The following review appeared in Samizdat #6 Fall 2000.

Samizdat, 9 Campus Circle, Lake Forest, IL., 60045
is edited by Robert Archambeau.

Mairéad Byrne  lives in Ithaca, New York, where she is a lecturer at Ithaca College and a visiting fellow at Cornell University. Her poem "The Pillar" has recently been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the Seneca Review.  New work is forthcoming in the Denver Quarterly and the Literary Review. She is the author of "The Golden Hair" (Project Arts Centre 1982), "Safe Home" (Project Arts Centre 1985), "Joyce – A Clew" (Bluett & Company 1982), "Eithne Jordan" (Gandon Editions 1994), and "Michael Mulcahy" (Gandon Editions 1985). Her poems have been widely published and anthologised. 

Links Ordering Reviews List of Publications Real Audio Complete Texts Gallery Home Page Contact Wild Honey Press


(c) Samizdat 2000

For the Fallen, Richard Caddel, Wild Honey Press, 2000.


Ric Caddel is known to many American poets through “British and Irish Poets,” the Listserv he founded and, until recently, managed. The author of three books of poetry — Sweet Honey (Taxus 1983), Uncertain Time (Galloping Dog 1990), and Larksong Signal (Shearsman 1997) — he also edited Basil Bunting’s Uncollected Poems (Oxford 1991) and Complete Poems (Oxford 1994), as well as co-edited, with Peter Quartermain, the landmark OTHER: British and Irish Poetry since 1970 (Wesleyan 1999). This new chapbook, For the Fallen, subtitled A Reading of Y Gododdin is published by Randolph Healy’s small and dynamic Wild Honey Press.

        I’ll come clean from the start and say that my knowledge of Y Gododdin is limited to what Caddel says about it in a note:

        I am doubly bound, or unbound, in that know nothing about Aneirin’s Y Godaddin, save that it was written in Old Welsh and must surely be alliterative and ornate, judging by what Caddel has spun from it in For the Fallen. My second bind is not really a bind — it’s that this poem, achingly elegiac, gives little away. It is hooped and hammered together with few gimlets. My excuse for not hying posthaste to the library or the Web to solve my first dilemma is that I am currently irremediably removed from both, being carless and modemless at the Constance Saltonstall Art Colony in upstate New York. My response to the second bind is that there is no lowdown for the reader to get. The business of the poem — its jerky monosyllables, fierce repetitions, shameless rhymes, restless prepositions and conjunctions, relentless articulation — is not to express grief but to lace it in. In this business, the poem almost succeeds.
        As Caddel’s note indicates, For the Fallen is a poem in three parts Part one consists of 39 short slim numbered segments, where lines — no more than a word or a phrase long - are stacked one upon the other. That’s how they look to the eye — like hammerblows. One or two of them are scattered:
          But most are rigidly straight and narrow, strung from their numbers:
          When spoken the lines fall or the voice falls from line to line or from line through line. Few lines call a halt or break the fall. The end of each numbered part signals a lurch away or a renewed attack. There is no conclusion. But the impression that there are few verbs and that those few are all past tense is not correct for the poem as a whole.
        The second part of the poem has longer, almost lavish lines. It can seem playful:
  Or crazy:
          From stanza 52, the poem gathers incredible momentum. Exclamation bursts out in stanzas 56 and 57:
  These lines are torn out, caught violently between prayer and curse. In the next stanza the son is named, bringing, as every mention of him brings, breathing space: “and Tom Caddel in catcher flights / marching on trust in moors.”

The third and final part of the poem announces its modus vivendi: “making a music out of language.” Stanza 89 reinforces this commitment:

It seems the essential elements of this book, which bears a guitar on its cover, are fingered in these four lines: music, rapture, deep affection and the merciless suing of tradition. The father brings the hopeless phrases forward: “I miss him much” and “why did he go,” and the roughened up old poem takes them in. I find myself thinking of Hopkins “He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change / Praise him!” The rigidity of the poem is scraped back in this last part:         There are only 300 copies of this book. It can be obtained from Wild Honey Press, at 16a Ballyman Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow, Ireland. Like all Wild Honey books, it is lovingly made, as is this poem.

Mairéad Byrne