The Sphere of Birds, Ciaran Berry’s debut collection of poems, effortlessly moves back and forth between here and there, then and now, the personal and the historic, the modern and the mythic.
Berry imagines the transatlantic journeys of John James Audubonand reveals his own heartfelt experience moving from his first house. The poems take as their subject such varied experiences as an eye exam in Manhattan and chasing rabbits around a beach in Donegal. These poems have a strong sense of place, whether it’s the imagined space of Coney Island in 1903 or the playground of Berry’s childhood convent school.
The Sphere of Birds delights in forging unlikely links, earthed in the stuff of paintings and in the lives of poets, artists, and the occasional saint. Drawing on the poet’s life in Ireland and the United States, the poems explore the joy and grief found in those places.
Moving from rural Ireland to the heart of New York City, from local detail to historical specifics, and from the experienced occasion to the imagined or interpreted event, Berry’s poems effectively master shifts in both time and space. Berry delves into the lives of artists, obscure historical figures, and other poets for inspiration. He embraces elements of both Irish and American poetry, paying tribute as much to the spirit of Larry Levis as to that of W. B. Yeats.
Accessible, immediate, and visceral, The Sphere of Birds offers a musicality that is increasingly rare in contemporary poetry.