Hands Moving at the Speed of Falling Snow – Aideen Henry Poetry Collection

I’ve been reading Aideen Henry’s first poetry collection, Hands Moving at the Speed of Falling Snow (Salmon Poetry). We both attended the poetry workshops given by Mary O’Malley and Mick Gorman as part of NUI Galway’s MA writer programme. I have good memories of listening to Aideen read some of these pieces in a room that looked out on the city’s Quincentennial Bridge.

So taken was I by that particular view that I even wrote a poem entitled ‘Quincentennial Bridge’, where I experimented with the ghazal form (rhyming couplets with a refrain repeated in the 2nd line of each couplet):

Gulls float above in their worldliness, like they’re licking Heaven

and a rat crawls on broken glass at the base of Quincentennial Bridge.

Aideen’s collection is an intriguing world of Irish language speech, west of Ireland places, anatomy references and emotions of searing loss. Above all, the writing is visceral and instinctual: the child eating brown bread and fresh duck eggs with the Seanchai; the bone-crunching handshake at mass; the steel surgical knife on soft flesh. The heightened experience of the body and the flesh in all its senses is at the heart of the collection.

In a humorous poem, and one of my favourites in the collection, an undertaker tells the writer that she will make a great corpse and when she asks why, he replies: Those cheekbones. Time won’t touch them. The collection is wonderfully illustrated with several images by the artist Carmel Cleary, taken from her photographic tour of Utah and Arizona.

It’s good to see the fruit of all those hours spent overlooking Quincentennial Bridge!