Farmers Cross, By Bernard O'Donoghue

Embracing the ghost at cold comfort farm

Death looms large in this collection, and if there is little comfort to be had from it, Bernard O'Donoghue at least reminds us of the continuity of the earth and those who live on it and work it.

Many poems here are written "in memoriam", in an attempt to capture what is now gone, just as the speaker of "Casella" attempts to embrace a ghost: "Three times my arms closed up behind him, and passed straight through him, back on to my chest." But there is also a sensual awareness of the living world, as in "Lady's Smock", with its "wet fields" and "girl's-dress mauve elegance" Life and death, as ever, side by side.