Reviews of The Year of the Knife

The Year of the Knife Cover Photo Tony O'Shea
This proportioning of the book reflects a growth in Casey’s work, a development of themes which, in the early work, are not yet explored.
Much of this growth takes place through the increasing power of language, and Casey writes in a language which is supple, accurate, sensitive and immensely strong, and which stretches to develop complexities of identity which were barely stated in the first collection. – Roz Cowman, G R A P H Dublin, 1992.

This is a strong book, as joyful as Edith Piaf’s wonderful song ‘No Regrets’, but for Casey the new beginning is with himself.
It took me a while to see humour where previously I could recognise only suffering. In his homage to the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, the poem he struggled to write is placed within a narrative of obsession. Then the relieving revelation that, all my drafts were false./ I was writing about myself. The poem is released into tenderness for Kahlo, and the unique strength of her spirit.
The Desert Father Greets the Neophyte, from After Thunder,
ends with a leaving of what I feared to know. Lately, the attraction which was thwarted by fear has become irresistible. He has to know. White Horse is a powerful foray into Casey’s own forgotten pain, and what the poem hauls back is a child’s encounter with death. The poem has a knife-edge lyric intensity:

The rings of Saturn are ice,
full ten kilometres thick.
The rings over the hospital door
are rings crushed into a pillow
when the white horse
carries the Queen of Death
above the city in the still night.

Casey gives physicality to abstract ideas with great assurance and he has an eye for things which do not clamour for attention.

There are fine new love poems, and older ones which have benefited from fresh work. Making Space is humourous, generous and dazzlingly full of light. Art and Laughter sings its celebration of the common wealth of friends/making art or laughter out of the cruellest pain.
Although this 96 page collection of mostly new work could have done with some pruning, Casey has brought back armfuls of good poems. – Susan McKay, The Sunday Press, April 14, 1991

Casey is a master of precision but simultaneously manages to be inventive while using rigorous metering. The poet uses compassionate imagery and has a feel for his subjects, which range from death to generation gaps to religion. An ordered but imaginative collection. –Linda Higgins In Dublin 20 June-3 July 1991

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