Damian Smyth's new collection interrogates war in all its forms, personae and its anonymous and inevitable casualties. The surprising spirit guide is the 19th Century 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.
The ancient geography of the title is an unexpected metaphor for the strange and estranged town of Downpatrick itself, and archaeological themes littered through the book – from the lure of holy wells to the cracking of the cuneiform code in the tiny Co Down village of Killyleagh in the 19th Century – are set against contemporary echoes of war in the near east.
Elegy, lyric and narrative poetry disrupt connections between the ‘indigenous’ and the ‘foreign’, the ‘familiar’ and the ‘alien’, ‘wholeness’ and ‘injury’ and the very notion of ‘home’ itself.
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