have flitted through the columns of The Down Recorder, which makes his work so powerful, so perceptive. And so very, very moving.’ – Belfast Telegraph
On a hill in South Africa during the Boer War, George Linton a young soldier from Ireland, lies seriously wounded. Across no man's land, an elderly Boer farmer awaits an opportunity to finish the job. In Damian Smyth's debut play for the stage, premiered at the Belfast Festival at Queen's in 2002, the two strike up an unlikely but still deadly relationship, the psychic landscape of conflict unfurls: hatred, guilt, fear, as ghosts arrive from different pasts and futures.
‘Words are the tools of Smyth’s trade. If they are occasionally overused in this passionate, cleverly-constructed play, it is with confidence, lyricism and a sharp ear for the speech patterns of both central characters … This is an absorbing, atmospheric evening, underlining the tragedy of generations of young men, who left home in search of adventure in exotic places’ – Irish Times
Damian Smyth's debut collection. Around the central image of the racecourse gather Magnus Barelegs, the last Norseman; the Normans, George Best, the British Army, boxers Joe Louis and Rinty Monaghan, the boozy wizard Bamboozelum, the mighty steeplechaser Arkle; and individuals, recollected or imagined, who people the lore of the poet's home in Northern Ireland.
‘Poems about family tease out sentiment without blowing its late-night sax, side-stepping the over-familiar and selecting poignant details such as his mother’s fondness for dreaming through clothes catalogues’ – Poetry London
‘a violent history … coexists alongside affectionate memories of individuals and shared values’ – Poetry Salzburg Review
Joseph Tomelty: Collected Plays
Lagan Press 2011. Out of print.
John Hewitt: Two Plays
Lagan Press 1999. Previously unpublished playscripts. Out of print.