Maureen Boyle

The Work of a Winter


9781851321834 – Paperback

9781851321841 – Hardback

9781851322022 – Expanded Edition

Available from

Book Depository


2nd Enlarged Edition – Book Depository

Shortlisted for Shine/Strong Poetry Award


Maureen Boyle writes an elegant, restrained lyric. She is a born story-teller and mixes pictures and commentary with an ease that belies the seriousness of her intention. Her work is always interesting, thoughtful, vivid. She is the real thing

– Kerry Hardie


Like Vermeer paintings, Maureen Boyle’s luminous poems are intimate portraits of confined lives, furnished with a sensuous exactness. In these narratives, rare opportunities for imaginative freedom are seized upon with relish. Unnamed girls luxuriate in warming lilacs between their thighs for Nureyev’s curtain call. The outcast Hermione, mourning her lost children, is cheered by the ‘blushing crimson tips’ appearing in her winter garden. Birds are significant reminders of life, colour and wry defiance in these self-assured poems of hard-won sustenance. In the superb ‘Weather Vane’, the unmarried pregnant girl – who has been sent to clean the convent roof by a vindictive nun – is consoled by the thought that the moss she picks off will line a bird’s nest: the cosy hatching-place she herself has been denied. ‘The poor friar’ Mícheál Ó Cléirigh – one of the authors of the Annals of the Four Masters – is the speaker in the concluding sequence, ‘The Work of a Winter’. Here too is an unsung life, shaped by ritual and long devotion to his craft. Like many of the personae in this astonishingly-accomplished first collection, Ó Cléirigh is not defeated by displacement or self-doubt. He finds comfort in the pear trees and blue smoke of the September garden in Louvain where his bones will be laid. His affection for his native Donegal brings the book full circle, to the opening title poem, where Boyle, in deft sketches, recalls her own family holidays in Rossnowlagh – ‘the lands of the Four Masters’ – and her early affinity with words: ‘Summer started with the smell of a new book’. This debut – rich with human stories and their vivid landscapes; laced with tenderness and compassion – is a fine achievement from one of Belfast’s prize-winning writers

– Katie Donovan


The poems glitter with exotic, sonorous names: Ipatiev, Disibodenberg, Galatz, Bridgegart, Aschaffenburg. Pronouncing them, whether reading silently or aloud, we are thrown momentarily into an unfamiliar zone as we grapple with the unfamiliar strings of letters. We are led beyond ourselves to imagine a foreign country, whether of the long past or the recent past, to imagine the existence of other people, to put ourselves in their shoes. Maureen Boyle has recognised that poetry is a space in which the possibilities of other existences can be explored. In that light our own existence becomes strange and new.

– Ciaran Carson