Poetry Book Society Recommendation
The Darkness of Snow is Frank Ormsby's most varied and versatile collection to date. It includes three substantial sets of poems whose themes are refreshingly and sometimes painfully new. One is a suite of poems – sombre, good-humoured, flippant – about the early stages of Parkinson's Disease. Ormsby was diagnosed as having the disease in 2011. Another was prompted by the work of Irish painters in Normandy, Brittany and Belgium at the end of the 19th century.
There are also further explorations of his boyhood years in Fermanagh, while poems set in Belfast reflect the aftermath of the Troubles and celebrate the city's current phase of recovery and restoration. The book ends with a narrative poem about the trial of an unnamed tyrant in which we learn about the Accused (as he is called), about the villagers who have travelled to bear witness to the atrocities carried out in the village, and about one of the interpreters, who understands the slipperiness of Truth.
The Darkness of Snow covers work written since Frank Ormsby’s retrospective, Goat’s Milk: New & Selected Poems (2015). His broad range and eye for the particular combine to make this an exceptional collection.
The Poetry Book Society Selectors write that Frank Ormsby's poems about Parkinson's Disease (included in The Darkness of Snow) combine ‘defiance with realism and fact with a fearless black humour that flinches from not the slightest detail… This is a sequence of wry, strident and marvellously undaunted poems.’ - Tim Liardet and Vona Groarke, PBS Bulletin
'Frank Ormsby belongs to that extraordinary generation of Northern Irish poets which includes Ciaran Carson, Medbh McGuckian, Paul Muldoon and Tom Paulin. He is a poet of the truest measure… From his earliest work Ormsby has favoured a natural shapeliness… A plain-speaking, down-to-earth utterance may be the norm, but it teeters on the verge of taking flight, and sometimes gives way to an exquisitely refined lyricism.’ – Michael Longley
‘Reading these new poems and returning to those read decades ago has been a delight because Ormsby is a poet of enviable gifts. He has a fine ear and a sharp eye and, above all, his poems are memorable.’ – David Cooke, The Manchester Review [on Goat’s Milk: New and Selected Poems]
‘Goat’s Milk: New and Selected Poems, by Frank Ormsby, reminds us why we missed this poet’s wry and concise voice during the 14-year gap in his writing life; and the new poems extend and ratify his unique angle of vision.’ – Patricia Craig, The Irish Times (Books of the Year)