ADAM WHITE / ACCURATE MEASUREMENTS
The only Irish poetry collection to be shortlisted for the 2013 Forward Prize for Poetry
Accurate Measurements signals the arrival of a voice that is boisterous yet articulate, and one both poised and playful in its singularity.
— Billy Ramsell
Cover photo: Diarmuid Russell
ADAM WHITE is from Youghal, in east Cork. He worked for many years as a carpenter/joiner before developing an interest in teaching. At present he works in a secondary school in France. Accurate Measurements, his debut collection, grew out of a poem that he wrote for the North Beach Poetry Nights’ slam in the Crane Bar, in April 2009. The poems that followed were written in Galway, Cork, Angers in France and most recently rural Normandy. Accurate Measurements was the only Irish publication to be shortlisted for the Forward Prize in 2013.
The first thing you do is check the building for square.
Below, hoary-headed masons, who’ve never laid
eyes on you, tidy away tools, shove lukewarm
bottles of stout between tight lips
and spy you prizing the dumb harmony
left by the lump hammer, trowel and plumb line,
slung to the bottom of an old tool-box-cum-stool
snapped shut just in time for lunch.
Depending on the weather, deal wall plates
slap or clonk into place. They’re butted together,
and what’s sticking out’s trimmed
by the teeth of a savage oil-spitting chain.
A ridge poll is offered up to the empty heavens.
But lean rafters, like joined hands, are
raised in reverence to Pythagoras,
who was one of us.
Now crackling felt is rolled out, bobbling along a lath.
With a pencil poised on one ear, you make your way
to the apex, careful not to puncture this sealed hold
of silence inside: quiescence to be sold, owned and passed
down to the youngest son.
Take your time as you alight from the lashed ladder,
hit the ground before the evening’s first rain;
tomorrow you will do it all again.
She will only say the new stove
was delivered and fitted for
a song, that the coalmen prove
novel, labouring on the yard’s steps
and cramped path bearing bags, nursing
them overhead and down onto their breasts
to feed the bunker half a ton.
But I only see her lugging
buckets, the skin round her thumbs
react to dust, hear on a cold
morning what the doctor said about
porous hip bones and then behold
my mother stoking up a house.