Orange Horses by Maeve Kelly
How brilliant that Tramp Press, in their Reclaimed Voices series, are reprising the voice of Maeve Kelly and her 1990 collection. How absolutely brilliant that those misogynistic, prejudiced days are over. A lifelong feminist and activist, Kelly founded the first battered wives refuge in Ireland. As well as being mother, farmer’s wife, qualified nurse and most recently a published poet, Kelly was, and is, uniquely placed to write from the woman’s perspective in the days when half the population drank the wages on Friday then staggered home to beat up their wives. Initially the big reviewers were snooty; this was “woman’s stuff”, Kelly was “piling on” the agony. In truth Kelly is wonderful at moving from the savage viscerality of traveller misogyny and violence in the titular story, to the delicate, devastating build of The Last Campaign as farmer and wife digest the loss of their beloved herd. Not all the stories are entirely successful but all of them are authentic palimpsests, from our very recent, brutal past. Simon Workman, currently preparing a biography, provides an excellent introduction.