Click image to order
Never miss a post
Your email address:*
Please enter all required fields
Correct invalid entries


« The Peter Pan Syndrome: "I am Charlie Brown" [by Joe Lehman] | Main | A Few of my Favorite Blurbs [by Alan Ziegler] »

December 10, 2023


I love Kathleen’s poetry. I can hear the tunes and see them dancing now!

a stream
Ah yes!

"of flute, soft and absurd

as sheep would be, grazing in Bayview Park.

Yet there's more beneath"

LOVE this poem!

Beautiful sound in this poem as Terence says, rolling for a good length and changing along the way.

I enjoyed the remarkable word power here creating an intensity of inside experience. A kind of dance in the head.

I am a great fan of Irish dancing. It is exhilarating and "there's more beneath." (There are videos on youtube of little Irish children dancing at recitals and it is so endearing and fun to watch.)

Yes, that was what it was like.


What a fabulous poem. You can hear the music!

Wonderful poem and terrific artwork. I love it


I love how the music swells to deep sorrow

Oops I was typing in the dark. I love how the music swells to a deep sorrow.

I love the lyrical cadence of this poem and the way it unfolds stanza by stanza. I also like the form; it fits the subject. A lovely poem, Kathleen—I enjoyed reading it.

It’s no easy feat to capture convincingly in two-dimensional prose all the multi-sensory, kinetic power of great music inspiring and sustaining spirited dance. But Kathleen O’Toole’s “Those Reels” does exactly that. Her two-word title serves as an exhalation of pinch-me pleasure and even perplexity over the miracle unfolding on the dance floor. She describes that miracle in stanzas serving as movements in the dance and what those movements elicit from the dancers themselves. “Billy’s accordion” (that is, Billy McComiskey, the Brooklyn-born, Baltimore resident, All-Ireland senior button accordion champion of 1986) sets everything into motion. The rhythm of the accordion dovetails with the rhythm of the dancers, and vice versa, each dependent on the other and together forming a single, swaying, exciting, holistic motion: “a circle of arms / now twining” amid “the glistening of flushed / faces.” But O’Toole is not just limning the joys of Irish traditional music and dance. She acknowledges how “So out of place / in the city, these tunes / when they spill out / over the urgent bass / of sidewalk rap, above / the din of tin cans / and scrap in a pushcart.” Yes, the music and dance in her poem evoke far more pastoral than urban sensations. Yet she does not flinch from stating that even the sounds of flute (“there’s more beneath / this breath”) and fiddle (“a fire: grief”) can culminate in “a dance / on the exile’s grave.” In nine triplets and a concluding couplet, O’Toole distills and delivers with stunning immediacy and skill an Irish-American cultural past and present conjured by “Those Reels.”

By the way, the juxtaposition of Tomas O’Maoldomhnaigh’s artwork could not be better.

Now click on--or copy and paste into your browser--the link below to hear “Billy’s accordion” on “The Collier’s / Miss Thornton’s / The Concert” reels from his 2008 album OUTSIDE THE BOX:

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

click image to order your copy
That Ship Has Sailed
Click image to order
BAP ad
"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


  • StatCounter