Mark Ulyseas – Book review of Lady Cassie Peregrina

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Lady Cassie Peregrina by Terry McDonagh – book review by Mark Ulyseas

IMG_8495Lady Cassie Peregrina by Terry McDonagh, Irish Poet, Playwright and Writer arrived in the post many months ago. But it was just last month that I got down to reading it. The brush stroke of words paints a montage of familial images, of church yards, of grave stones and of filigree images of dog and man thoughts playing hide and seek between stanzas.

Is this book of poems really about Cassie the Border collie? Or is Cassie a metaphor for a lost childhood…the wonders of Nature, of fishing and running barefoot in a meadow with wind eddies playing with the mind of a young boy tuned in to the rhythms of the elements? Or is there something darker, lurking, waiting to ambush the reader when the book is put down?

They’re not scared of me – they don’t
have to be. I learned not to bark
in my previous home where I was
beaten for being a dog and dumped.
Sometimes when I wake in a mess of sweat,
I imagine I have another name – not Cassie.
I try not to peep over my shoulder into the past.
                                                              –  I am Cassie

Who is speaking? The dog or the poet as an eight year old? Is this abandoned dog, retrieved from hell and brought home by the poet and his family an attempt to assuage the memories of those innocent years? The longing to return home

but here are the fields with words waiting to be tilled.
We’re on a slope upwards. The further I get from home
the closer I get to it. Here is the womb that bore me
and might be the tomb I will return to. Why do I say this?
                                                             –  Resuming

Perhaps Cassie is the link between the tenses – Past of the poet, the Present with his beloved wife and son living in no man’s land, and the Future – the hope of returning to a place that was once his home to rest his weary soul.

This morning, on foot, I circled the Alster
with a friend – marvelling at water –
wondering if home was a matter of the heart
in a no man’s land of weeping or
not weeping in everyman’s land of spring.
                                                            – The Full Circle

Lady Cassie Peregrina is a glimpse of the lifepath of Terry McDonagh. He has cleverly woven his own childhood with that of Cassie and created a beautiful narration that forces the reader to acknowledge the sanctity and pathos of childhood memories, and to seek redemption from the vagaries of adulthood by returning to the wonders of the womb, a euphemism for the innocence of childhood.

Truly an inspiring collection of poems for those that have become jaded by the ebb and flow of daily modern life and who are in need of an elixir to rejuvenate a numb life.

For the poet, Cassie in a way has brought him full circle.
Face to face with himself and a chance to balance the sheets.

© Mark Ulyseas


Ulyseas has served time in advertising as copywriter and creative director selling people things they didn’t need, a ghost writer for some years, columnist of a newspaper, a freelance journalist and photographer. In 2009 he created Live Encounters Magazine, in Bali, Indonesia. It is a not for profit (adfree) free online magazine featuring leading academics, writers, poets, activists of all hues etc. from around the world. Live Encounters Poetry & Writing was launched in March 2017.

His is author of three books – RAINY: My Friend & PhilosopherSeductive Avatars of Maya: Anthology of Dystopian Lives, and, In Gethsemane: Transcripts of a Journey.

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