The Poetry Archive
In writing at once intense and wistful, Adam O'Riordan deploys precise imagery and memorable music to poignant effect. His poems, concerned with erasure and the revivifying limits of verse's charms, span from imaginative encounters with the past - the fear "that a soot fall or change in weather / might sever this link with their past for ever" from ‘A Hearth Fire' in the Wordsworths' Dove Cottage - to the wavering future of lovers, caught in a moment's snapshot: "think of our life together becoming utterly lost / and lift this camera like a bible for an oath." Rarely sentimental time capsules, content to preserve the past, their shifts in focus and sharp insights serve to reflect - as Philip Larkin masterfully did - lives governed by time: "a pause that lasts your adult life" from ‘The Edges of Love', or the concertinaed history and industrial landscape of a changing metropolis, forever "queen of the cotton cities" in the "imagination's gas-lit parlour".
Born in Manchester in 1982, O'Riordan studied at the universities of Oxford and London before becoming poet-in-residence at The Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, and is now Lecturer in Poetry Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. This Archive recording of his work encompasses the entirety of his widely praised first collection, In the Flesh (2010), a debut which Kate Kellaway, writing in The Observer, found to exhibit "an established feel - as if Adam O'Riordan, who is in his twenties, had been around for decades. Only that makes him sound dusty, and he isn't. The unfashionable beauty of this collection - shining, musical, aloof - is that it is intimate without being confessional." Concision of expression and deft musical patter certainly lend the poems an authoritative tone, but the intimacy of O'Riordan's verse is really ignited when it walks the line with violence: in the romantic repast of ‘Oysters', where "naked on its bed of bone, you offer it: vulviform, raw, exposed", or in the freeze-framed ‘The Act of Falling', a sequence on the sacrifice made by suffragette Emily Davison in throwing herself before the king's horse.
Beyond dealings with history, the erotic, emotion, and the familial, the listener will also find an almost Metaphysical mind at work in these poems. Condensed conceits, a fascination with science, patterns, and the interconnectedness of things, all abound: from a scholar's fruitless late-night search for ex-lovers in ‘Goooogle', to the cosmic mistaken identity of ‘NGC3949', a love poem which takes its title from a galaxy in Ursa Major, whose formation mirrors that of our own. Throughout, O'Riordan's polished, confident tones serve to both illuminate and add gravity, bolstering Simon Armitage's endorsement of O'Riordan's "painter's eye for detail and pianist's touch for sounding the right notes".