Dark Art of Darning, The / Moya Roddy

Write a Review








A search for connection and pattern underpins Moya Roddy’s second collection, the opening sequence of poems delving deep into family life, particularly the longing and grief for parents who through circumstances or temperament were often unpredictable or unavailable. Even in memory they cannot be pinned down: rather like butterflies they spread beautiful wings one moment, only to show a dark underside the next. Broadening her lens, she explores the fragile and fractured terrain of loss and change within community: neighbours gathered around a bonfire of old house timbers only to realise the significance of what they’re burning; cocaine falling like snow in remote villages. There’s gentle humour in the consternation caused when a house which has been traditionally white is painted turquoise by blow-ins or when women compete to produce the most babies for Ireland. A feeling of joy infuses poems about the natural world even as poppies rear their heads in defiance of concrete. Deceptively simple, The Dark Art of Darning is an emotionally complex collection in which carefully distilled poems reveal their insights slowly. 


“In The Dark Art of Darning Moya Roddy deftly explores the immensely complex web and weft of family affections, with all its tendernesses and searing contradictions. At times she focuses on the most humdrum of objects — a fine comb or a pair of kitchen forks— to evoke the powerful, unexpressed emotions of  childhood.  At other times her fine observations of the teeming natural life in her garden: owls, a shrew, a baby thrush or, intriguingly, ‘Schrödinger’s Hedgehog’, lead us to small, powerful epiphanies.  A short group of poems explore the experience of pandemic lockdown reminding us of how the silences alerted us to a beauty that would otherwise have passed unheard :— ‘This year the choirs are in the hedgerows/ singing, singing, singing……/They are singing our Hallelujah/ They are singing our Requiem/They are singing their hearts out’.” 

          Moya Cannon


“In The Dark Art of Darning Moya Roddy deploys a seamstress's skill in stitching together memory, family history, loss. Past and present is summoned in fresh and vivid tones, with a clear-eyed gaze that eschews sentimentality. This collection is fluent, moving, and full of generous insights into the human condition. A pleasure to read.” 

          Jessica Traynor

An Excerpt from Rita Ann Higgins' Launch Introduction Speech for The Dark Art of Darning at Charlie Byrne's Bookshop, Galway, April 2024
"I found the ‘The Dark Art of Darning’ intriguing and often times unsettling. Be awake, be wide awake reading these apparently easy-going poems. They often have a sting in the tail, yet the delivering voice is calm and reasonable, nonchalant even. We experience many tentative moments in this vibrant collection. The little voice rises up from a gentle whisper to a crescendo. The poet is never screaming but someone is shouting between the lines.  Childhood memories represent one view but there’s always something else.  It’s the little ingredients that make the poems as strong as they are and they are well built poems.  Minefields are always just a word away. As in the title poem The Dark Art of Darning where “by dint of some dark art/ holes that were no longer his but mine”. 
     The collection proffers city poems, café poems, new roof poems, poems of caution, words and after-words; life lesson poems, health shop poems, earth-bound poems, a poem for shifting sands and for starting college; lighthouses so perfectly aligned that from a distance only one is visible. 
But it’s the poems about parents that are most enthralling, most entangled, most daring. 
     Moya Roddy consistently debunks the magic that might exist between father and daughter, mother and daughter. She can follow a pattern alright, and when the pattern is missing she goes with the running stitch. The dropped stitch is also a feature – the giveaway line – the mending way. 
In The Dark Art of Darning, Moya Roddy has given us a very insightful collection of poems."