Foward Prize shortlistee Accurate Measurements by Adam White

Our writers give voice to what it means to be Irish in a changing Ireland.

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Shortlisted for the 2013 Forward Prize for Poetry

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Accurate Measurements

Accurate Measurements

By Adam White

2013 / 72 pages / €10 (marked down from €12)
ISBN: 978-1-907682-22-3
Cover photo: Diarmuid Russell

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What Else is There?

What Else is There?

By Adam White

2017 / 72 pages / €10 (marked down from €12)
ISBN: 978-1-907682-47-6
Cover photo: 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.



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.

Winter Visit

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.
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Adam White roofing with his dad.


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.