This latest collection of poetry for children by Terry McDonagh is full of vivid colour. Terry´s background and experience in drama shines through the words and brings them to life. His rich perceptive language transports us in time and place and we can´t suppress our empathy when wie discover in ´Dream-Tree-House´everything died except/for swearing and cement´. As well as portaying various themes from a child´s point of view in easy comprehensible language, we experience the child trying to make sense of the adult world in ´The Jail Bird´and ´Why can´t We Have Our Own Gods´. The speaker in the former poem can´t understand why the ex-convict down the street is referred to in such terms, especially when he bears absolutely no resemblance to a bird whatsoever. The young narrator of the latter clearly doesn´t understand the religious prejudice of their elders.
In this collection we see McDonagh´s attempt to bring children´s imaginations alive. The title poem ´Boxes´is an exercise he employs in his workshops, a pragmatic and effective way of delving into the imagination of the young. The astute observations of the poet are never clearer than in ´The Liar´. As a parent and teacher I have come across similar situations many times; the new boy/girl on the block who has ´seen everything… done everything… better at sport… been everywhere´.
We also witness some of McDonagh´s own childhood experiences as in ´The Hunt´. He hints at his literary heritage in ´Among the Dead´; the fact that he hails from Cill Aodáin, the birthplace of the great Gaelic poet Raftery, made a resounding impression on me from the outset. McDonagh certainly keeps the bardic tradition of Mayo to the fore in all of his poetry.
The generation gap is dealt with in a very intelligent yet simple manner in ´New Flares´. Parents are really such an embarrassment and to dare suggest that present trends and fashions were also popular a million years ago when they were young is just simply ridiculous.
Above all else, the humour in this intelligent collection, Boxes, rises like cream to the top whether it be in the cool hip-hop of ´front seats can never be / back seats / and back seats can never be / front seats´or in the nitty gritty of head lice infestations.
Colette Nic Aodha (Inis, The Irish Literary Magazine)