Book Review: Dinner in the Fields by Attracta Fahy
Cover Image by Attracta Fahy
Dinner in the Fields by Attracta Fahy is a collection of multilayered poems lush with emotion and evocative storytelling. This poet uses her craft to transport us. We enter into a world completely unknown, as she guides us through an internal landscape of discovery.
The Power of ‘What If’
“I’m still here, dreaming of the life
that could have been, I am still her,
the child who could have saved the world,
or not have done anything except survive.”
–Who I Could Have Been, Attracta Fahy, Dinner in the Fields
As a survivor of trauma, the question of what my life would have been like if I had better experiences is one that plagues me, at times. This spiral can be equal parts defeatist and wistful. I took over a decade hiatus from writing, in order to focus on my survival. There’s a trite truth that is annoying to me at times. People have said to me that I wouldn’t be who I am today without those traumatic experiences. I often think that I’m not who I am because of trauma, but in spite of trauma.
Fahy captures this mental wandering down memory lane that I felt spoke directly to me. Rummaging around in the past is a necessary part of recovery, and it is the child in me that imagines a world where I could have done anything. But, in the end, I did the thing I could– which was to survive, and there is no shame in that.
“When he called to our home,
the day my father was buried,
the priest remarked
what a dignified family
that people had mentioned,
we were; we had not cried.
My siblings proud of his praise,
I stayed silent.”
–The Priest Said, Attracta Fahy, Dinner in the Fields
This poem recounts the harrowing experience of a family watching for the rescue of their father. The town has gathered to empty to slurry pit where the man ultimately drowns. This is a rescue attempt that happens over seven hours and is gut wrenching to the narrator. I felt these emotions right alongside the poem, hoping that it would end differently and knowing it would not.
The craftsmanship in this poem and the careful choosing of words is one of quiet desperation. The poet wants to tell us something important here and though the death is painful and obviously devastating, there are other factors at play. The final stanza of the poem reminds me of how expressing emotion is vilified by those who believe that we should keep them to ourselves.
I grew up in a culture and community where we did not ‘air our dirty laundry’. The residue of that attitude is something I am continually trying to shake. I have seen repressed emotions explode, causing horrible repercussions for those involved. I have also seen those same emotions simmer and lead to the desperation of self harm. We are only beginning to understand the importance of mental health and this poem highlights some of the narrative that prevents healthy expression of emotions.
Her Authentic Voice
“From the clay they cry
the song of the crone,
dreams of the life unlived, hope
moves in the soil beneath
my feet, rises in my breath,
they call— willing me on
with their work.”
–Our Sleeping Women, Attracta Fahy, Dinner in the Fields
I think I could have quoted this entire poem and was hard pressed to find the most powerful piece of it. If you only read one poem in this collection, this is the one. However, I do recommend them all! At Mookychick, we often discuss the women that have come before us and the narratives that have been spun throughout history. It’s been a fact that history is written by the victors and in a lot of cases those weren’t women.
Stories about women’s history has often been told through the lens of men, unless we are lucky enough to find letters and journals from historical figures. This poem reminds us to carry on the work of those before us, of those who were hoping to achieve things that may well be within our grasp now. As we continue to build on the legacy of the women before us, we honour them and help pave the way for those coming after us.
Sometimes building is difficult, finding a voice in a sea of outdated expectations is exhausting. This is where we can lift each other and hold space for all women. The advice given in this poem is fueled with power and hope:
“Scream yourself into your body.
Starve if you need, until you’re heard.”
–Our Sleeping Women, Attracta Fahy, Dinner in the Fields
This collection of poetry is so powerful in its personal truths, emotions and history that is is impossible to put down. Once I began reading, I simply couldn’t stop. Although Fahy’s life experience is far different from my own, our commonality is the human experience. This is the connective tissue woven throughout each poem and it is exquisite in its execution.
Dinner in the Fields by Attracta Fahy is currently available through Fly on The Wall Press.
About the Author
ATTRACTA FAHY grew up on a farm in the west of Ireland, in the parish of Killererin, Co. Galway. Having a close affinity with her surroundings, she is inspired by how contemplation of nature reflects and resonates in humanity. The focus of her poetry is to explore, understand, and reveal these connections, often through the use of myth, so we can navigate our emotions, feelings, and intuition into a more integrated, and reflective way of being.
Attracta Fahy’s earliest background was in Nursing and Social Care and she currently works as a Psychotherapist, Supervisor and Trainer, living in Co. Galway. Attracta is a mother of three children. She completed her MA in Writing at NUIG in 2017. She was the October winner in Irish Times; New Irish Writing 2019, was nominated for Pushcart 2018, Best of the Web 2019, shortlisted for 2018 Over The Edge New Writer of The Year, and long listed in 2019, shortlisted for Allingham Poetry Prize 2019.
About the Press
FLY ON THE WALL PRESS– A publisher with a difference-is a social enterprise company and a not for profit publisher, based in Manchester. We publish high quality anthologies on pressing issues, chapbooks and poetry products, from exceptional poets around the globe, with socially conscious themes.
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