Maurice Riordan's patient, contemplative poems of love and memory follow the example of Robert Frost in slowly releasing their reach and complexity while maintaining hailing distance of the proverbial - Sean O'Brien
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About Maurice Riordan
Maurice Riordan (born 1953) grew up in Lisgoold, County Cork. He was educated at University College Cork and at McMaster University in Canada. He lives in South London.
He has published four collections of poetry, all with Faber and Faber: A Word from the Loki (1995), a largely London-based book, was a Poetry Book Society Choice and was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize; Floods (2000), which took a more millennial tone, was shortlisted for the Whitbread Poetry Award; The Holy Land (2007), which contains a sequence of Idylls or prose poems that return to Riordan’s Irish roots, received the Michael Hartnett Award. The Water Stealer (2013, also shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize) is his most recent collection, and marks an intense, if often jovial, engagement with the depredations of time. In 2014 he was selected as one of the Poetry Society’s ‘Next Generation’ poets.
Riordan is also an accomplished editor and translator: his anthologies include The Finest Music: Early Irish Lyrics (2014); A Quark for Mister Mark: 101 Poems about Science (2000); Wild Reckoning (2004), an anthology of ecological poems edited with John Burnside; and Dark Matter (2008), edited with astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell. He has translated the work of Maltese poet Immanuel Mifsud as Confidential Reports (2005), and in the same year he released a collection for children entitled The Moon Has Written You a Poem, adapted from the Portuguese of Jose Letria. He was Poetry Editor of Poetry London from 2005 to 2009 and became Editor of Poetry Review in 2013.
He has taught creative writing extensively, both at Goldsmiths College and Imperial College, and he is currently Professor of Poetry at Sheffield Hallam University. He also teaches for the Arvon Foundation and The Faber Academy.
Michael Glover remarked of Riordan’s first collection that his “is a quiet, insinuating voice, with a measured delivery, that never strains after its effects.” Although his best-known poems are often of some length, there remains something downbeat, amused, even laconic, about Riordan’s style of narration, while at the same time his work reliably extends the imaginative journey of a thought a greater distance, into stranger and further territories, than a reader might expect. Riordan is influenced by a sustained engagement with scientific thinking, but his forays into other eras and spaces are countered by a strong sense of place: the rural Ireland of his childhood, and the energy and contingency of contemporary London. Perhaps it is the poems’ deep preoccupation with time – its mercurial patterning, unpredictable slowings and bewildering accelerations – that leads them to embrace the rhetorical logic of scientific explanation, finding there, if not consolation, then a meaningful context for the losses and disappearances that sustain their stories.
The two pieces hosted by the Poetry Archive, ‘Time Out’, and the final section of the long poem ‘Floods’, are directly related to our experience of time and its notional, narrative offshoots: here, the present exists alongside a past or future that shapes its moment-to-moment development. In that sense, these poems accomplish what the critic R. P. Blackmur insisted, in a quote of which John Berryman was also fond, was the primary task of poetry: to “add to the stock of available reality.”
This recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 30 November 2012 at ID Studios and was produced by John Green.