The King Of The Lam, Greg Delanty

Southword Editions, 2020    £6.00

The bridge of friendship

This collection perfectly encapsulates the innocent magic and longevity of male friendship — a subject not often written about or celebrated, and perhaps even less so in poetry.

The two individuals, the poet Greg and his eulogised friend Liam (the poet Liam Ó Muirthile), have distinct personalities and views of the world. They also choose to employ different languages and lenses to describe their ‘word worlds’ as it’s put in ‘Ligature’. Liam is writing primarily in Irish, Greg in English — although they are very much bound together through their love of life, memories and poetics.

This is from ‘The Shaky Bridge’:

Symbol without rust without regret
Between the banks of two languages
Shaking with the frenzy of poetry

It’s the last poem in the collection but also appears as the first, in Irish — the two versions arching over the whole collection, like that shaky bridge, or the two poets’ friendship, arching over the river of shared experience.

The Irish language is also referred to in ‘Caoineadh’ (the Scottish Gaelic term for ‘keening’, or ‘to cry, to weep’) and appears symbolically in ‘At Sea’:

You swore as good as any Cork man worth his salt,
said that you were living, breathing
and drowning in a dying language,

and I, trying to keep you afloat

The death of Liam leaves Greg mixing both adult understanding and the language of youth to grapple with his grief. In ‘Phantom Talk’, he writes:

Time cures all. “Jesus wept.” A poet in the prime
of his gift the newspaper said. Time’s a shagging thief

In ‘Ligature’, he describes the relatable experience of reaching to phone and connect with someone only to remember they are no longer here. The poet skilfully employs enjambment, form and colloquial language:

I’ll give Liam an ol’ bell. Wake up: Liam is history.
The line between long and short term memory

is out of whack. I just wanted to make a quick call

A heartfelt sequence bridging lost friendship through beautifully crafted poems.

Jane Thomas