| Doire Press|
My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
and to Midas PR for the invitation to the blog tour
Surprised by how few literary references exist for the Spanish ‘Flu pandemic of 1918/19, Man Booker Prize-nominated Irish poet William Wall decided to turn his remarkable talents to creating a poetry anthology inspired by ‘the strangest year we have lived’.
In Smugglers in the Underground Hug Trade: A Journal of the Plague Year, Wall captures the roller-coaster of emotions from the first terrible days in Italy to the highs and lows of the lockdown in Ireland, culminating in the frightening increase in numbers at Christmas 2020.
But this is not just a book about the plague: Wall turns to nature, to love, to his beloved Cork coast and sea-swimming for solace. There are many tender memories, moments of personal inspiration, humour and hopefulness—the whole suffused with an acute awareness of the historical context.
There have been other plagues and pandemics, the poems say, and we have survived: we will survive this too.
A sample from Smugglers in the Underground Hug Trade: A Journal of the Plague Year
The Silent Road
the road that passes our gate
has fallen silent
all our days in this house
thirty years and more
we have wished for this moment
and now we are bereft
📖 My thoughts...
I found this observational collection of poetry to be quite exceptional both in terms of content and emotional impact. It made me stop to consider how much we have all been affected by living through such a time of disease, not just in terms of what it did to our physical and mental health but also in how the pandemic has impacted on all corners of our lives.
I wondered on the inspiration for the title Smugglers in the Underground Hug Trade and then I read the poem In Time of Quarantine and the whole of this dreadful time slotted into place and I was reminded how, during lockdown, to hug someone was forbidden, and we all became 'black market kissers' and 'purveyors of under-the-counter embraces'.
Throughout the collection the poems are many and varied, each with its own message, beautifully made and entirely convincing. However, it is the final poem in this remarkable collection which made me stop and really consider what living through the pandemic meant and in 'O You Who Come to This House of Pain' I had found the emotional connection I had, unwittingly, been searching for during the pandemic.
By taking as its inspiration Canto V from Dante's Inferno the poem's refrain reminds us forcibly of all that we have experienced.
o you who come to this house of pain
watch how you go and whom you trust
these are the dark days
The true cost of the emotional roller coaster we have lived through will have its own lasting legacy, I don't think any of us will ever be the same again. The poems in this beautifully observed anthology serve to remind us of our shared weaknesses but also of our collective strengths.
About the Author
WILLIAM WALL is the author of four novels, including This is the Country (Sceptre), longlisted for the Man Booker Prize; three collections of poetry; and one volume of short stories. He is the first Poet Laureate of Cork, his home city (2020/2021) and was the first European to win the Drue Heinz Literature Prize in the USA (2017). He has also won the Virginia Faulkner Award, The Sean O’Faoláin Prize, several Writer’s Week prizes and The Patrick Kavanagh Award. He was shortlisted for the Young Minds Book Award, the Irish Book Awards, the Raymond Carver Award, the Hennessy Award and numerous others. His work has been translated into many languages, including Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Latvian, Serbian and Catalan. In 2014 William was part of the Italo-Irish Literature Exchange, organised through The Irish Writers’ Centre, which toured Italy with readings in Italian and English. In March 2010 he was Writer in Residence at The Princess Grace Irish Library, Monaco. He was a 2009 Fellow of The Liguria Centre for the Arts & Humanities. He lives in Cork.
About the Publisher
Doire Press was founded in the autumn of 2007 in Connemara by Lisa Frank, with skills and experience in editing and publishing, and by John Walsh, who had just received a publication award from the Galway County Council Arts Office to publish his second poetry collection, Love’s Enterprise Zone.
Since then, Doire Press has continued to blossom, finding its niche in publishing new and emerging writers who give voice to what it means to be Irish in a changing Ireland. Authors include Madeleine D’Arcy, Edward Boyne, Gerry Galvin, Susan Millar Du Mars, Adam White, Breda Wall Ryan, Willian Wall, Eamon Carr, Stephanie Conn, Simon Lewis, Amanda Bell, Annemarie Ní Churreáin, and Rosemary Jenkinson.
Doire Press gratefully acknowledges the support of the Arts Council of Ireland and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland which have funded many of our publications.
Twitter #williamWall #SmugglersInTheUndergroundHugTrade