James Caruth
Narrow Water
December 2017. 45 pp. ISBN-13 978-3-901993-64-0
£7.00 (+ 1.50 p&p), €7.00 (+ 1.50 p&p), US$10.00 (+ 2.50 p&p)
“Lyrical and atmospheric, these poems are also always robust and compelling. They work together like outstanding short stories, bringing vividly to life places and times that for a while we live among. James Caruth is a distinctive voice in contemporary verse, and Narrow Water shows him at the top of his game.”
Peter Sansom

“Jim Caruth’s writing balances risk against hope and hope against experience. The place names and landmarks of Northern Ireland dot a collection where deep time and deep water are often close at hand. This is a gentle, humane and philosophical account of a life lived thoughtfully.”
Jo Bell

“These poems build a bridge, made from the fibres of the living and the dead, the guts of migrant workers walking high tower girders, the barricades across uneasy streets, the steel of ships that sail us from old lives to new, the melancholy of a rural bus, dancers who close the space between themselves. This bridge, the language woven in its span, creates and crosses borders, and though the poems are imbued with James Caruth’s quiet acceptance of the way things are, ‘hope spans the narrows’. Caruth’s poetry takes us by the hand, leads us over troubled waters, ‘no place for us’, but always his clarity and warmth, his precision and humanity ensure we have our ‘backs to the wind’. This poet conjures national and family history, its uncertain but compelling destination, like no other writer I know. In Narrow Water we have Caruth at his magnetic best.”
Keith Hutson

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Table of Contents

Excerpts from Narrow Water

Play the Harp Backwards

Who taught them to sling bridges from wires,
to walk tall and straight as convent girls
along the narrow girders of high towers,
backs to the wind, never daring to look down.

They clustered in the tenements of Brooklyn
and the Lower East Side, like raucous gulls
lining the white hem of a small island
whose name comes in a half-remembered tongue.

At nights you’d find them in the bars
along the waterfront, reciting a catechism
of names as they listened to the old songs
while outside snow fell on the deserted streets
and the Hudson heaved like a wounded animal.

When the money ran out, they fingered
the dust in their pockets, staggered home
to small rooms, to dream of a Mail Boat
rounding the Head, a town shivering
in the yellow glow of street-lamps.

The End of the Road

That Easter weekend in Kerry,
in the battered blue Ford
that had seen better days.
The gearbox complaining
on the single-track road
as we climbed the Gap of Dunloe,
the two of us ardently praying
to St Jude while the engine strained,
an old man fighting for breath.
How at the crest the road seemed to end
in blue sky, as if we had come to the point
where we would leave the world behind.
How you looked at me and drove on.


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