Paul Casey

Paul Casey


Paul Casey was born in Cork in 1968. He grew up between Ireland, Zambia and South Africa and has worked in film, multimedia and teaching. His second collection, Virtual Tides, appeared from Salmon in early 2016. He has published poems in five of his six spoken languages, along with articles, in journals and anthologies in Ireland, the US, China, Australia, South Africa, Romania and Bosnia-Herzegovina. A chapbook of his longer poems, It’s Not all Bad, was published by The Heaventree Press in 2009, and he completed a poetry-film based on Ian Duhig’s iconic poem The Lammas Hireling. ‘His début collection is home more or less (Salmon Poetry, 2012) and in 2013 he was awarded a Cork City Council Artist’s Bursary to work on his second collection Virtual Tides(Salmon, 2016). His poems have appeared in, among others, The Irish Times, The Irish Examiner, Colony, The Pickled Body, New Eyes on the Great Book, Southword, Levure Littéraire, Live Encounters, Fulcrum, Itaca, Brain of Forgetting and most recently in The Wolf, The Café Review, The Penny Dreadful, Arté Metropolis TV and in the 2016 anthologies, Looking at the Stars, On the Banks, Even the Daybreak, Blackjack and the Cork Literary Review. In 2014 he wrote and performed an original collaborative piece with Afric McGlinchey, for Stephen J. Fowler’s Enemies project.

His poetry has been translated into Romanian, French, German and Italian.
Casey performs each year at various festivals and venues in Ireland and around the world, having featured at, among other universities and venues, Poetry Africa in Durban, at the AWP, Beyond Baroque and The World Stage in Los Angeles, Nelson Mandela University, Dominican University San Rafael, The Godiva Festival in Coventry, the Cork Spring Poetry festival, the Cúirt Festival of Literature, the Dromineer Literature Festival and at the Troubadour in London. He has been recorded by RTE Radio 1 for the Poetry Programme and for Arena. He read in the Guild Hall in Coventry for the state visit of president Michael D. Higgins. He is poet in residence each May during the Bealtaine festival, in Carechoice elderly homes around county Cork. He also curates and edits the annual Unfinished Book of Poetry, featuring verse written by transition year students from Cork city schools. He is the founder/director of the weekly Ó Bhéal poetry reading series in Cork city.


Paul Casey impresses with his versatility, sophistication and wit. His poems are shape-shifters of sound and style. One moment they are quick and shiny as satellites. The next dark and thoughtful as standing stones in a circle. They range, they lope, they gallop, strident or hushed. At all times they are concerned and caring. – Kobus Moolman

This is a welcome new collection from a poet who has been an exemplary nurturer of other poets through Ó Bhéal, his renowned Cork-based reading series and festival. These vivid and powerful poems are searing indictments of mealy-mouthed hypocrites; they hex anyone who stands in the path of goodness and light; and they ritualize expressions of compassion and love into powerful medicine for the head. Sophisticated and complex, they yet manage to be generous and open-hearted, much like Paul Casey himself.
– Paula Meehan

“With words chosen as skilfully as a flint is knapped Casey relates a modernity still marked by the Neolithic at its fringes, how we are all still pressed by the historic heft of stone, how ripples radiate from each of us to affect the world around us.”
– Patrick Cotter
“Pure poetry. Unstoppable poetry. Poetry that’s necessary.” – Mary O’Donnell
“With his mixture of humour, robust language and neurasthenic wandering, he is a serious talent; a man to demand attention.” – Thomas McCarthy
“… a truly international poet” – Ian Duhig
“These poems sensitise the reader to the permeable boundaries around all places …” – Leanne O’Sullivan
“a verbal weave of magical sound. It does what the best of poetry always does. it begins in delight, stays in delight and lands in delight” – Alan Titley
“… an urgent new voice in Irish poetry, one fiercely original in all senses of the word” – Billy Ramsell

Poetry, Reviews and Articles


Ó Bhéal


Art of Forgiveness

Under no circumstances retaliate.
Withdraw first to a safe distance.
Remove garments, assess the damage.

Be quick to snap each shaft clean through
just below the fletching. Ensure each remains
attached to its head – for if left too long

the glue softens to body heat, leaves
the tips entombed. Where possible employ
a Spoon of Diokles to reduce tearing.

Decide push or pull. Dilate entrance wound
with duck-bill forceps. If not through-and-
through, crush barbs with household pliers

or cover with the grooves of a split reed.
Use fingers to clear space for the arteries
and organs. Push or pull each head through.

After searing, stitching, cleaning, listen
to at least three deep, slow, breaths
to settle the embers of fury. Of shock.

