I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This


Mae Leonard’s new book of poetry makes me think of a patchwork quilt – places, family, history, tragedies and quirky events all woven into a wonderful and seamless whole. I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This has just been published by Doghouse Books and was launched at Limerick’s On the Nail Readings event where Mae read with the intensity of a sean-nos singer.

Listeners to Sunday Miscellany will be familiar with Mae’s home place of ‘The parish’, Limerick, and this collection breathlessly moves between that city and her current home ‘doing ninety, somewhere / between Limerick and Naas’ with an occasional digression into County Clare or Kerry. But it is Limerick that is in her blood as, miles away, elbows leaning on the kitchen table : ‘I cross O’Dwyer Bridge / down into Athlunkard Street / loving the damp smell / of the Abbey River.’

The book is punctuated with images of public violence  and grief: Veronica Guerin’s murder; John O’Grady’s ‘mutilated hand’ and the Curragh search for the missing woman Joyce Quinn at night with ‘a threat of snow / sharpening the breeze’. 

It is the pieces about family that made this reader have many an intake of breath: an elderly mother ‘slipping into a carelessness / in dress and cleanliness’; a man’s early morning shave ‘erasing stubble / from awkward places’; a sixteen-year old heading to a disco ‘in her best mini-dress / an outsize seater / her hair a mess’; emptying out treasures like ‘four dead ants’ from a trouser pocket on wash day.

Delightful story-poems shot through with a poet’s quirky insights.