Review: The Boy in the Ring by Dave Lordan
Salmon Poetry E12.00

The Boy In The Ring



A stunning book, this is the bone of the line from a poet that does not use death to alert the reader, as is the well used trick of so many poets, but a man who uses life in all its turbulent thrust and instinct for survival.  Here is a poet who can write about suicide and bring us to the treacherous and truthful background of a young person’s perspective.


This poetry has the bold strength of Holub and other dissident  European poets – and that is because there is also oppression here in Ireland – an oppression that goes unrecognised because we live in this great Western society where so many lies support nearly every functional institution from Church to Government, so that young people are thrust down and in on themselves in these acclaimed Times of the Individual.


This book not alone being a history in itself of a young man maturing with a care and  love for life, it is also a history akin to recent Irish literature that has given us The Butcher Boy, Angela’s Ashes, and the many  texts of Roddy Doyle.  Dave Lordan’s key poem the Boy in the Ring is followed by report and visions from the actual world we live in, the emphasis there – that we live in. This is not the psychological history of a solitary young man’s trauma, this is the life we can recognise and have had to respond to – never mind the CelticTiger  or other dispensations claimed for the European Union.


As members of the latter we are not even allowed to hand milk a cow!


Here is reality and ringing out like a bell is not only the teaspoon in the cup but Lordan’s understanding for his friends and relatives –


I remember the afternoon you were told

you’d failed the August exams.

Now Mom and Dad

would be taking scissors

to the pocket strings

and the wide panorama of your life

had suddenly zoomed

to a puppet show in a shoe box.


Lordan has what I would call grace.  It surfaced at the first reading when  I  heard him on an anti-war march,  he had everyone’s complete attention as he described war as if to a frightened child he was determined to protect. It surfaces again as a mother slaps her tomboy child but cannot prevent her from going among the trainee soldiers and cadging a ride in a helicopter


with her long white legs

and her spindly fingers

her hair cut short

and the way she could take all the knocks and the falls

like one of us the soldiers said


You can pick up these acts of grace in alarming pungent and fierce poems throughout, his observations: anger and innocence coming off the page with a full on blow that remind one of Bartusek  “like silkworms/ we meet our poets/ for years cocooned/ in misfortune”

The trauma of school violence, drink and mayhem that for so many destroys any impulse to hope that dates and times occasionally light up in  history – Lordan’s voice demonstrates terror but knows the haste of folly, the theatre of sublimation



I’m fucking fearless

Try me now why don’t ya

An I promise ya faithfully

Ya won’t last too long

……………I got a mad tashpie to run out on the road

An’ I screamin in the headlights how I’m fearless fucking fearless


And that grace? Yes in lines throughout this book such as


Granite teeming with lipstick kisses

A shoal of petals in a mountain lake


The boy is studying the mirror

How everything passes by it

How it doesn’t get involved

How it forgets what it sees


Her tap leaked the same brass tear over and over


And of the poem death at “14” : And what we were left with…..Fierce light shining through the cracks in the world


Dave writes ofthe humourous adventure of taking a sea dip, working as a gardener, driving home from Derry – and he writes of critical moments in the mind, the young immigrant; the family meal in today’s ruined world, Iraq; silence, what the fuck is silence?  And all thislife overarched by the stars in the universe that he might pull down and rename, and Dave Lordan does not forget that he too might seem in the future a bitter salt in the brine slowly devouring this coast line.


But just before he signs off he performs the most vivid stream of his poets wrath and celebration of life over the death-bearing myths of the Greek.  Of Attis and Cybele , of the mother of nature Cybele and her son Attis who sought her. Lordan is a young man who vows the creation of another theme, a reality, wherein one does not forgive, a reality that may appal, wherein we will nevertheless change this system, a change not of repetition but of difference, a theme estranged from the grotesque results of survival and war that have been passed down as a "curse" from nature, from Herodotus and Plato and spread all over the world as in the present early years of a new millennium by systems of government that reek of blood and bribery, financial corruption mistakenly named “national interest” and corrupt military authority, also in the “national interest”. Yes, these facts rule us and truly deserve the curse Dave Lordan places on them.

Jocelyn Braddell