Review: The Wild Pupil by Kathy D’Arcy (Bradshaw Books)
The Wild Pupil is the second collection of poetry by Kathy D’Arcy, a talented poet from Cork who originally trained as a doctor. She uses this background in her work, in both a technical and literary way. The title of the work is both enigmatic and Yeatsian alluding to the scholar, rebellion and youth. It is also the title of one of the poems in the collection, one that gets right to the centre of the living body “as your thorax springs open/ like an eye,/ your heart/ the wild pupil.”
The collection of over fifty poems has several themes to it. The reader will come across the subjects of family, the sensual and the physical aspects of the body, ageing and death and also animals. Many touch on aspects of life that may make us feel uncomfortable in their bluntness and reference to the more unpleasant side of illness, or just the body in general, but they reinforce the power of the word. In fact, the sparseness of D’Arcy’s language, maybe a hangover from her technical training, adds to the edginess of the poetry.
The opening poem ‘First Furniture’ talks of “the trail of hair I leave/ on every surface…” referring uncertainly to ageing or maybe the hair loss of cancer and is referred to again in ‘Christmas’. Other poems reference an ageing mother, as a daughter attempts to clear away long-kept and forgotten childhood books or even the sharing out of crockery after a death in ‘Good China’.
However, throughout the collection, it is the keen paring back of language to the bare requirements to put across the message, even to the extent that many carry a mysterious uncertainty of meaning, is the feeling that is left with the reader after exploring this collection. This feeling of uncertainty means that poems can be revisisted over again to reveal maybe more or maybe to stay hidden, just holding back enough on their meaning to have something deliciously ‘not-quite-there’ that draws you back to see if there is any reveal since the last visit. This is the real appeal of D’Arcy’s poetry.