Poems and Prose from Beneath the Reek, by Jonathan Roth

by Eoin Meegan

Jonathan Roth is a retired medical gerontologist who spends his time between Dublin and Westport, Co Mayo. In 2022 Jonathan climbed Croagh Patrick (or the Reek as it known to locals) and a few weeks later wrote a poem about his experience called “Croagh Patrick…… The Reek” (which appeared in NewsFour and a Mayo paper). This spurred him on to write more poems about everyday experiences, such as growing older, changes in life, and the rugged landscape of the West of Ireland.

As well as the title poem this first collection takes a sardonic look at various aspects of life, with the poet’s trademark sly humour never far in the background. In ‘Yanks’ we learn that however much tourism is needed in that region the poet bemoans the fact that he can’t have a quiet pint any more.

Elsewhere, in poems like ‘Ode to a Cancelled Woke’, ‘Intellectual Promiscuity’, ‘The Jargon Invasion’, and ‘Goodbye Respect’, the poet has a pop at modernisms and political correctness gone mad. While ‘Bits Falling Off The Wagon’, and ‘60 … Oh dear’, confronts the thorny subject of reaching the Big 60.

Many of the poems here contrast the bygone days of nostalgia with the never-off mobile phone generation. I think the first time I came across Jonathan Roth was when he submitted ‘Time Has Passed You With A Smile’ to NewsFour’s poetry page, and it still remains one of my favourites to this day. I’m glad to see the poem included here. Another poignant piece is ‘Mary’ recalling the death of the poet’s mother. And in ‘The Irish Queue (Sean)’, dedicated to a friend who has passed over, we read, ‘“I’m sorry for your trouble”, the Irish version of a cuddle’. A languid look at how we Irish deal with expressing emotions. While ‘The Long Goodbye’, which you can read in the current issue (pg. 31), looks at the devastation Alzheimer’s can bring. The poem compares the brain to a train track where some memories get left behind. It’s a temperate balance of compassion and acceptance.

The collection also includes some short stories. Among them is the tale of Lassie, a true story about a dog rescued from abuse who has now found a loving home with the author. Also Beautiful Munster recalls the day Munster defeated the mighty All-Blacks in Thomond Park. A day no man from the South-West will quickly forget.

‘Were you in Thomond Park in ‘78? I was of course, with the other 84,000.’

At times witty, at times off the cuff, but always with the wisdom of age, these seemingly simple poems can unexpectedly touch a place deep inside you that makes you go, I get that.

Aside from the content, the book is also a beautiful object that boasts some lovely images accompanying each poem, along with an attractive layout by Shelly O’ Neill that deserves great credit. It is something you want to have on your coffee table.

“Poems and Prose from Beneath the Reek” by Jonathan Roth, is Roth’s first published collection. At present he is working on his second book of verse. You can order a copy at drjonathanroth@
gmail.com Cost €10 plus postage.