On Black Irish
"Seventy years later, an ocean removed from the churchyard stone where Yeats' epitaph is carved, Michele Madigan Somerville dares to cast a cold eye on life, on death. But she looks deeper: rather than merely sing ”whatever is well made," Black Irish celebrates all that Somerville finds fragile or wounded or broken; neither embalming nor romanticizing the past, these astounding, untrammeled poems excavate & reclaim histories--sacred, pagan, singular, tribal--one might have thought irretrievable. By turns elegiac, amorous, expansive, lapidary, Juvenalian, & vulnerable, Black Irish melds an almost classical austerity with an emotional immediacy that is breathtaking. Too brave & exact an artist not to be drawn toward her own private Byzantium, Somerville's ultimate domain remains "the foul rag & bone shop of the heart"--castoff turtles, mermaid brothers, Brooklyn Christmas trees--familiar & wondrous at once. Where else can poetry go?"
"Every line in Somerville's verse packs a wallop. Her bawdy piety and divine colloquialism lets us know that truly a bard walks upon this earth."
Nava Renek, author of Spiritland, No Perfect Words and Mating in Captivity.
From "Rapid Transit," Brooklyn Rail, September 3, 2010...
Through anecdotes, recollection, feverous incantation, a mongrel breed of church lingo and street-isms. With a naughty penchant for bad boys, our heroine turns aggressive in“Boob.”
What begins with a boob representing a Giuliani-type “lughead” (and fascination for the really wrong guy) evolves into worship of a DJ. Cousin Brucie gives sustenance across the airwaves, delivering the excitement it takes to survive. Eventually the poet muses on her own 34Ds as she nurses twins. Just as boobs are a source of sustenance, so does writing about them transfer power.
Equating flesh with yearning, Somerville reconstructs a coming of age ceremony in Quinceañara. Symbols are explained in rippling triplets as the lines lead to a longing for symbiosis, for the 'luscious mingling of virtue and depravity.'
Driven by guilt and courage, Somerville’s narrative express, tricked out with Catholic culture and boardwalk trash talk, hurtles ahead, summoning the 'Laughter of God.' "
Jeff Wright, author of Triple Crown (poems)
From Small Press Reviews
"...There are drinkers who fancy themselves writers, boxers who entertain thoughts of murder, and many nods to the secular saints, Irish and otherwise, of the contemporary world: John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Howard Stern, Sarah Silverman, and even Spongebob Squarepants, to name just a few. Yet if this procession of saints gives Black Irish the feel of a prayer book while the heft of the poems contained therein conveys the gravitas of a lifetime of novenas, the poet’s sly sense of humor lends the collection a natural air of buoyancy..."
Marc Schuster, author of The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl