ADAM WHITE / ACCURATE MEASUREMENTS & WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
Shortlisted for the 2013 Forward Prize for Poetry
2013 / 72 pages
Cover photo: Diarmuid Russell
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2017 / 72 pages
Cover art: Andreas Preuss
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ADAM WHITE is from Youghal in County Cork, where he served his time as a carpenter before travelling to Brittany to work and learn French on the building sites. He later read English and French at NUI Galway and started to write poetry. His debut collection, Accurate Measurements, published in 2013 by Doire Press, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. In recent years he returned to live in France and works there at present as a secondary school English teacher.
SAMPLE POEMS FROM ACCURATE MEASUREMENTS
The first thing you do is check the building for square.
Below, hoary-headed masons, who’ve never laid
eyes on you, tidy away tools, shove lukewarm
bottles of stout between tight lips
and spy you prizing the dumb harmony
left by the lump hammer, trowel and plumb line,
slung to the bottom of an old tool-box-cum-stool
snapped shut just in time for lunch.
Depending on the weather, deal wall plates
slap or clonk into place. They’re butted together,
and what’s sticking out’s trimmed
by the teeth of a savage oil-spitting chain.
A ridge poll is offered up to the empty heavens.
But lean rafters, like joined hands, are
raised in reverence to Pythagoras,
who was one of us.
Now crackling felt is rolled out, bobbling along a lath.
With a pencil poised on one ear, you make your way
to the apex, careful not to puncture this sealed hold
of silence inside: quiescence to be sold, owned and passed
down to the youngest son.
Take your time as you alight from the lashed ladder,
hit the ground before the evening’s first rain;
tomorrow you will do it all again.
She will only say the new stove
was delivered and fitted for
a song, that the coalmen prove
novel, labouring on the yard’s steps
and cramped path bearing bags, nursing
them overhead and down onto their breasts
to feed the bunker half a ton.
But I only see her lugging
buckets, the skin round her thumbs
react to dust, hear on a cold
morning what the doctor said about
porous hip bones and then behold
my mother stoking up a house.
SAMPLE POEMS FROM WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
Thoughts on Old Tools
I have caught myself, when handling a good knife
or running my eye along the build of something square
(just to see again that I could see that it was square),
considering old tools and rules from another life.
I’ve even imagined, once the slow fit
of reminiscing deflates to a more pedestrian impression,
that tapping some late knack or omitted art might be a lesson
in regaining happiness, that each brief thought was just a sniff of it,
when in truth we miss so much more
than a thing we once did well (say two jambs stood
plumb for the snug closing of a door)
the unrecoverable conditions in which this could
joyfully happen. Our tools can stay in the shed:
actions will remain peerless, the circumstance dead.
Sunlight, Henry Street
in memory of Derry O’Sullivan
All I want is to wake once more with sunlight
fooling in every corner of this room;
no shutters, no blinds, no curtains
that trick you into thinking it’s still night,
or night already when it isn’t yet, but will be soon.
Then it can go back to the grind,
fell the shadows of fountains
up city streets, lustre low tides,
diamond high mountains.
LINKS TO ARTICLES, INTERVIEWS & REVIEWSArticle in the Irish Times
Sunday Times’ Poet’s Corner
Interview in The Irish Examiner
Radio interview on Galway Bay FM
Review in Southword
Blog posting by Billy Ramsell
Blog interview by Kate Dempsey
Blog interview with Paul McVeigh
On Poems in Profile
Interview in the Galway Advertiser
Irish Times review of What Else is There?