Dermot Bolger’s debut collection of poetry, The Habit of Flesh, appeared in 1980.
His other books include Finglas Lilies (1981), No Waiting America (1982), Internal Exiles (1986, which contains the long poem, “ The Lament for Arthur Cleary ”, the starting point for his first play); Leinster Street Ghosts (1989), Taking My Letters back, New & Selected Poems (1998) and The Chosen Moment (2004), External Affairs (2008) and The Venice Suite: A Voyage Through Loss (2012).
Written in the aftermath of the death of his wife, Bernie, in 2010, The Venice Suite is a deeply honest and personal sequence of poems that charts the author's experience of sudden bereavement. More details of it can be found here
In contrast, his other poetry collection in print, External Affairs primarily consists of poetry written as a response to other lives in his native city. It includes his Ballymun Incantation, written to be recited by professional actors and local residents at a public wake on the eve of the destruction of the first Ballymun tower block. It also contains a long sequence of poems about people's lives during twenty-four hours in Dublin City. All these poems are available to be read on the Incontext 3 menu on this website.
External Affairs is available from New Island, as is a second book called Night & Day: Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of Dublin. This contains the same long poem sequence by Bolger overlapped with individual poems by two dozen other poets and accompanied by photographs of modern Dublin. The images are available on the InContext3 section of this website.
For permission to reprint individual poems for any of these books please contact the author via this website.
“Fierce, fierce work, dark, passionate and cathartic. Unique, strangely elegiac and
loving. And the new poems are just astounding.” - Sebastian Barry
“This is pure poetry. The saddest, truthfullest poetry you can imagine. Poetry at its lyric limits. I think of Bolger as Dublin’s Pasolini or, conversely, of Pasolini as Rome’s Bolger. Bolger’s poems are Dublin Elegies to lay alongside the Roman Elegies of Pasolini. Like Ledwidge, Bolger is a direct, lineal descendant of John Keats; he writes out of ‘the holiness of the heart’s affections’. - Paul Durcan
“With the publication of Taking My Letters Back we see the span of Dermot Bolger's lyric sensibility over twenty years - from young and tender nature songs that reach to encompass the drama of the new estates and to find room for the wounded and broken, right up to songs of experience where a maturity of vision matches a maturity of style. We read too a keen social critic with the necessary and ferocious angers to fuel a life utterly devoted to contemporary literature. A canny and uncanny selection: how crucial to the novels and the plays the poet in him has been comes clear here; how faithful he's stayed to his people comes clear; how much honour he's paid to their struggles comes clear; how much love has animated his work comes crystal clear. A shining and welcome book.” - Paula Meehan