Lady Cassie Peregrina by Terry McDonagh. Arlen House, 2016.
Lady Cassie Peregrina is a story, in verse, told by a poet and his dog. The book relates the details of a journey that began when the McDonagh family adopted Cassie, a Border Collie, from the ISPCA in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo. In the ensuing months, the author and Cassie explore the lanes of his Cill Aodáin childhood and tell of their experiences from their respective standpoints. The three-piece family decide to return to Hamburg. Cassie travels with them from Mayo, via Belfast, Scotland, Newcastle, Amsterdam, to their final destination, Hamburg. Cassie needed a dog-passport and she got one before being packed into the back of a Golf estate. She is now a happy Collie in this great Hanseatic city.
Mysteries – real and imagined – are part and parcel of Terry McDonagh’s extensive travels in Europe, Asia and Australia, but there is nothing more mysterious, intense or surprising than his journey-in-verse from Cill Aodáin, County Mayo to Hamburg in the company of a border collie, Lady Cassie. This fragile peregrination began in the ISPCA centre in Ballyhaunis and, gradually, grew into a collection of poetry with three sections devoted to Cassie’s point of view and three to the poet’s. It is a venture of discovery – transforming familiar motifs and ways of seeing the ordinary. These poems encompass the natural, animal and human world, linked by the presupposition that nature and all living things are bound together by a common destiny of birth, a season of life and ultimate death. History, landscape, tragedy and destiny bond in richly-textured, immensely-sensitive work – emotion and story are fused with great lyrical artistry.
"Lady Cassie Peregrina is one lucky dog. Not just because she was rescued from a life of cruelty but because she has been immortalised by Terry McDonagh in this collection. The poet takes a gamble with the anthropomorphic nature of some sections but he pulls it off successfully, for Lady Cassie is more than a mere black and white collie; she is the high priestess that allows the poet to explore memories from childhood to the ‘reptile tongue of death’. McDonagh does for Cill Aodáin what Kavanagh does for Iniskeen. Rich in local place names, myth and heritage, the poet’s early landscape is mapped out from the geography of the poems where the Pollagh River meets the Glore to form the Gweestion or ‘where dread was bottled up between here and Canavans Cross’. With his signature humour, music and underlying wisdom there are echoes of his other collections here too where Lios Árd and Raifteirí are not forgotten. Underneath the lightness are the memories of men who took their lives, ‘where a landscape holds secrets and shields for the heart’ or retelling the hardship of school where the ‘principal beat cold into warm mornings and killed speech in its prime’. Like the songs his mother taught him as a boy, these poems ‘cling and linger’." – Geraldine Mills