Q&A: The Boom and After the Boom

Those familiar with boom-era Ireland will recognize the Slavic voices alluded to in the poem. Can you tell our readers something about this—and explain what Lidl is?

Thousands of Poles, Latvians, and Lithuanians came to Ireland and the uk after the eu’s enlargement in 2004, a large number of them to work in the service industry and construction. Around here, it was they who built most of the new housing, and you’d hear their languages issuing from building sites. Lidl is a German discount supermarket that is in nearly every sizable town in Ireland now. In the boom years, it was filled with construction workers and others who watched their pennies. Now the estate agents and solicitors can be seen in there too.

Can you talk about the lines: “The place/between water and sky/holding sound. It is under-/loved and an amphitheater”? In what sense is that place under-loved; and how is it an amphitheater?

The poem is simply noticing the particular sound-shaping quality of the river. The cacophony of the boom’s building sites drew attention to this more than the occasional honk from local swans ever did.

The previous poem evokes an “authorized” voice; here, the voices are not local at all. The first three stanzas mention, but do not explicitly evoke, the undercurrent of foreign languages spoken by the workers along the Shannon riverside. In the fourth stanza, the poem erupts into an almost overflowing patch of descriptive language: “Crumpled up/on the roadside now/two-by-four legs akimbo—/a circus-horse curtsy/or steeplechase mishap.” How do you feel this works in the poem? 

The first three stanzas are like jump cuts in film: same scene but different slices of time. Handheld, a bit blurry. In the fourth stanza the shot is fixed and of longer duration so the scene can blossom into more detail, and the language is more filigreed.


This poem originally appeared in the December 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

December 2011

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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