Saturday, January 30, 2010

Review in Miniature - An Urgency of Stars - Irish Poet, Geraldine Mills

An Urgency of Stars is Geraldine Mills' third book of poems and it may well be my favorite one - although the competition is keen. I find myself returning again and again to her poems -- learning something new each time -- about music, about language, about the way the mind works. The subjects of the poems center on myth and family, love and its leaving, --- the self in the middle passage. There is a peeling away of the everyday to find some hard-won truths. Better than reading about poetry, however,  is to read the poems themselves. The double-barreled words and the images of fire and rats, tea and death, are some of the juxtapositions that I admire in her work.

What I believe Mills does better than any poet I know is write of family - especially the woman who happens to be mother and  the man who the poet knew (or didn't know) as father. Here are two of my favorite - but there are so many more: "Reading My Father's Hand," "The Beaters," and especially "Naming the Houses."Her bio and the poems follow.

Award-winning Irish poet and short story writer Geraldine Mills has published two collections of poetry, ‘Unearthing your Own’ and ‘Toil the Dark Harvest’ and two short story collections called ‘Lick of the Lizard’ and ‘The Weight of Feathers’ (2007). Her monologue ‘This is From the Woman who Does’ premiered at the Provincetown Theatre in 2004. She was the Millennium winner of the Hennessy/Tribune New Irish Writer Award, and was recently awarded a Kavanagh Fellowship.

The Things My Mother Saw in Tea Leaves

Rats stealing the potatoes,
the black-headed cow in calf
the curving line of journey
the treasure luck of a fish.

She read them like her mother did
and her mother before that again,
taking the shallow white cup from the dresser
because a china white cup was best.

First she drained it clear of any tea,
we heard the hollow sound her hand created
as she cupped it over its rim
and clapped drawn leaves into prophesy.

Then holding tomorrow within her palm
she furled her fingers like a spring fern
into a curve towards her heart
and forespoke what was to come.

She saw Maloney's shed go up in flames,
the tip of a blade that pointed to false friends.
A tortoise at the china lip
spelled triumph after trouble.

When she was left with a notion of leaves
that augured his death, she waited up
night after night with that cup in her hand
for the guards to come to the door.


The way it comes through the window
wakes me before it wakes itself.

All winter long I have left the curtains open
unwilling to heap night upon dark

or block out a possible inkling of stars.
I have been waiting for a change, a defining.

Something about this morning even though
little baskets of hail empty themselves in the corners,

it cannot hide the fact as I hurry down the drive
to leave out my blue bag for recycling

and sky filters through a filigree of branches
that there is something about the light.

A fabric that I cannot name
and a sheer garment that wraps itself

around me, touching my skin
until the animal in me long asleep, wakes

like the birds who start to sing
-- it all comes down to light.

by Geraldine Mills, from An Urgency of Stars


  1. wow. amazing poems. thanks for posting them.

  2. Dear Nancy,

    Very glad to introduce you to an amazing poet. She is a wonderful reader of her own work, too. Should you ever get the chance to hear her read.