BOOKS

THE  CENTURY  COLLECTION

BY RAdical ROoney


The Century Collection is published by Authorhouse, and is available from all large booksellers like Borders or Waterstones; there are many other outlets, like “Tesco” but perhaps Amazon is the best value, and E-bay even sell second hand first editions. It is also available as an E-book, in many countries, including India and South Africa.  The Hardback copy is ISBN 978-1-4343-9173-5 and Softback copy  ISBN 978-1-4343-9172-8 .What follows is a review, for Foreword Magazine, in the States,  by the critic Tom Mercer in 2009.

For the Hungry and the Homeless

The poet earns the nickname “Radical” by refusing to compomise in his rhetoric, while observing suffering through the  eyes of a multitude of victims and persecutors.

Nearly all these poems are based on broad categories; Life, Love, Tragedy, Poverty,Praise and so on. the poet prefers to write about specific actual events, including Hiroshima’s destruction by the “Enola Gay” and the Kings cross Tube tragedy, which is commemorated in a poem Prince Charles is said to have liked.

The poet doesn’t shy away from indicting a host of villains ( by name ) with his pen, or commemorating good people who met early demises. The explanatory notes that accompany so many of the poems provide grounding content for each, notably improving comprehension and enjoyment.

Some of the least affected pieces are less about mass tragedies or widespread societal problems than they are about the despair of individuals. No one has ever erected a statue to those unfortunate enough to have survived failed eye-surgery, but Radical Rooney puts the reader squarely inside the head of someone in that position in “Dark for Me” ;

“When at noon the sun lit my life with fear, it was still dark

And all that I could see, were dark explosions of mystery”

Walt  Whitman’s ebullient feeling of nostalgia in “Once I passed through a Populous City”  is turned inside out in Rooney’s  “The Runaway”;

“As he stalked along the street, I saw his frightened face

When he entered slow this city, devoid of love or pity”

Though some poems ring of wonder or urge faith in God, outrage is most prevalent, and Rooney’s outrage has an unfortunate tendency to steamroll the artistic balance. Some members of the IRA, animal testers at cosmetic companies, war-loving Generals and others the poet opposes aren’t outlined in complex portraits of positive qualities vying with flaws.  Instead their unadulterated villainy is reinforced to the maximum, creating cartoonish figures who relish destruction .

His imaginative turns of phrase are arranged carefully enough, and he truly stands out for a limitless concern for all sorts of downtrodden classes and luckless bystanders.  Rooney sees pain as unavoidable, writing, “We must all suffer,—For without pain there can’t be—Any compassion”, as one of his Haiku.  Cheers to this voice for the voiceless.         By  Todd Mercer.