Winner of the 2015 Griffin Poetry Prize
Shortlisted for the 2014 T.S. Eliot Prize
In The Stairwell, his tenth collection, Michael Longley’s themes and forms reach a new intensity. The second part of the book is a powerful sequence of elegies for his twin brother, Peter, and the dominant mood elsewhere is elegiac. The title poem begins: ‘I have been thinking about the music for my funeral …’ The two parts are also linked by Homer. Longley is well-known for his Homeric versions, and the Iliad is a presiding presence – both in poems about the Great War and in the range of imagery that gives his twin’s death a mythic dimension. Yet funeral music can be life-affirming. Longley has built this collection on intricate doublings, not only when he explores the tensions of twinship. The psychologically suggestive word ‘stairwell’ is itself an ambiguous compound. These poems encompass birth as well as death, childhood and age, nature and art, the animal and human worlds, tenderness and violence, battlefield and ‘homeland’. The Stairwell is a richly textured, immensely moving work. Michael Longley has the rare ability to fuse emotional depth with complicated artistry: to make them, somehow, the same thing.
It is…the warmth in Longley’s writing that marks his poems out, makes them cherishable. Never forced, that affection is simply there.
Longley’s 10th collection weaves his classical themes of war, family and flaura and fauna into measured songs of commemoration for those he has loved.
A book of tiny, delicately lyrical commemorations and commendations.
The Stairwell…is a stupendous collection of quiet beauty and universal significance.
The book I have loved best, and have gone back to again and again.