Star Strangled Banner: Book Review

County Waterford Countryside Near Dungarvan, Ireland: Photo by Jorge 1767

By  Dan O’Donnell

When I respond well to a poet’s work I try to understand why. In Dan O’Donnell’s “Star Strangled Banner”, I don’t have to search long for a reason. His poetry resonates with a yearning that echoes in every heart that ever left home. His yearning is not merely for a home but for a past. And in this, his work is universal.

The Irish flavor of Mr. O’Donnell’s work is inescapable. He is “Paddy”, “born from the sod”, working the sod and, finally, dying and being buried “under the sod”. Mr. O’Donnell’s poetry extends to subjects besides his Irish roots. There’s age, and love, hard labor and the burden of corpulence. But it is his Irish-themed poetry that affects me most. Perhaps that’s because my mother-in-law was from Roscommon and spoke often of the hard early years when she would cut peat to burn in the fire. The grand houses she passed on the way to school were remote from the reality of her life.

Mr. O’Donnell’s last poem, “Ireland”, is my favorite and it is a perfect ending piece. “Although I have nearly always been in exile…my mind is free to send me back,” he begins.” He writes, “Every day is long with the stranger.”  However, he continues, clear memory “of a far-off past eases my yearning and helps me to send in the day.”

Though pleasing and well-crafted, his poetry falls short for me in only one respect. He strains at times to find a rhyme. The rhyme is not essential and gives an occasional poem a forced quality. However, this minor point does not detract from the overall quality of his work.

Take the time to read Dan O’Donnell’s “A Star Strangled Banner”.  It would be a hard heart indeed that could not take pleasure in this poetry.

A. G. Moore  1/8/2017

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