The Lake reviews There Are No Foreign Lands by Mark Holihan

August 17th, 2016 § 0 comments

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Front-MHS-ALTThe title of Mark Holihan’s first collection, There Are No Foreign Lands, is taken from Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign.’ Maggie Harris reviews the collection in The Lake:

The power of these poems lie in their apparent lightness of touch, although poets will know that is no mean feat, like the illusion of ballet dancers making their bodies seem weightless; but so many phrases hold a universe of connections, like

thebroken webs of fat spiders slung with tiny, mummy-wrapped

 flies, moths and indecipherable shapes swaddled and forgotten .

I called you in Paris and I could hear the distance in your voice

as I stood waist-high in webs and thorns and memories of your childhood.

And it’s only in the morning, when I gently begin to wash the berries

that the spider emerges with deliberation and torpor, tottering on its long,

pin-thin legs stained scarlet, its mottled thorax soft as infant skin,

shuddering as it falls trying to climb the slippery sides of the enamel pail

to escape that autumn-cold heap of fragrant, bleeding fruit.


Here, in one short poem Holihan’s strengths come together, his powers of observation, love of the natural world, parental anxiety, artistry, and his awareness of time, (itself a powerful presence in these poems), knitted together as lightly, powerfully and tapestried as  a spiders web.

The Lake has also published ‘Things you can keep’ and ‘Broadstairs, UK, 11/11/08’ from There Are No Foreign LandsThe book costs £10 plus p&p, and can be purchased at the link: There Are No Foreign Lands. Buy two or more books from this website, and p&p is free.

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