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ISBN 978-1-909585-02-7
First published November 2014; 96 pp paperback with endpapers; 198 x 129 mm
£8.99

Dan O’Brien, author of War Reporter (CBe 2013; winner of the Fenton Aldeburgh Prize for a first collection of poetry) and New Life (CBe, 2015) is an American playwright and poet living in Los Angeles.




 
 
Dan O’Brien  Scarsdale
 

     Down beneath river past strangers to rise

     and sit in the maritime pews with all
     midnight mass aglow below and hearing
     nothing of the remonstrating sermon
     but in love with my self and this young stray's life
                    ‘Greenwich / Isle of Dogs’

In Scarsdale Dan O’Brien applies to his own early life the same honesty and insight that were evident in his prize-winning War Reporter. Growing up in a family scarred by past trauma, he makes a bid for freedom – ‘in love with myself and this young stray’s life’ – only to be pulled back into the orbit of the place he had sought to escape. Gradually, possibilities for a more lasting change unfold.

‘Dan O’Brien’s poems are powerful and stripped down, but they expand in the mind long after they’ve been read. As in War Reporter, O’Brien captures the reflective gentleness that exists amid the damage of experience, and survives it.’
– Patrick McGuinness

‘Dan O’Brien’s direct and sometimes stark but never simplistic poems explore the difficult complexities of boyhood, and growing up, and growing older. The painful loveliness of O’Brien’s language reveals the confusions and aspirations of the self, and the self among others, and the perilous world beyond the self.’
– Lawrence Raab

‘Dan O’Brien has found what Frost once called “the sound of sense”, has caught the language of people, stripped that language to its bare bones, rattled those bones in ways that make a wrenching but beautiful music. Moving through his American childhood into adulthood, through a wide world shattered by broken people, he finds redemption everywhere and it’s a gift to his readers. O’Brien supplies the satisfactions of a rare imagination at work, a poet who has taken risks, exposing his deep anxieties, finding himself again and again.’
– Jay Parini

‘There are mysteries and thoughts locked deep within these poems and the questions and wounds in each will remain fresh, the complexity of emotion and narrative unfaded. Slowly, steadily, Scarsdale draws you into its world, so full of suffering and cruelty and yet a strange kind of hope and by the end even catharsis … O’Brien must be commended for his great bravery in releasing these poems into the world but there will definitely be some who find this collection too painfully confessional. Beyond its complex biographical considerations, however, Scarsdale is in essence a struggle to find the beauty and meaning of memories where beauty and meaning should not exist: this is poetry which you simply have to hear again.’
     – Jeremy Gordon, The Quietus (for the full review and an interview with Dan O’Brien about Scarsdale, go
here)

Scarsdale is a masterclass in how to engage with memory and make of it something honest, an individual story yet also something universal.’
     – Andrea Porter, Ink Sweat and Tears

From reviews of War Reporter:

‘I commend this work for its great originality, courage and humanity.’
     – Fergal Keane

‘A masterpiece of truthfulness and feeling, and a completely sui generis addition not just to writing about war but to contemporary poetry’
     – Patrick McGuinness, Guardian

‘The subject of this book is war and the pity of war – distilled into very powerful poems that are all the more affecting thanks to their clever and restraining use of personae. At once direct and detached, they make the whole notion of “response” as much a focus of their attention as the facts of conflict. It’s a distinguished achievement.’ 
     – Andrew Motion

This book of poetry is powerful, inventive, and utterly original in the way it plumbs the numbing horror of being a witness to war. A collaboration between O’Brien and Canadian war reporter Paul Watson, who won the Pulitzer prize for his photograph of a dead U.S. soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, War Reporter is visceral, disturbing, at times consoling, and always honest. O’Brien’s work is an incredible achievement. Anyone who cares about how we go to war – and how we return – must read it.’
Slate