A battle of words between memory and amnesia

Poetry: Leanne O’Sullivan’s new collection is shaped by a devastating illness suffered by her husband; Geraldine Mitchell finds sustenance in even the bleakest landscapes Leanne O’Sullivan: capably invokes tricky mythological material in A Quarter of an Hour. Photograph: Donal O’Sullivan In each of her four books, Leanne O’Sullivan has managed the balancing act of fashioning striking individual poems while developing a book-length project. Skilful and soulful, her achievements as a writer are as clear as ever in her powerful new book, A Quarter of an Hour (Bloodaxe, £9.95). Preoccupied with mortality and loss, the book is shaped by a severe illness her husband suffered in 2013, a brain infection which led to a coma and, devastatingly, the almost total loss of his memory. His stricken body is at the centre of the poems, “a face smooth like wax paper” in Lightning , “the wound pulled wide/ by the cannula, its dark weeping undulations” in Tracheotomy , a poem in which O’Sullivan’s fascinated engagement with the trauma is framed in original, resonantly alliterative lines: the vocal reeds, filmy white, beams on a footbridge, fascia, muscle, isthmus, your domain of secrets, of rained-on tributaries, rooted and grafted And O’Sullivan is conscious […]

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