cover image Cinderbiter: Celtic Poems

Cinderbiter: Celtic Poems

Martin Shaw and Tony Hoagland. Graywolf, $16 trade paper (152p) ISBN 978-1-64445

In the foreword to this lyrical collection of stories in verse and poems, Shaw, a mythologist and storyteller, recalls an afternoon spent with Hoagland (who died in late 2018) looking out at the Irish Sea. There, the joint project, which he remarks has “an oral liveliness to the way the lines skip and twist in their stanzas,” found its origins in a discussion of the story “Cinderbiter.” The result is a book of reinvented bardic lyrics and folkloric sagas. Gems among these include “Deirdre Remembers a Scottish Glen,” a poem full of stunning descriptions of setting: “Glen of my body’s feeding:/ crested breast of loveliest wheat,/ glen of the thrusting lorn-horn cattle,/ firm among the trysting bees.” The speaker describes the glen full of “badgers, delirious with sleep, heaped fat in dens” and “sentried with blue-eyed hawks,/ greenwood laced with sloe, apple, blackberry” before concluding with the striking, resounding final line: “To remember is a ringing pain of brightness.” These wonderful retellings will introduce readers to new and enchanting stories told in a lush, musical way. (July)