Nigel McLoughlin’s Chora

Nigel McLoughlin

Nigel McLoughlin is Reader in Creative Writing at the University of Gloucestershire and Course Leader for their MA in Creative & Critical Writing. His work has been twice short-listed for a Hennessy Award and placed in The Kavanagh Prize and The New Writer Poetry Prize. He holds an MA with Distinction in Creative Writing and a PhD from Lancaster University. He has written five collections of poetry: At The Waters’ Clearing (Flambard/Black Mountain Press, 2001), Songs For No Voices (Lagan Press, 2004), Blood (Bluechrome, 2005), Dissonances (Bluechrome, 2007) and Chora: New & Selected Poems (Templar, 2009). He also co-edited Breaking The Skin (Black Mountain Press, 2002) an anthology of new Irish poets. His poetry and translations from Irish and German have been published in literary journals and anthologies in Ireland, Britain, Europe, USA, Canada, Australia and Japan. He has read his work at many of the leading poetry venues and festivals in the UK and Ireland and he is Editor of Iota poetry journal.

Nigel McLoughlin’s new and selected poems are a wonder and delight. Formally confident without being showy, his distinctive, muscular voice courses through the lines. Lyrical, playful, rigourous and passionate, the poems celebrate both the craft and consequences of language within the world today.
“A poet prepared to test himself against the lyric”
 – PN Review
 – The London Magazine
“One memorable poem after another”
“Work not only of bravery and complexity, but also deep humanity”
“One of Ireland’s most exciting younger poets”
 – Fortnight
“This is a powerful and rewarding body of work”
– Alison Brackenbury
Deora Dé

“See them?”, she said
and pointed to a yellow
flower blotched with red
“They grew below Christ’s cross.
And see…..”, she said, pointing
to each stain, “the seven
drops of blood.”

“See them?”, she said
pointing to the unopened
fuchsia earrings in the hedge.
She lifted one and nipped
and broke it where the flower
meets the pod and prising the top
end: “Taste!” she said.

A single drop
of nectar fell on the end
of my tongue, surprising
me with sweetness.
“When God cries,” she said
“His tears are sweet
and red.”

I picked an opened version
and did the same.
“See them?”, I said
“Them’s little ballerinas
red skirts, red tights
and little purple knickers.”

I giggled, twisting each dancer
into a turn and turn on a green
backdrop – six pleated
blurs on the stage of a wall.
“You’ll never make a priest”,
was all she said.
Deora Dé (Ir.) – pron: jora jay – lit. tears of God – fuchsia bush
Catching Fire

She maintained only one right way
to clean the flue: fire shoved
up to burn it out, drive sparks
from the chimney stack and smuts
into air. Each bunched and bundled
paper held till the flame took
and it flew, took off on its own
consumption, rose on its own updraft.
I stood fixed by her leather face
dancing in firelight, her hands
clamped to the metal tongs.
Eyes stared black and wide, rims
of blue that circled wells, pools
that fire stared into. I watched
her pull from beneath them black
ash and a paper smell I love still.

She told me she saw faces in the flame
and people, places, things take place.
She’d spey fortunes there. Told me mine
but I saw nothing more or less
than the dance of flame, the leap
and die, the resurrection of yellow
cowl and dual change of split-
levelled flame that held within it
a dance of words, a ballet of images.
I heard only the music of burning
a soundless consummation of persistence
imagined a vision of my hands reddening
felt my knuckles braising
my bones in tongues, flaming.

At four years old I’d turn up and stand and watch the line
shoot, a yard at a time, into a perfect circle in the box
how you’d lash hooks with finger twists too quick to be a knot
or when you sat, a cross-legged magician, mending nets
all wrists and teeth that somehow missed the flying needle.

I’d let fly with a head-full of questions. You’d answer
with a wink and nod to Ned or Paul and I’d believe you
for I knew you knew all the green secrets of the fish
every cold vector of the lough, the shallows and the depths
where all the black eels hid and the hook-jawed, monstrous pike.

Always, you’d take me in and guide my hand slowly through
the making of a knot, again and again, until I’d get it right
or show me how to patch a broken net before you’d go.
And I’d watch you all down the road, making for the lough
where I knew your boat was waiting and ready for the water.

They’re washing away the blood today
and tomorrow the funerals will start.
The rumour mongers have fallen into
an enumeration of bits and body parts:
all that was found of so-and-so
what him up the road was missing
the difficulties in trying to identify
and separate what belonged to who.

I sing dumb and tut and shake my head
or try and change the subject. I know
the process you have to go through
looking at scraps of clothes or a shoe
for some form of final proof, but I can’t
tell them. Sometimes it’s better not to know
that in the end you bury nothing, or next to.

A thousand webs barely contain the green thrum
of the hedge and the night-drop dregs of silver
burst in the mouth; reek like zest. The eye irradiates
with a clamour of birds blackening into horizon.
Colour begins a slow thunder across the sky, multiplies
and changes; sings in bird-throat to the beat of wings.
The air hives with birth, vibrates out of shadow.
Everything burns, everything rings, including me.

The great bell of the world vibrates and I am drunk
with winter-shine. The concrete blazes. The red tang
of seven o’clock and the vein-belt of walking brazen
to the frost leaps through me. An hour before petrol-stink
and the shrink of people diminishing into a rush, here
in the open-throated song of morning, I am in the clear.

The light changes. It
flashes the road to sepia
in the mirror. A backward glance

at the kids shows they’re sleeping
and an old man pushes a bike.
The light changes it

to a skeleton of black lines
changes him to a black line
in the mirror. The backward glance

of sunlight off the road glares
the whole picture into a monochrome
the light changes. It

changes the old man, bends him
into his grandfather, a picture-postcard
in the mirror; a backward glance

a hundred years ago. Nothing changes.
Time fragments like a flash and gleam
in the mirror. A backward glance.
The light changes it.
from Chora: New and Selected Poems (Templar Poetry, 2009)
Order Chora: New and Selected Poems.
Read Barbara Smith’s review of Chora in The Chimaera.
Read reviews of Nigel’s other collections here.
Visit Nigel’s website.
Visit Iota’s website.

2 thoughts on “Nigel McLoughlin’s Chora

  1. Helen Ivory

    I especially like Chorus. “The open-throated song of morning’ is gorgeous.

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