Primordial Words - Working with Christina Reihill

Poetry Day Ireland #PoetryDayIRL was a great occasion to celebrate the many, many great poets I have had the honour of working with over these last few years. One of the best, most generous, and most daring, is the poet Christina Reihill. Christina is both a poet and an artist, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, her work wonderfully resists categorisation. Which poses a problem for me in writing this blog. How to categorise Christina Reihill. Well, why bother trying? Let's instead talk about her work.

I connected with Christina through Linkedin in the summer of 2019. She very kindly gifted me a signed copy of her collection Soul Burgers, which I read immediately in a blaze of curiosity. Admittedly, it took awhile. It often does with challenging, groundbreaking works; works that push boundaries, that take words to places they had never been previously.

Some of the poems seemed a little too raw and half-cooked, (the repetition in ‘Living Dead’ for example) but, as I read on, as I felt my mind opening, the magic really hit me.

I loved the crystalline metaphors and conceits, particularly the way they subtly corresponded to internal states. I also loved the musicality. At times the timbre reminded me of George Herbert and William Blake, but I think the music of Soul Burgers is more modern; the chime is that of modern existence.

More than anything, I think Christina succeeds in saying something about the human condition, and while she does it in grand poetic fashion, she always remains personal and relatable. Even in the more abstract poems, the voice always seems personal; that this is one person’s struggles and difficulties you are reading about, one person’s voyage to redemption.

'Undercover' is one of my favorites – a crystalline image, developed and expanded. The depth remaining implicit. The poem 'Holey Land' really struck me. As with Dante, here is an imaginative landscape, but one that corresponds to inner torments.

'Parent Prayer' is a very interesting poem. It really captures, in a richly poetic way, the changing of the generations, and an experience of paternal longing and dependency.

On occasion, I found the writing a little too raw. In 'Living Dead', for example, while I liked the wooden doll image, the repetition jarred a little. Similarly, the word ‘inculcate’ jarred in 'Seabed Soul'; it destroyed the poetic magic of what was an entrancing poem. I think 'From the Lighthouse' has the potential to be a great poem, but the flow isn't quite there for me in its present manifestation. It's a poem that is striving for music, for rhythm, without managing to get there.

Leaving the best for last, 'The Week of Magical Thinking' is a very important poem I sense for the author, and it gives the collection range. It is a beautiful love poem, a poem of lost love. Unlike many of the other poems, I think it floats somewhat, can be removed from its context in the book, and can be appreciated as a beautiful poem of lost love.

I suspect at this stage you have more than enough of me, so I'm exiting the stage. And here is Christina, giving a unique visual interpretation of her poem 'Presence'.

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