Limerick-born Tim Cunningham's third poetry collection, Kyrie, is firmly rooted in nineteen fifties' Ireland - De Valera's Ireland - a place and time, apparently so distant now, when religion permeated almost every aspect of life. And it is the lives that are celebrated here, with their pieties, loves, frustrations and hopes, the perennial human condition woven into the sacraments and liturges of the everyday.
From reviews on Kyrie:
'I really like his cherishingly iconclastic style' Mark Patrick Hederman, Glenstal Abbey
'In Ireland at least, it is rare to find a poet who treats religious topics objectively yet sympathetically, and so it was something of a surprise to find by accident the collection of poetry by Tim Cunningham entitled Kyrie. These superbly crafted poems find their inspiration in Catholic culture, both Irish traditional and (in all its brokeness) modern. The poet interprets life in terms of Catholic liturgy and Catholic liturgy in terms of everyday life. They inspire and move the reader. Like all true art that expresses the universal in the particular, they will find an echo beyond the shores of Ireland" Fr. D. Vincent Twomey, Professor of Moral Theology at Maynooth, 'Best Books of 2008'
'The mad concept: assemble poems, 81 in total, each of which treats a single aspect of post-war urban Roman Catholic worship. By the book's end, every molecule of dark Limerick churches as experienced by a child has been recollected. But these glints alone would not make Kyrie the tour-de-force that it is. The relevant feature of the book is the deep shadows of its humanity. People in church; the architecture and decor of churches; of objects used in worship . . . There isn't a false note in any of this. Everything is poised, exactly, on the cusp of a smile, a tear and a scream. Above all, Kyrie is a series of poems about people's lives. "Before Kyrie, I often regretted the hours, days, years collectively that I spent kneeling in church for I was never quite sure what reasons. Thanks to this book, I can retroactively value the experience, lit up as it is by this man's poetry. The clearer he writes, the more haunting the poem. I still can't figure out how he does that.' Richard Halperin
THERE is often the sear of religion through Tim Cunningham’s work. The Limerick writer’s perspectives vary wonderfully: iconic and iconoclastic, reverent, doubting. He is a shrewd observer of change.
Cunningham has a way of locking in the temporal world of bricks, the tea-time table, a butcher’s apron, even smells from a tannery, with the great abstracts.
In ‘On Hold’, he finds himself waiting for a sense of connection in chapel alone with his Maker. Who hasn’t dialled a prayer? Time but not hope elapses with his number not ringing through the Exchange. The sanctuary lamp is lit, but not for our chap. Not today. It is a tender, wry admission.
‘Eviction’ is another work-like metaphor and exploration of loss. The tone is bemused in this report of an old Ireland and Church making way for new, or for nothing at all. We are none the wiser and there is a complete lack of judgement in Tim Cunningham’s account. He’s far too smart.
Rose Rushe, Poem of the Day, Limerick Post, 29th January 2016