JANE Clarke’s debut collection offers quietly affecting poetry, often in the minor key, about growing up on a farm in the west of Ireland.

Called The River, it is published by Bloodaxe Books at £9.95 and won the Listowel Writers’ Week Poetry Collection Prize in 2014. This is a sample from it. 

THE RINGER

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It was my mother taught me to watch
blood-breasted stonechats on a barbed-wire fence,

to listen for the mournful song of a linnet,
A meadow pipet’s pseeping alarm.

I couldn’t count how many I’ve caught,
ringed, sexed, measured and weighed

but I’ll always remember the first time
in the woods beyond Skibbereen,

when I opened a mist net at dawn,
held a goldcrest hammocked between

finger and thumb, a rosebud in my palm.
Olive nape, yellow crown, eyes

black and glistening as Kilkenny marble.
I held my breath, lest I harm her,

turned my hand so she lay on her back.
She settled as if lulled into a trance.

I opened the cage of my fingers –
a heartbeat, and she was gone.