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Sker: the dark, haunting Magical Surrealism of Peter O’Neill.

Byline: Subterranean Blue Poetry

Title of Book: Sker

Author: Peter O’Neill

Publisher: Lapwing Press

Date of Publication: 2016

Pages: 76

“An old man in the corner sang
Where the water lilies grow”
- from A Pair of Brown Eyes by The Pogues

Sker, a brilliant Magical Surrealist poetry lickament,* the dark haunting dreamscapes of Poet Peter O’Neill. Peter O’Neill was born in Cork, Ireland and currently lives and works in Dublin. He spent most of the ‘90’s living in Paris and has been published internationally. He has published 2 books of poetry previously and this is the second book of poetry I have reviewed for him, the first being the Anthology of Irish Poets, Agamemnon is Dead.

This poetry is evocative of the legacy of great Irish Poets, in Celtic lilt, drawing from classical influences, the French Symbolists, German philosophers, the nature imagery dreamscapes contrast with an incongruous thought train and dark violence existing in a place of magical surrealism. Sker lives inside the Collective Memory of poetry and history Dublin, an event that blurs the lines of place, time and space, unfolds through mists off the water, sailing ships, a secret place revealed. As if a dreamscape of the Collective Consciousness, as if all the ghosts of past, present and future Dublin and Poetry have danced and been written upon.

The Drunken Boat
After Arthur Rimbaud : 1854-1891

How I descended the impassive rivers

No longer guided by the haulers;

Red skins had taken them as targets

Nailing their colours naked to the masts.

Incoherent to the crews,

The importers of Flemish wheat and English cotton,

When the boatmen had finished unloading

The rivers let me go as I pleased.

Into the furious awakening of the tides,

I, the winter previous, deafer than the brain of a child,

I ran! And the peninsulas departed,

Without sounding out triumphant.

The tempest blessed my maritime bath,

Lighter than a cork I danced upon the waves,

What are known as rollers, vice drowned,

For ten nights spun, not missing the silly winks from the bouys.

Softer than the skin of children, the peal of flesh,

The Irish sea inundated my craft of pine,

And the stains of Moorish wine, and vomit,

Bathed me, having dispersed with all rudders and hooks.

And lo’ and behold, I came to bathe in the Poem

Of the Sea, infused in its milk of stars,

Devouring the azure plains- where float

The pale, bloated corpses of the drowned;

Who, holding the brining blue trumpet’s delirious

Rhythm, slowly throughout the rupture of the days . . .”

Surrealism was birthed in 1920’s Paris, perhaps a reflection and inversion of W.W. I playing into The DaDa Movement, a nonsensical reaction to great violence. The classical influences include references to the Ancient Greek and Roman Empires, naming Heraclitus, Carthage, the Punic Wars, Copernicus, Aquinas, Virgil amongst others, bringing to life the ancients and ancient civilizations. He also calls on the French Symbolist Poets Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire, the milieu of Paris in the early 1900’s, creating a moody dreamscape illustrated by nature imagery, inside a celebration of the collective memory of Dublin.


Excavating the site
for further traces of you

your furthest outreach
buried among the mound of
Proustian artifacts

bears triumphantly cavorting on wine labels
exhorting all of the virtues of the Médoc
dune and wooden slats
all aromatised with pine

and just above the great blanket
of pulverised white sand


the isle of birds . . .”

The title of the book is borrowed from the name the Norse gave to Fingal, Sker or Skerries, where the Poet and his family has lived since 2000. Sker is the first book in a trilogy titled The Fingal Trilogy aka The Hereclitan Trilogy. The book has divided the year of writing into 4 parts, the Hereclitan elements of Earth, Water, Fire and Air, a journal of days. Also woven into the poetic soup is the influence of German philosopher Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time, the entire beginning poems of the books seem to play within and expound on this Existential writing. Themes within include childhood, lost love, drinking, death, Dublin history, the sinking of a W.W. II submarine, a poetry reading, a parenting course, a concert by The Pogues, plays off nature imagery with a violent undertoad. The writing itself unfolds in broken poetic prose, incongruous thoughtscapes, with rare rhyming couplets, borrowing from the style of the French Symbolists in a Post-modernist progression.

The love poetry is fantastical, enigmatic, plays with shadows.


eruption of cloud

billowing like the Archeron

above the arrow-headed leaves

trembling and Virgilian

this ink

awash upon a primed sky

which the great window frames

pooling all origins

from the vortex of the night

the golden dawn radiates

banishing all fear

illuminating gently your lover”

The poetry is fascinating weaving current events such as a Poetry Reading, a parenting class or The Pogues Concert with nature imagery and the essence of Dublin in the time of sailing ships. As if the poetry of the life and times of Peter O’Neill in Skerries lives in fantastical spaces. Also 2 of the poems are offered in French with English translations.

Within the magical spaces of the mind of the Oracle Poet, this poetry dances, plays in dreamscape with history and time, flies with angels. A brilliant rendering of Symbolist and Magical Surrealism lives in the New Age Renaissance Republic of Poetry, Sker by Peter O’Neill.

* medicant

Genre: Poetry, New Age

Available @ Amazon Canada.

Available @ Amazon United States.

Available @ Amazon United Kingdom.

The Book Reviewer

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