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Book Reviews & Features


Blue Sandbar Moon – Irish Times review 8th February 2020

Chris Agee might see himself as one of the Dedalus anthology’s forerunners. Long resident in Belfast, Agee is as well known for his work with poets from Bosnia as his poems about the native US and his moving book-length elegy for his daughter, Next to Nothing. He has now established his own press and one of its first publications is his Blue Sandbar Moon: A micro-epic (Irish Pages Press, €18). An unusual book, well over 200 pages long, it begins with a quartet of centred stanzaic poems, then a pair of poems in couplets, and a prose poem, before the micro-epic itself starts, a series of notes and observations, each of them dated and located as the poems move between Ireland, Scotland, The Hague and Croatia.

While it may seem that Agee’s book is various, it feels, as the reader speeds through the “micro-epic”, that they are so many variations on a single poem, some of which piercingly capture, or are captured by, the loss of his daughter, whose memory or absence recurringly haunts the book. The prose poem, Parable of a Summer, may be the most challenging and interesting piece here, although its ending’s desire to overwhelm with abstraction nearly topples its good image of an “ant which hauls its awn of straw” by adding “with Sisyphean purpose, towards the Eocene’s version of our own technohive”. The micro-poems, at their best, approach the same haunted, fearful music of Ciaran Carson’s remarkable Until Before After. The M of blossoms is one of many poems to picture a deserted scene to which the poet was once, and forever, “called back”: “never / to return / to that stilled / coffee cup”.