Stimulate haemoglobin with infused nettle.
Wash each shiny offender and residual.
Lay them in a new quiver, silk-lined.

Place beside these two waxed bowstrings,
a handful of feathers from the left-hand side
of a red hen, tie up – and return to sender.

* First published in home more or less (Salmon Poetry, 2012)

for John W. Sexton

the slop migrant vortex of turf muck
near swallowed him whole one grey farm day

he said, but for a bubble of air
caught in his jacket and but

for the tight wrists of Fionnán the wiry,
oh purple god of moor-grass, he was a sure goner

not an ear within range, nor an echo
of those frantic syllables survived

one time, one near took a full horse
he said, but for a prehistoric farmer

vice-grip on the tailbone
as another held the head

the black mud swallowed four megalithics
then belched in final surrender

bogholes in the city are invisible
people just can’t see

when you’re up to your lower lip in one
eyes everywhere, and so few hands

* First published in The Café Review

Laughing Lama
“Difficulty comes with the third mosquito” – Dalai Lama

how shall we lift the blindness he asks
between fits of laughter
that hides the imperceptible source of their joy?

when we could all be laughing
through the day, through loss,
death. Just imagine the world so

once-stoic, briefcase emissaries now laughing
chuckling bus drivers, beggars in stitches
prisoners in spasms, celebratory dustbinmen

judges. guinness book records
for the longest, loudest howl,
shriek and scream of laughter

most aesthetically pleasing giggle
most people laughing at once
deepest and highest pitches of hysterics

signs in operating theatres
No Laughing During Surgery Please
competitions for the sweetest

most experimental
immediate, quickest off the mark bursts of laughter
most infectious

trios and quartets of laughers
national orchestras of merrymaking
and International public laughing holidays

a ministry of mirth
it’s so simple
he sees

takes a breath
and bursts
into laughter

* First published in Live Encounters

monkey’s wedding

Hungry, we spied them in the trees before they fell
upon us, their tonguey claddings drunk on opposites,
her strewn trousseau of cloud the net that drew us up
from the muggy earth’s hold as the king’s minky wings
sang hot and low to the dangling jewels tingle-jangling
from her tresses, dazzling each token witness with no
duress but pure eye-bliss – then welcomed us to feast –

to ply us all with wonky monkey wedding wine (rain
and sunshine at the same time) were winged into middling
monks for a while, a minute, we winked and drank and
smoked from the old yoke of jungle dreading mind signs
made merry reason sound dangerous and pinky-swore

not to tell what we saw, still shocked as tourists in skis
woken midsummer without the snow, were told to go.

umshado wezinkawu (Zulu) = ‘the wedding of monkeys’ (a sunshower)

* First published in The Stony Thursday Book

evolving the hypnic jerk

obsolescence is an ouroboro. its opalescent scales like goosebumps have long outlived their uses – like most bodily hair. try a fully-functional vemeronasal, olfactory organ for size and truly follow your nose, punch-drunk on pheromones. the male uterus, the male nipple, additional nipples in the female. scrolls of junk dna that once peddled vitamin c. the pinna muscles and darwin’s point to aim the ear and pin-point sound. ‘useless body parts’, the near extinct plantaris, pyramidalis, subclavius, palmaris muscles, from when we fled on all fours and hung out in trees, safe and sound with the hypnic jerk. our third eyelid and cellulose-pestles, the wisdoms and appendix. the tail and neck rib. thirteenth rib. primitive reflexes like the Palmar Grasp, to name but a few in the physical human. now, losing touch may soon be declared impossible, ‘getting lost’ removed from the world database of practical phrases. personal boundaries live no longer than wi-fi wavelets. though nothing recent, individual memory is still endangered. what the android alone has sent packing for antiquity. physical memory along with the physical world. analog was once a god, the typewriter cherished, floppy disks and hard drives that analysts in silicon valley still bow to everyday. celluloid was a god. the disposable camera. the photo album a social occasion. the polaroid. modem and camcorder, video and record stores, players all but antique. cassettes extinct as the walkman, MiniDiscs and the soon to be, ‘once mighty’ DVD. e-history books that feature nostalgic essays on Atari, the Commodore 64, Windows 1.0 to 10. broadband competes with air to replace the GPS, CB and ham radio. talking, now as in decline as incandescent light bulbs. journals, comics, classifieds were once worthwhile. soon collective memory will not conjure the landline, answering machine, the facsimile. annual fortunes spent on diaries, the filofax, rolodex, alarm clock, the wristwatch, pager, calculator and leather tie. adieu to the signature, a gesture as personal as the lickable stamp, the pen-pal, the pen, the greeting card, postcard and the handwritten note. carbon paper, correction fluid, the satchel, the classroom, the post office. the office – all entering a new dark age. time chews, digests encyclopaedias, thesauruses, the dictionary and phonebook. the phone box. the family shop. the flea market. the humble cork. oil. certainty. identity. the actual. no need now for the movie extra, the film score orchestra, personal assistant or bricklayer. copper wire and paper were a thing, the shredder praised in poems. personal cheques, currencies, cash and credit card swipers. blind dates are simulated. tollbooth operators and personal care assistants consigned to fragments of figments of outsourced reminiscence. who will remember the car manual, the manual car window, the combustion engine, or the car key? soon tube tv and rabbit ear antennae will exist only in the v.r. museum archives. while etymology, is riddled with obsolescence, like the rest of the history family. as obsolete pilots marvel at the propeller and the piston, the travel agent becomes defunct. the catalogue. the foldable map, ordinance surveys. the face-to-face meeting. the insinuation. no-one misses long-distance charges or planned obsolescence. soon bookstores and cinemas. the website. the web. the cigarette. taste and tastebuds. language. natural seed, ninety percent of nature. the secret, the sacred, the paradox, the original anything. humanity’s humanity in haptic decline, but for a hypnic jerk of the mind.

