Forty Foot Press

Soul retrieval, deep healing

    Anne Fitzgerald’s recent collection Vacant  Possession (Salmon Poetry) is exquisitely crafted, a beautiful, heartbreaking and haunting read, which begs revisiting time and again. It opens with a stunning, hypnotic love poem which casts a spell and sets the tone, for this is, above else, a book about love:


          From afar it comes like the smell of rain

          in off the sea, with an urgency of waves

          breaking, you weaken at the thought

          of it happening again, as naturally as heat

          making its presence felt on the globe

          of your palms, you spread your fingers

          wide as water between two bodies

          of land, trace boundaries, sea stacks ‘n’ coves

          on the bend of where paradise might

          be your judgement clouds like a compass

          that’s let moisture in, devoid of magnetic

          field you falter, give way to the rhythm

          of waves as though sirens in pursuit of kelp

          and driftwood like lovers on a beach.

    In poems about redemption and a love that transcends all, Fitzgerald works to reconcile the world she knew with the world she lives in. She writes about finding her compass, her mother, her identity. From “Finding Myself in Werburgh Street”:

          Without Theseus thread of Adriane, nurse Gallagher

          cuts the chord, registers me by her own hand,

          every slope and ink incline a natural fabrication

          of this twenty-six year old’s maiden name, who

          didn’t comfort me as my first tooth breaks through,

          hold me at night as my breath is given over to

          coughing for the loss of you, or watch me not fall

          down as one foot follows the other in a gait you’d

          half recognise disappearing into a crowd years later.

          Instead you commend me into the geometry of a life

          you’d not foresee, all the while, wondering from a distance.

And from “Bellybutton”:

          my first breath-cry

          clouds windows,

          lines my lungs

          with a dampness

          my breathing

          will carry like

          the pain of arrival

          and your departure

          into thin air

          born like the memory

          of mist falling

          on bracken,

          suspending disbelief,

          my innie pit

          our belly to belly

          chord leaves,

          is all that


          of our attachment.

    When witnessing her mother’s death, she mourns, “When whiteness does hold /  the world as I know it is no more.” … “a blizzard /  of disbelief / whitens my / world as / I knew it.”

    The triumph of Vacant Possession is that Fitzgerald, against all odds, deftly and with unparalleled grace, rediscovers and repossesses the lost parts of herself. For this is poetry as shamanic work, soul retrieval, deep healing and testimony, as well as a searing indictment of a society where mothers and their children born out of wedlock have been prey at the hands of the Catholic Church.

    Fitzgerald conducted astounding research. To quote her postscript,  “From engagement with various State and Church agencies together with research conducted I can confirm that Éire’s Architecture of Containment thrives in matters pertaining to the release of Adoption Records in Twenty-First Century Ireland. A trinity of control and culpability pervades within the Catholic Church, the Irish Free State and its Religious Institutions specifically established to contain, to profit from and to manage the lives of those who bore children outside marriage and the little lives born outside of the bands of holy matrimony.”

    At once lyrical and precise, Vacant  Possession stands as witness, a heartfelt tribute to her mother and to all who underwent such fates. This is a powerful and necessary collection on the human condition that everyone needs to read.


in Pratik: A Magazine of Contemporary Writing

Vacant  Possession
Anne Fitzgerald

Salmon Poetry, 2017
ISBN-13:  978-1910669976

12; 146 pages

Reviewed by Hélène Cardona