The Jailbird

Maurice Riordan

I’ve this gut feeling that inside somewhere,perched, so to speak, in the innermost woodof my body or brain, on mute since childhooda bird-creature lurks in its cramped lairfor when the wood’s consumed, as in a fire,though also consumed as drinks are or food(over months or could be years ingesting crudechemicals, making the sly one ever slyer).But then crackle ’n pop, it’s all gone for good.And good riddance, since freed from its bondsthe avian now preens its wings and abscondsfrom the scene below (that’s me, in my last throes)skyward like a lark saying fuck to the whole broodand piping forth some blithe hymn as she goes.

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Derek Adams

Maurice Riordan was born in Lisgoold, County Cork, Ireland. His collections of poetry — published in the UK by Faber and Faber — include A Word from the Loki (1995), which was a Poetry Book Society Choice and shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize; Floods  (2000), shortlisted for a Whitbread Poetry Award; The Holy Land (2007), which won the Michael Hartnett Award; and The Water Stealer (2013), also shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize.

He has edited The Finest Music (Faber, 2014), an anthology of early Irish poetry in translation. Riordan’s other editing projects include A Quark for Mister Mark: 101 Poems about Science (2000), coedited with John Turney; Wild Reckoning: An Anthology Provoked by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (2004), with poet John Burnside; and Dark Matter: Poems of Space (2008), with astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell. He is also the translator of Maltese poet Immanuel Mifsud’s Confidential Reports (2005) and The Play of Waves (2017); and of Portuguese poet José Letria’s The Moon Has Written You a Poem (2005), a collection for children.

In his work, Riordan is known for his preoccupation with time and often explores its emotional impact using the rhetorical logic of scientific explanation. Of his work, Riordan has said, “I write to make discoveries—about the world, and about myself I suppose, but more than that to find out where the poems will take me. I see the activity as an adventure that requires circumspection and steady discipline.”

Riordan has taught at Imperial College and Goldsmiths College and teaches currently at the Faber Academy. He is Emeritus Professor of Poetry at Sheffield Hallam University. He lives in London and is a former editor of The Poetry Review and Poetry London.

March 2020

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