These compelling, beautiful poems reveal a poet who has long found an original footing in the society in which she lives, finding in it a source of inspiration. Anne Tannam is energetically aware of the global sphere of injustice and beauty, of unfair destinies and healing gestures. Festivals and birthday celebrations register as sources for connecting with the life-force in all its forms, but also with mother-love. Mid-life is evoked as an opportunity for renewal, the universe leaning across the table,/gesturing with both hands,/eager to fill me in, and a possible breast tumour occupies the same space as Schrödinger’s Cat. Elsewhere in this book, Yeats’ hazel wood still lives through a hazel sapling which unfurls an alphabet of hope. The redressing voice of inner charity at work in her lines raises hurt and loss from the silt of memory and creates something serene with it. Dublin viewed as a local space is suggestively evoked in images and visions of people she has loved. And it is this tender voice that conspires with other, socially-engaged poems, creating an authentic collection that will speak to readers everywhere.
Mary O’Donnell


Anne Tannam’s beautiful collection, Twenty-six Letters of a New Alphabet, invites the reader to reflect on the quiet joys of daily living — swans on the canal, the comfort of home — but does not shy away from the challenges that make up the fabric of a life. The poet turns her brave, unflinching gaze upon the inevitable sorrows of ageing and bereavement with an understated self-awareness that will speak to all readers. There is deep empathy here for the plight of those who have no home and those who have fled their homes in search of shelter. This collection offers a collage of experience, where conversations with the dead, memories and meditations on the present are woven together in a kind of stock-taking, looking back over the rites of passage on the journey, and those yet to come. A heart-warming collection, full of wit and wisdom.

Liz McSkeane

Anne Tannam is a poet of honesty and intimacy; the poems in this new collection, written with a distinctive diamond clarity and seamlessly linked, create the feeling of a lifelong conversation with a trusted friend; the concatenation of love, loss and essential silence.

Maurice Devitt


Author Biography

Anne Tannam is the author of two poetry collection, Take This Life (Wordonthestreet 2011) and Tides Shifting Across My Sitting Room Floor (Salmon Poetry 2017). The winner of the 40 Word Competition, 2019 (Bangor Literary Journal) and Poetry Day Ireland Competition 2018 (Books Upstairs), her work was highly commended in the Francis Ledwidge Awards and shortlisted in the Baileoborough Awards. Her work has been published widely in literary journals and on national radio and print. Anne was poet-in-residence at the Trim Poetry Festival in 2020 and was awarded a writers’ residency at Chennai Mathematical Institute in Chennai, India in 2016.
     A spoken word poet, Anne has been invited to perform her work at various festivals and events at home and abroad including Electric Picnic, Lingo, Bloom, The Kosovo International Poetry Festival, The Craw Festival (Berlin), Lumen Poetry Series (London) and The Bray Literary Festival. For more information on Anne’s poetry, visit her website


Three Poems from Twenty-Six Letters of a New Alphabet by Anne Tannam:


After Ada Limón

The Japanese have a word for it—komorebi,

the play of sunlight filtering through leaves.

This morning the tree outside our house

is almost too beautiful to look at; the turning leaves,

red berries, flickering patterns of light.

On my run, the leggings’ waistband presses

against my soft belly, reminding me to keep

a steady pace. Everywhere autumn is shimmering;

trees in Brickfield Park jog slowly past, crunch

and slick of leaves underfoot, slant of light

between the houses. Along the canal

from Golden Bridge to Blackhorse, all life

contained in secret code: seven swans preening

beside a clump of reeds; a heron rising,

wingspan measuring distance from bank to bank;

a moorhen, its red, yellow-tipped beak,

lime green spindle legs, its sheer moor hen-ness.

And everywhere, evidence of our careless nature:

dogshit, cans, plastic wrappers; a wheel,

half covered, glints from under the bridge.

It’s my birthday today, and I’m on the lookout

for some sign that all this multiplicity is mapping

a story that’s more than the sum of its moving parts.

I pass the cemetery, feet following a small path

under a line of trees. I breathe them in,

they breathe me in. Hidden by their leaves,

along the length of the wall are graffiti runes

and the single word Soar

is this the sign I’ve been looking for?

Or is it closer to the waters’ rippling edge;

a breathless, aging woman,

by a canal, indestructible?

At eighteen I knew nothing

of death and dying, so when a girl from college

told me three of her brothers had drowned

alongside five others, eight bodies in all

recovered from Doolin Bay,

eight lads not much older than I was then,

just down for a weekend music festival,

a scorcher of a day, the sea within shouting distance—

I didn’t have the language, didn’t know the words,

never thought to ask her brothers’ names.

A Reasonable Request

She’s free to go anywhere

she desires in the castle—

except one little room.

One small room off-limits.

That’s not much to ask.

One little room.

Everywhere else she is free to go.

Everything else is hers to enjoy:

endless rooms to decorate as she pleases,

beautiful gardens to explore with friends.

See how much he is willing to give her.

See how far he is willing to go.

One little room.

Not too much to ask.

Never mind his terrible beard.

Never mind the rest of the story.

Poems Copyright © Anne Tannam 2021


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