When Carson says "I write in English, but the ghost of Irish hovers behind it; and English itself is full of ghostly presences," ('The Other') he suggests two influences on his poetry: his bilingual upbringing, and an unusual alertness to language. The poetry is at home in an Irish tradition, able to allude as easily to Louis MacNeice (in 'Snow') as to Pangur Ban (in 'Catmint Tea'). Language itself is also clearly a fascination - he has twice written a sequence through the alphabet, first in the usual letters, then in the police radio alphabet. But he also shows language being used to enforce, to spy, and - broken into its almost meaningless constituent parts - to commit physical violence, when the bomb in 'Belfast Confetti' is loaded with not only ironmongery but "a fount of broken type." Violence, or its effects, often makes an appearance in Carson's poetry, whether this is found in historical warfare or the more recent conflicts of Northern Ireland. Indeed, Carson's use of the street names of Belfast that allude to these battles - "Balaclava, Raglan, Inkerman, Odessa Street" - underlines the violence of the Troubles. But there is still play here, as in the perspectiveless litany of 'Fear'.
The poems on this CD represent both the long, fluent line characteristic of Carson's earlier work, and the spikier delivery of his more recent poetry's brittle, briefer form; his reading puts across the natural flow of the former, or the weight of each word in the latter, in composed Belfast tones. It's a voice that emphasises, without histrionics, the reality of the content.
His recording was made on 29 April 2003 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.