DAMIAN SMYTH Writing Things
Mesopotamia (Templar Poetry 2014)
Drawing on literary influences ranging from Thomas Moore to Seamus Heaney, and exploring archaeological themes from the lure of holy wells to the cracking of the cuneiform code in the 19th Century to very contemporary echoes of war in the near east, elegy, lyric and narrative poetry question the connections between the indigenous and the ‘foreign’, the familiar and the ‘alien’, wholeness and injury through history.
A book about war in all its forms, personal, local, national and global, and its inevitable and often anonymous casualties. Its surprising spirit guide is the 19th Century genius and Church of Ireland rector of Killyleagh, Rev Edward Hincks, whose scholarship made the lost language of the ancient Near East comprehensible for the modern age – without leaving his parish.
Apparitions: a Hurricane (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.
Lamentations (Belfast 2010)
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
Market Street (Belfast 2010)
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
The Down Recorder (Belfast 2004)
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
Soldiers of the Queen: A Play (Belfast 2002)
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
Downpatrick Races (Belfast 2000
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