Constanza

Robert. A Welch

About the book…

Iron sorrow wrung his poor
exhausted heart, drove a shockwave
from his stomach to his eyes all
full of tears. He opened wide his arms
to hold his mother, found
she was the river.

­ from ‘Lost to Those Waters’

Written in the aftermath of the death of his son, Egan, in 2007, Robert Welch’s Constanza is a sustained meditation on loss and mortality.

The painful candour of the poems is balanced by an inherent artistic tact to produce a collection which is both formal, yet attentive to the pain of sorrow.

Colouring the poems is the figure of Ovid in exile ­ himself in mourning for a life he feels has left him behind; Ovid's voice permeates the tone of the collection and Welch produces a re-imagining of the poet’s exile in Tomis, on the outer reaches of the empire (modern day Constanza in Romania) and a re-working of some of the Roman poet's elegies to produce a work of imaginative flux where past and present engage in an affecting dialogue.

While the loss of Egan remains central to the collection, Welch broadens his
reveries into the loss of friends, mentors, colleagues and figures of public resonance.

Eschewing sentimentality, the elegies of Constanza are not only moving but
teeming with vitality and life.

Photo of the author, Robert. A Welch

About the author…

Robert Anthony Welch was born in 1947 in Cork. Educated at University College, Cork and the University of Leeds, he went on to becoming one of Ireland’s literary scholars. He currently is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Ulster. As a scholar his most famous work is The Oxford Commpanion to Irish Literature. He is the general editor for Colin Smythe’s Ulster Monographs series.

As a poet, he has published five volumes: Muskerry (1991), Secret Societies (1997), The Blue Formica (1999), The Evergreen Road (2004) and Constanza (2010).

He has published three books of fiction: The Kilcolman Notebook (1994), Tearmann (in Irish, 1997) and Groundwork (1997). He has also written dramatic pieces, notably the one-man show Protestants (2004), produced by the Belfast-based Ransom Productions.

A book of biographical and critical studies, Japhy Ryder: Ar Shleasaibh Na Mangartan, won the Oireachtes (Ireland's premier Gaelic cultural agency) prize for prize in 2011.

His most recent publication, Kicking the Black Mamba: Life, Death, Alcohol and Death (2012), a memoir of his dead son Egan who drowned in 2007, was published by Darton, Longman and Todd.

Other editorial work included Patrick Galvin: New and Selected Poems(with Greg Delanty, 1996). This volume includes notes and an introduction jointly authored. He also wrote the introduction toRogha Danta/Death in the Land of Youth: New and Selected Poems of Seán Ó Tuama(1997).

Robert Welch died in 2013.