In her new collection, Toward, poet Moira Linehan makes us believe that landscape is destiny. As the book unfolds, we come to inhabit the landscapes and seascapes of the wild southwest of Ireland, the islands of America’s Pacific Northwest, the poet’s home in Massachusetts; and then round again, back to the land north of Dublin.
The poet’s eye and imagination capture lyrical, sonic, imagistic details of these places. So, too, their embedded history: the Famine, the days of the whaling industry, the speaker’s paternal genealogy, are all woven in.
But beyond those stories and images, the heart of this collection is the poet’s missing lover—a presence haunting both landscape and memory. By means of crafting language and pushing its possibilities, the speaker searches for the most elemental in whatever place—physical or emotional—she finds herself.
As the literature of travel and especially pilgrimage shows, being on the move can become a journey to one’s own interior. Here are poems of such witness, poems of reflection on how others on perpetual journeys have stayed the course. Here are poems about how this poet has come to places, as she says in her poem “In This Habitable Desert,” she could not even imagine.
Toward brings the reader along with her to these places.
Moira Linehan brings us to Ireland, the Pacific Northwest, her home in Massachusetts, where her poems mark ‘X. I am here.’ We see ‘ditches where the Famine dead lay, grass-stained mouths,’ the wave-struck coast, rocky fields dotted with sheep. There are also poems of love and loss (‘Will I ever write a poem / where grief doesn’t surface?’). She is moving toward, but she is also found, and we are, too.
Barbara Crooker, author of The Book of Kells
This collection takes us from pastoral landscapes and wild coastlines in Ireland to desert mountains in Spain to an island in Puget Sound to a ‘widow’s walk’ on Nantucket. Here is a profound poetry of place, but the places evoked for us are not solely in the external world. These poems chart the poet’s inner-life journey toward that which ‘has always been beyond words.’ With vivid images and meditative lyricism, Linehan offers us hard-earned glimpses of the ineffable.
Fred Marchant, author of Said Not Said
Moira Linehan’s wonderful book Toward moves between Ireland and Washington state and ‘toward’ her Irish ancestry, her spiritual longing for the isolation of Ireland’s monks (because no soul ‘does without some isolation’), and toward, finally, the plumbing of her grief. Where she is headed lies ‘beyond words,’ and like an Irish sky contains ‘too many subtle shifts to capture.’
Robert Cording, Barrett Chair of Creative Writing, College of the Holy Cross
Weather and walking—Moira Linehan guides us through a world both elemental and spiritual, ‘a conduit to the beyond.’ Hers is indeed a vision toward and not ‘away’—toward what is utterly present and full, as well as lost and longed for—‘what has always been beyond words.’ Through grief and wonder, Linehan is a profound and soulful companion, taking us to those crucial places ‘where we cannot go alone.’
Betsy Sholl, author of House of Sparrows: New and Selected Poems