Every night during a year spent in lockdown, Dermot Bolger set out on long walks through deserted streets, armed only with a pen and paper. Bolger follows in the footsteps of the great Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa, using walks through his native city to allow his imagination free rein to revisit pivotal moments in his own life and speculatively meditate on the lives of others in a series of remarkable poems.
The book starts with his parents honeymooning in a wartime Wicklow orchard and ends, eight decades later, as the poet dances with his partner in a Wicklow field. In between we encounter Nuala O’Faolain on a bicycle on Brooklyn Bridge; Grace Gifford Plunkett, defiant in her lonely final years; Herbert Simms, Dublin’s brilliant, tragically overworked housing architect; and Patricia Lynch, writing The Turf-Cutter’s Donkey in one room while her husband wrote communist tracts in the next. Interlaced with such real lives are imagined ones – a hardened criminal detailing prison life in haikus, a doppelganger exploring alternative pasts for the author. Taken together, these poems chart a dazzling constellation of experiences.