Mary OMalleys eighth collection moves between two landscapes, that of the West of Ireland and the East coast of America. The first section opens with an elegy for a poet and moves through the familiar geography of a house and its hinterland, and ends with a celebration of the redemptive power of music, one of two motifs motif that run through the book. The second section examines what happens when the poet finds herself ? Nel mezzo del camin in a changed landscape that takes on the aspect of fairytale and allegory. Among the poems in ? Playing The Octopus are several meditations on trees. This is no romantic woodland idyll, but a netherworld such as Dante and Virgil passed through in Canto X111 of ?The Inferno. Several poems examine what happens when the world of dream and nightmare are barely held apart. The dead move through the book as they do through the minds of the living, with their need to be remembered and commemorated. They are exactly as in life, much as they were in the world portrayed in the celebrated novel ?Cre na Cille, where the action is set in graveyard that gives the novel, and one of the poems, its title. The third section celebrates the city, which in this collection is a place of safety and wonder, and America, where the ghosts in the landscape speak a different language. The final section of the book includes translations from the poet Sean O Riordain and from Lorca and ends with three poems set in November, when The dead roar through the night on motorbikes?. The entire collection is lifted by the sustaining power of myth and the joy of music.
'O'Malley is a true artist in sketching the beautiful, small details without which the essence of place, and the identity dependent on it, can be all too easily erased.' - Eavan Boland