Augustus Young       light verse, poetry and prose
a webzine of new and unpublished work

Recent Books to Cherish

1. Greg Delanty The Greek Anthology, Book XVII (Oxford Poets, 2012)

‘Another Athens shall arise’ and there it is exiled in Vermont.

Delanty has added a book to the seminal text of poetry The Greek Anthology.  He follows the ancients in dedicating each poem to a fellow poet. This is a wave to friends rather than a direct conversation. Essentially Book XVII is a reading of the world around Greg (America), behind him (Cork) and ahead of for children (ecological).  It is never didactic or too personal, and so each poem can be shared by the reader. Making a list of poems I particularly liked, I soon realized the others were recitatives to the arias. As with an opera, his book is dramatic and sings.  

The technique is bardic in its prosodic precision (he dares rhymes) and the vocabulary is formidable but never verbose. Even when he uses ‘infrangible’, a word new to me but on tracing it no other word would suffice in the context. His wry coinage ‘temporary immortals’ is now part of my lexicon.

He is equally evocative with children and nature. They go together with the life of Gregory of Corkus (Heaney’s nick name). It’s the narrative of a life of course, and so, picking out the immediately memorable bits is reductive. Still ‘not even the gods know they’re gods’ ‘all good things come to an end. All dreadful things come to an end too’. and ‘O my long-legged goddess of the loo’ will stay with me.  

The last poem ends ‘Í am one of the sacred dead, /released from the underworld/ of the mundane, the banal. Behold the normal”

Greg Delanty is the truest poet to come out of the low-lying city of Cork (since Paddy Galvin). Sweet 17 is a book I will read again. It joins my happy few.   

2. A Life in Trauma by Dr Chris Luke (Gill Books, 2021) is a vivid account of an unusual upbringing in Dublin (initially an orphan) and an acclaimed career in Accident and Emergency medical care. It has a literary quality without losing its highly professional description of dealing with accidents and disasters. Chris Luke catches the excitement of dealing with the uncertainties and the satisfaction of overcoming the impossible through enthusiastic team-work. His achievements are so modestly presented that to a considerable extent it explains how he charmed staff with low-morale into life-enhancing teams. Evidently, they loved to work with him. He was not only a brilliantly practical surgeon but his handling of people was so different from consultants posing as gods.   

The narrative darkens when in 1998 a leap of faith in his homeland returned him to Ireland. He fell on marshy ground in Cork overseeing all the city’s A&E departments. What worked so well elsewhere for him met with understaffing, inept political interference and in consequence patient unrest. Luke didn’t take it as a given and while working all hours, nevertheless, became a regular critical voice on radio and in newspaper articles. Although one of nature’s diplomats, he didn’t hesitate to speak the truth to power. This did not endear him to the reigning egos and their sidekicks. Moving from crisis to crisis - administrative as much as medical - wore him down. He saw burnout on the horizon, and with great personal courage reveals the symptoms. Only for commitment to the work and a loving family he evaded the worst and took early retirement. He still works in practice, imparting his skills and wisdom where he can. Characteristics that are amply evident in this book.

Accidents happen to us all and a reading of this book would be invaluable not only to be prepared but to influence improvements sorely needed. It’s a thrilling but sobering account of the reality victims face in an Ireland which though financially prospering hasn’t a proper national health service.