David Braziel reviews Olive Broderick’s debut full-length collection, Night Divers.
When you read some poets’ work you instantly hear their speaking voice in your head; the cadence and accent ring through somehow, as if they are talking directly to you. Broderick has a distinctive speaking voice, a lyrical Cork accent and a speed that is surprising and energetic, but when I read her poems I don’t hear that voice. Reading Night Divers the experience is much more intimate, it is as if you are inside the poet’s head not being spoken to but rather hearing her thoughts.
‘Intimate’ is a word that could describe the whole collection, every poem is a close-up, personal view of a subject where time is stretched and details picked out. Throughout the book you feel as though you are seeing the world through another person’s eyes.
The poems are beautifully structured with clear language that every so often stops you in your tracks, simple sentences that will stay with you because they seem to be saying so many things at once. The first poem of the collection ends with the simple line “I am awaiting an estimate of cost” which instantly changes the specificity of the lines before it into something much deeper and more universal. Later in Living Lewin’s Model of Change we are given the line “the continual call to what is not yet known is where I feel most comfortable”. These and other lines in the collection will make you want to put the book down and think for a while, which is always a delicious feeling in poetry.
Other fragments such as: “excepting death, people are farthest away when they are sleeping” from Beacon or, from the title poem, Night Divers: “The divers go under […] I stand on deck watching out for them” highlight a theme throughout the collection, the feeling of solitude.
While there are other people present in many of the poems here, the poet always seems to be a solitary figure, not necessarily lonely, but always set apart, watching, observing and recording. This feeling of being slightly separate adds to the intimacy of the experience of reading the poems. Travel is also a strong recurring theme, giving many of the poems and the collection as a whole a feeling of restlessness and of searching.
Not all of the poems are personal, there are pieces based on mythology or imagined from another character’s perspective and there is a brilliant poem imagining the conversations of migratory geese. There is little darkness in the collection, no deep trauma or terrible sadness, the darkness always seems to be moonlit, the melancholy is almost always manageable and edged with hope. There are also flashes of humour, Hanging a framed print of dance me to the end of love, for example is a funny and instantly recognisable snapshot of domestic life. This is a beautiful, coherent collection of poems and a joy to read.
Night Divers is available from Templar Poetry, IBSN 978-1911132257, 64 pages, £10