Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for Days of Falling Flesh and Rising Moons (Published by Golden Antelope Press 14th October 2020) By Steve Denehan. A big thank you to Fly On The Wall Press for my copy to review and for the invite, always appreciated.
Days of Falling Flesh and Rising Moons
Steve Denehan’s wholehearted response to family life is the cornerstone of this wise and canny book. Through the tiny, everyday moments, we come to know an energetic seven-year-old daughter, a wife whose presence heals, a father ageing into forgetfulness, and a host of others. We see bonds between parent and child strengthen through conversations about dinosaur-shaped clouds, questions about death, quiet humming, loud car-singing, evening bike rides. We witness an adult father re-seeing his own childhood, the parental decisions which had shaped him, and the decisions which he and his spouse are making as they give their Robin her wings. As songwriter Mark Nevin says, Steve Denehan is a “beautiful soul with an all too rare lightness of touch.”
The collection was finished before a virus named Covid-19 shook the globe and sent Ireland into a complete lockdown. However, that event seemed to require poetry, so ten of this collection’s final poems are late additions, Denehan’s responses to the pandemic. Taken together, they constitute a microcosm, not just of the Covid-19 world but of this poet’s interior landscape. They range from shock to acceptance, from strict observance of painful rules to moments of deep peace and bright wings.
About The Author
Steve Denehan lives in Kildare, Ireland with his wife Eimear and daughter Robin. He is the author of two chapbooks and two collections. Twice winner of Irish Times’ New Irish Writing, his numerous publication credits include Poetry Ireland Review, Acumen, Westerly and Into The Void. He has been nominated for Best of the Net, Best New Poet and has been twice nominated for The Pushcart Prize.
In this rich, captivating visionary collection of poetry Denehan shows the reader the honest complexity of life in all its beauty and ugliness. Denehan has a natural talent for storytelling reminding us all to dream and hold on to hope. It is a welcome breath of fresh air that leaves you feeling calm and revived.
I found myself wrapped up in Denehan’s strong, intoxicating imagery. It was a delight to read and indulge in as I planted my feet into the sand, waiting for the waves to take me away. I could feel the summer heat prickle on my neck as I continued to eat the news headlines on my newspapered chips. I couldn’t get enough and devoured each poem, savouring the sweetness as my mind conjured Denehan’s vision. I was hooked and greedily wanted more.
There are strong themes of ageing, death and the process of life in general. Denehan watches as relatives deteriorate in front of him. We witness the struggles of working out the money for a takeaway and how when his father is gone he will always remember him when listening to Frank Sinatra. But don’t be deceived in thinking it is all doom and gloom dear reader for Denehan adds a dash of humour to the reality of the situation. I couldn’t stop giggling as I read Tentacles. His father gets stuck on a word and has difficulty remembering it. When he finally thinks he has it he comes out with ”testicles”. It’s hysterical writing as it makes what would appear to be a morbid scenario a humorous one. Denehan shows the reader that you’ve got to laugh at these things in life. Life is far too short.
I loved Denehan’s sense of humour, you can’t help but smile and laugh along. In Why Are We Really Here? He overhears a conversation in a supermarket among three teenage boys asking why are they here. You begin to wonder yourself until you read Denehan’s response to the big important question. Half-price non-bio washing tablets. Again, what you would think appears to be a deep, heavy conversation about the meaning of life becomes an amusing fact as to why you are literally there, in the shop. Hehe. Love it!
I rejoiced in the poems were Denehan spoke of his parenthood, from the mums at the school gate to checking for head lice and feeling itchy afterwards. There were times I found myself holding my breath as Denehan captures the heart-stopping fear of when your child disappears out of your sight for a second. In Galloping White Horses you can taste the adrenaline sweating off his brow as he desperately searches for his daughter amongst the waves. It’s relatable as you go through the motions of your worst nightmare happening. I kept biting my lip every second that passed until he found her again. I was gripped and compelled to know the outcome.
I enjoyed seeing the world through the eyes of a child as Denehan gently reminds the reader that we all used to believe that anything was possible. In Blue Paint Denehan tells his daughter that he has blue paint on his fingers because he had touched the sky. She is amazed and excited with unlimited ambition to do anything. She doesn’t see the fear or worry that adulthood burdens us with, just the marks the sky have left on her father’s fingers. It’s remarkable to read as you suddenly realise how youth was a happier time when everything was new and an adventure. I also loved reading Elastic and Eager as it made me see how children teach us the things we have long forgotten. The simple joys in life and how to live again was bliss to escape to.
Denehan looks death in the face, literally as in Casket he is faced with his deceased uncle. He notices how different he looks and reminisces about his honey-soaked voice. Yet the image presented before him is not what he remembers. His daughter asks why do people believe in religion and he responds that he doesn’t know, people like to believe in things. It’s interesting as it makes you wonder about what happens after you die. The body remains behind and was just a vessel for our mind, a casket to carry us around. It intrigues you to dive in deeper into the ever taunting mysteries of life and death.
Denehan exposes the uncomfortable truth of how this generation is an addict to technology. We no longer see the world through our eyes but through the lens of a camera, a screen and it’s scary dear reader. We walk around like zombies ignoring the beauty of the world. It’s all about filters and likes. In Dinosaur Cloud he is watching clouds with his daughter. They see a dinosaur shaped one and she wants to grab her phone to take a photo but he says there’s no point, by the time she gets back it will be gone. They stay there together, talking and singing all while the dinosaur cloud never moves. It’s a subtle reminder that we should all just take a moment to live in the now and enjoy it for what it is. No filters, no taking a photo for social media, just life. It’s exhilarating and gives you hope that maybe we still have a chance to unplug, switch off and gaze at the clouds for a while longer.
Denehan’s poems on the pandemic and Covid-19 show the reader how much the world has changed in such quick succession. The isolation and impact it has had on society speaks volumes in his poems. Especially the effect it is having on our children. In Gloves his daughter remarks on how empty the world seems now as she wears gloves to post a note to her friend. It is a difficult concept for children to understand, why they can’t see their friends or hug them. It’s not natural for them to be so distanced. Denehan captures this perfectly as he asks the reader what the world is coming to. He mentions a report he read about a species of shark that has evolved to have four rudimentary legs and walk from rock-pool to rock-pool. He asks what will come next, vampire cows maybe? The uncertainty of the world we live in is vividly present and makes you wonder what is going to happen to us.
I give Days of Falling Flesh and Rising Moons By Steve Denehan a Five out of Five paw rating.
Insightful, thought-provoking and beautifully crafted poetry. I LOVED this collection. It speaks of life, death and the crazy strange times we are currently living in. I highly recommend this to everyone! It’s a joy to read and discover.
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