The poems collected in Snow Water find their gravity and centre in Michael Longley’s adopted home in west Mayo, but range widely in their attention—from ancient Greece to Paris and Pisa, from Central Park to the trenches of the Somme. Meditations on nature and mortality, there is a depth and delicacy to these poems, a state of lucid wonder, that allows for the easy companionship of love poem and elegy, hymns to marriage and friendship and lyric explorations of loss. Though the embodiment of these themes is often found in the wildlife of Carrigskeewaun and Allaran Point—the plovers and oystercatchers, whooper swans and snow geese, the hares and otters, the marsh marigolds and yellow flags—Snow Water is emphatically a celebration of humanity. These are all, in a way, poems of love and kinship—even the magnificent sequence that links the horrors of the Great War with those of the Trojan War, and with all the wars between. What Longley says of Edward Thomas might easily be said of him: ‘The nature poet turned into a war poet as if/He could cure death with the rub of a dock leaf’.
Full of intensity and grace, tenderness and wisdom, these are poems of deceptive simplicity from a craftsman of international stature.