As promised in the title of the book, The Stone Garden: poems from Clare, these poems deliver an intensely local and unified livre composé with a single focal point, a village in Ireland. The effect is intimate but objective, and with skilful and subtly varied use of the Tanka form throughout, a meditative intellectual concern and a prismatic vision are brought together seamlessly. Diane Fahey revitalises the Australian concern with Irish heritage while avoiding the dangers of travel poetry and the complacency of stereotyped tropes. As one poem’s title indicates, it is regional Ireland, populated with small town and rural figures, B&Bs and tourist offices.
The pastoral content and thematic concern with pre-modern things and values is not merely nostalgic but addresses a 21st century ecological discourse, an ever present theme in Diane Fahey’s oeuvre. There is an understated elegiac note to the fragile survival of this aspect of life in Ireland, and the picture is carefully built with a sharp eye and wry wit. The lyricism is conveyed and constrained in a challenging oriental form that hints at a Zen outlook oresent in Diane Fahey’s earlier poetry. All proof of the book’s fruitful experimentation.