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.
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.
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 www.annetannampoetry.ie.
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