* First published in Virtual Tides (Salmon Poetry, 2016)

Jack’s Orchestra

These days we get away with a little reverb and echo, sfx, but way back then
in the very first talkies, there’d be twenty blackboard dusters to clack out
irregular feet while twenty rashers sizzled on a kingsize griddle for the
rain, in the tinsel section the crunching of cellophane was a blazing
fire, as sheets of tin and iron wobbled back and forth for storms
and drums were thumped and pounded as the duster clacking
quickened to the coconut-shells and their flickety-flacking
horseplay dodging umbrella ribs swishing samurai style
as knives were plunged into balsa planks and a mallet
pounded pumpkins into smithereens, mashed frozen
lettuces as melons dropped from 20-foot plus onto
concrete, where crushed walnuts and acorns and
apples were bones, carrots and celery snapped
and twisted, were necks, fruit boxes cracked
up phone books thumped and fists plunged
into three-pound steaks as bricks rubbed
each other in circles, seven sets of teeth
crunching mints into the mic as corn-
starch scrunched in a leather pouch
for snowsteps and slapping leather
gloves – flapping wings of doves
the creak of an old wicker chair
the rusty hinge, the staple gun

a metal rake or the car door
stomps on piles of audio tape
in bowls of jelly, baths of rags
from gravel pits to marble slabs
from curtain ruffling to doorbells
and brass handles and bicycle bells
and whatever else was needed for the
bang, cackle, clack, clank, clap, clatter,
crack, crackle, crash, gnash, jangle, patter,
rattatat-tat, rattle, slam, splash, snap, stamp,
t-tap, twang, yap, zap, bray, neigh, wail, gale,
blare, tear, blast, bark, snarl, roar, snort, squawk,
beep, bleat, cheep, creak, peal, peep, scream, shriek,
squeal, wheeze, bellow, yelp, chime, whine, whir, clink,
fizz, hiss, jingle, kachink, ring, ripple, sizzle, squish, swish,
tick, tinkle, trill, twitter, whisper, tick-tock, dingdong, bong, drop,
gobble, knock, mod, pop, plop, throb, growl, howl, plough, pound, moan,
boom, hoot, mew, tattoo, toot, swoosh, buzz, cluck, clunk, drum, glug, grumble,
hum, plum, put-put, rumble, rustle, scrunch, sputter, splutter, thud, thump, thunder, gurgle,
murmur, or purr, Mr. Foley had it out back for sure, for any full-feature show, and in real time too.


Sounds taken and rearranged from the Handbook of Noise Measurement by Arnold P. G. Peterson

* First published in The Penny Dreadful


barely perceptible, it began at the window
frames, padding its broad leaves like moss

across the non stop-motion, bonsai forest floor
light greening to peripheral mist, eyes

consumed by pc screen, oblivious. Weeks streak
by as the low sussurus, virus-rustle covers

radio, bookshelves, printer and bonsai
a gradual stanglehold on the whole supply.

As it reaches the lip of the cold coffee cup, it takes
a while to find I cannot pry myself from the desk.

I watch as the forest of undergrowth
constricts like rhododendron my calves, bind

all below waist to the floor. I’m stranded.
Android just out of reach, not upgraded

to the robotic, limbed version in time. Voice
activation windows have all passed by. Roots

have plunged into every digital and organic
crevice. This is my final squeeze of art.

* First published in Southword

Videos: – The Lammas Hireling (Poetry Film) – Anginyamalalanga (Poem) – Marsh (& other poems)


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