Forty Foot Press

Swimming Lessons

by Anne Fitzgerald

"Swimming Lessons is a remarkable first collection from a poet with an assured and individual talent. Anne Fitzgerald's carefully-worked poems explore the whole range of human emotions, moving deftly between the world which surrounds her and that of the imagination by means of oblique but sharply defined images which are at once witty, memorable and disturbing. Hers is a distinctive voice, original and compelling."

Professor Andrew Carpenter University College Dublin

"...Quizzical and questioning, with a genuine freshness and a deceptive innocence, Anne Fitzgerald initiates us here into her own personal odyssey, where an ironic use of Irish Catholic phraseology, discards what is lifeless, harvests what is poetry."

Medbh Mc Guckian Queen's University Belfast

"Anne Fitzgerald's first collection is wonderfully adjusted and precisely balanced. She brings to life intimate dramas about dreamers and escapees who know the simplicity of leaving and the difficulty of return. While often set between the waters of Howth and Dún Laoghaire 'Swimming Lessons' dares to go further afield to Belfast, Brookyn and beyond. This is a very fine book of poems, written with dignity and grace."

Colum Mc Cann New York

Swimming Lessons

(Wales, Stonebridge, 2001)

ISBN 1-902410-13-0

Cover Illustration © A.J. Gatsby

The Black Mountain Review :-

Issue 6 Autumn/Winter 2002

This is a debut collection from Anne Fitzgerald, from County Dublin. It is published by Stonebridge with the loving care that volumes used to receive more often, and still deserve - exquisitely bound, with a beautifully designed dust cover. The Introduction, a reflection on the work by another reader, is an interesting and worthwhile inclusion for, despite Barthes, many of us still yearn for some glimpse of the person and mind behind the authorial mask Fitzgerald delves first into the realm of everyday life, then into the life of her imagination. The selection centres on the yearning to leave and the difficulty of returning. It is set on the shores of her experience: first Howth, and Dún Laoghaire, then Brooklyn, Belfast and elsewhere. Occasionally, the poems are short and direct. The childhood memory in 'Elephant Rock', of paddling in the shadow of Joyce's Martello Tower, is moving in its breathed essence of nostalgia:

Today that warmth resides in

The new graduates of Elephant Rock,

While our awakenings are memories,

Like the emigrating tides who chase

The sunset into the west.

Fitzgerald does not shy away from the disturbing in life. She presents it matter-of-factly, as if to point out how surreal the presence of suffering or evil can be, and making it thus appear all the more shocking. For example, in 'Harvesting', after a drink-driver has crashed:

A generation of strangers inherit

His night blindness

As the eye surgeon harvests his cornea.

In the Introduction, Mike Byrne interprets this as meaning the poet voice is wondering will the inheritor of the cornea also receive the drunk driver's "night blindness". Yet the first line quoted above mentions "strangers", so it need not be linked so closely, is more powerful if interpreted as a more general link with others. Certainly, the possibility of more than one interpretation merely lends the work greater strength.

Fitzgerald excels, however, in the long poems such as -Remote Control, which first appeared in an earlier issue of The Black Mountain Review. Here, her literary deftness can be enjoyed at its most advanced.

As Byrne points out, Fitzgerald displays sympathy for and empathy with other people with literary and technical versatility in these poems. Byrne amusingly informs us that Fitzgerald has a predilection for Dublin's famous Forty Foot bathing pool and thus the title Swimming Lessons - while signifying her 'prentice pieces in a first collection - is misleading for "this lady can swim.”