Acerbic, cool, controlled, Siobhán Campbell gives us poetry with attitude. Many of the stories here start in Ireland and although the cadences are sweetly lyrical, the narratives are otherwise. Politics here is intrinsic to the tales of the sly, the warped, the landlady “Mean as Ireland in the 50’s”. Nature is deftly invoked as a counterpoint to human illusions. The apparently personal poems here are cast in a more tender, yet characteristically unsentimental light. Campbell brings the lyric close to the conflicts that spur our passions, both personal and political. She often takes a dialectic approach, at times employing rhythmic narratives which act as an antidote to stark subject matter. While full of wit, this collection challenges the reader by dealing with fundamental questions of borders, identity, violence and responsibility.
“The tension between the reality of violence in human nature and the aesthetics of her poetry is keenly felt. Her adroitness of balance is striking.” S.J. Litherland
“Poems that are fierce, luminous and clear-eyed; torpedoes lined with feather strokes.” Bernard O’Donoghue
“…there is an outstanding ear for the music of language… the rhymes and half-rhymes give the verse a rewarding sureness and slyness. Siobhán Campbell’s sense of cadenced disturbance marks her out as someone worth listening to with attention.” Robert Crawford
Listen to Siobhán Campbell read her poem, ‘These Women’:
Review from THE IRISH TIMES
“Siobhán Campbell brings the characteristically soft diction of the Irish lyric tradition to her third full collection… Though the strategies of women writing in Ireland today are various, most avoid the lure of idyll. Campbell’s own cunning sideways take on the masculine pastoral has Mother Ireland as a furious farmer’s wife, while These Women is her tribute to the work-hardened women who “make happen the full wake, /the kettle hopping, the oven warm”. As [Campbell] says… ‘It takes a softened tongue to fill a twisted mouth’.”
Review from the PBS BULLETIN
“Her writing has a strong sense of music and a deft, unerring balance. But this is by no means poetry about poetry: Campbell’s mordant wit and the sometimes savage honesty of her language coruscate off the page. This underexposed poet is definitely worth a try.”
Review from MAGMA
<p>"Cross-Talk is sophisticated and coherent both in its writing and in its thinking… The writing is deceptively fluent and lyrical; most of these poems will need several readings to take in their full import: their narratives are often suppressed. But they’re worth re-reading for the pleasure of the language alone… The collection is coherent and thoughtfully constructed." Jane Routh</p>
Review from The Warwick Review
The idyllic lyrical of Siobhan Campbell is toughened by her firm, yet precise narrative. In Cross-Talk, we are presented with a deeply personal account of the conflicts that Campbell witnesses during her years living in Ireland, revealing some nostalgic, as well as some traumatic memories. The anecdotal tone of many poems gave me a sense of security, like the comfort afforded by a fireside yarn, and I felt an emotional rapport with the places and people in her poetry, which suggests the empathic craft of her verse. Her childhood memories are of prosperity one moment, of sadness the next, sometimes shifting in the space of a line, as in the tragedy of the Brady children told in 'Giving the Talk'. The melancholy of her poems is wrapped neatly in her clearly defined lyrics - there is a stark reality in her writing, and her calm poetic form exists in a much darker world.
This collection of poetry gives us a keen insight into the identities and cultures that surrounded Campbell, as well as the political motivation that sparked harsh and often violent conflicts in her world.
George Vernon, The Warwick Review, Vol IV, March 2010
Review from Eyewear Blog
Siobhan Campbell's poems are so rhythmic, so driven by momentum... always terse and surprising, Campbell knows how to be laconic, and how to distil sense economically. This collection simmers with violence. The sinned-against Ulster girls reappear in 'Creed': Tap, tap he goes, striking fear into the follicles of young girls. heir hair shaved off, their bodies, brushed and we knew if he could, he should cut out their tongues. This becomes a kind of motif for her, a touchstone of misogynistic violence observed from the opposite angle to Heaney's well-known 'Punishment', in which the atavistic tribalism of the act is endowed with a sense of tragic inevitability; Heaney 'understands'. Campbell does not, but this wearily familiar with such acts. This quality of her work makes her a far better political poet that Heaney, choosing not to embellish and romanticise brutality with subtle comparisons to Greek drama. It s thrilling, sudden perspective, and enough reason in itself for reading this wonderful collection cover to cover, then back again. Charlotte Newman, Eyewear Blog 21/08/2010
Review from Artemis Poetry
Reading the work of Irish poet, Siobhan Campbell made me think about the old slogan 'the personal is political' in a new way. Lyrical, and syntactically thrilling, Campbell's poems conjure, and analyse, the interwoven nature of family, local and historical conflicts. This is an outward-looking poetry, where the emotion is not focused on self, but is deeply shared and political. Campbell is clear eyed about the harshness of nature, but also gives us a sense of its delicacy; she illuminates how we breathe life into it through naming, yet can destroy it with that same breathe. Kay Syrad, Artemis Poetry Issue 5