New and Selected Poems
by John McGrath
Someone once said that writers are people for whom the act of writing is more difficult than it is for others. As writers of poetry, we face an even greater challenge in that our work goes straight to the heart – of the matter and of the reader – and we can never be sure if we have hit our target. We can only write and hope.
I write from the heart and because I have no other choice. My subject matter in After Closing is both random and diverse. I hope that some of what I have been moved to write will move you too.
John McGrath 2021
After Closing suggests an intimacy afforded only to a cherished few. A time for stories and secrets to be shared, a welcome glass of whiskey and the love and company of special friends. Open this book and you will be locked in, happily, with John McGrath’s memories. Recollections of his younger days, the love for his mother and father, the compassion for Johnny and the strict education from The Master will bring you warmth, joy, nostalgia and sadness in equal measures. Then, speaking of his own sons, his grandchildren and his friends, life’s circle turns to now.
After Closing brings you straight into the heart of this most wonderful and sensitive poet, and you want to curl up there and never leave.Barbara Derbyshire – Editor, After Closing
This collection is a fine summation of the quirks and foibles of rural Irish life, with never a boring or pretentious moment; never an intrusive fall from honesty balanced on the tightrope of poetic cadence. It is a gathering of vignettes from Mayo to Kerry via Manchester as portrayed in the emigration rituals that were the experience of Irish youth throughout the twentieth century.
It combines poems of depth and reflection with flashes of humour that even include a recipe for porridge bread. There are moving thoughts on parental weakness and family love. There is here, as hoped for by the poet, sunlight, sadness, laughter and loneliness. There is life from birth to death and after that the ritual of the funeral wake. In between are stories of rural eccentrics; the violent schoolmaster, the death and laying out of the cobbler, Pa Murphy’s tight-fisted care of a shilling and the poet’s hibernation after the Autumn races herald a dark wet winter. From Brian the Leather and the injured Johnny with turned down wellingtons to Lorenzo rejecting the nightlong embrace of the sea, there are many deep poems ranging from despair in Auschwitz and radicalisation in Aleppo to the tranquillity of rural Irish fields and bogs, as described with delicacy and insight in this carefully crafted treasure.Louis Mulcahy – Poet, Potter and Ceramic Sculptor
Our first meeting, 15 years ago, was when John joined us as tutor for the Ballybunion Writing Group, a group that has grown in strength over the years. I have him to thank for helping me develop my writing skills.
I got to know John the Poet, John the Editor, and John the Friend. In After Closing I’ve met John, the boy growing up with his parents, neighbours and friends, to John the doting grandfather. What a wonderful book of poetry from John the Gentleman.Delia O’Sullivan – Poet, Author and Raconteuse
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Speckled silver split the dappled darkness. I knew that you were watching me with one eye. Softly, allowing for refraction, I slid the gleaming steel beneath the wave, pre-empted your reaction. Plunged barbaric barbs behind your gills, swung the pole against the current’s flow and in one practiced movement scribed an arc that flung your bleeding, gleaming form into the frosted night. Up on the bank, you bucked and thrashed until the priest and sack subdued you. High on my back as I bore you home, I felt your spirit leave me. I stumbled on, all bloodlust gone, awash with anti-climax. I’d like to say your pain ensured I never ate another living thing. Between the thrust and swing alas, my River-To-Damascus revelation, my moment of redemption, my heartfelt resolution faltered, failed.
Crabs at Carrigafoyle.
By Carrigafoyle I found them on the shore, catastrophe of crabs at Shannonside, a hundred thousand corpses, maybe more, abandoned high and dry by ebbing tide. So small and white like pebbles by the sea, I wondered what disaster had ensued, what plague or poison shaped this tragedy that wrought misfortune of such magnitude. No massacre, I learned, but nature’s ways. Somewhere beneath the wild Atlantic swells each tiny creature sheds its carapace, together they cast off their outgrown shells and then, on cue, the mating games begin, those age-old ecstasies of skin on skin.