Bone Road in Word and Image
(Arlen House, 2020)
Cover art courtesy of Charlotte Kelly
Bone Road is a great achievement. The words that run through the sequence, stitching it together, are as simple and piercing as the tolling of a bell: upsticks, hunger, gold, heart, home, and bone/bones. But it’s a deceptive simplicity, counterpointed by the array of rhyme schemes, along with found poems, prose poems, conversations. I’m struck by ‘Phthisis’ especially in this Covid time, by ‘Home’ where the Old vs New World is expressed in three small stanzas, by ‘Butter Stamp’ where the homely creation overcomes such pain and by the final poem ‘Bone Road’ with its repeating pattern – an end and a new beginning.
— Charles Fanning, author of The Irish Voice in America
Geraldine Mills’ new collection, Bone Road, is a book length collection of lyric poems engaged with points where national and family history meet. Her imagination, like Emily Dickinson’s and Paul Celan’s, finds its most fertile ground in the smaller and tighter spaces that put the poet’s gifts under the most stress, and where diction, syntax, and technique must be at its most razor sharp. Mills’ short poems are brief narratives finely distilled so that the best is retained though we also, as readers, engage with acts of erasure and suggestion that are central to the letter and the lyric. In this respect, the poems stand as individual works and moments while also providing seeds to grow in the imagination of the reader. Each poem in Bone Road is a breath – of a human being, of a landscape, of hope, of return, of a diaspora. It is a moving, and beautifully crafted act of witness.
— Eamonn Wall, Irish Literary Supplement (USA)
‘The longest day still entering their dawn’ opens the poem ‘Leaving’ in Bone Road. It is a skilled writer who can pack famine, the promise of a new world, and hope into a poetry collection. The power lies in its threads – cotton, loom, bay, and family. Hunger is a longing for place as well as nourishment. Geraldine Mills weaves a tapestry of deprivation and renewal through the actions of her ancestors, imprinted and passed on like her great-grandmother’s butter stamp.
— Lisa C Taylor, author of Impossibly Small Places
Mills succeeds, not only in retrieving the lost parts of her family’s history, but also in retrieving the harrowing experience suffered by the countless numbers who were forced to leave their homeland due to hunger and poverty.
— Des Kenny, Galway Advertiser
In Bone Road, Geraldine Mills has captured the soul and essence of the journey our families embarked on. Certain lines remain in my mind – ‘where the poor sucked stones from the road ... ate their children's hair’. These lines hit me in a way no other description of the famine and the desperation has. And the sadness and longing of her family to return to Ireland is a variation on desperation.
— Maggie O’Brien, great-granddaughter
of Patrick and Cath (Dixon) Monaghan
who shared a house with the author’s family.
This books has two editions, Bone Road (Arlen House, 2019) ISBN 978-1-85132-215-2 and Bone Road in Word and Image (Arlen House, 2020) ISBN 978-1-85132-244-2. They are both available through: Kennys.ie , BookDepository.com and Syracuse University Press (USA)
(Little Island, 2016)
Cover illustration and design: Lauren O’Neill
Gold, which is suitable for boys and girls aged nine years and older, as well as the adventure-loving child in all of us, tells the story of twin boys, Starn and Esper, who are born after their world has been destroyed by massive volcanic explosions. As a result, very little grows in the Orchard territory, which once produced wonderful fruit. Now in the absence of insects and birds they have to use the laborious task of hand-pollination to create a single apple. The skies are quiet because the ash cloud prevents aeroplanes from flying.
When the boys discover an old map in a sealed room in their apartment, which tells of gold on one of the forbidden islands they decide to go in search of it. Since they have no obvious means of transport, they have to be inventive. Developing a glider, they take off on their many adventures and on the way have to surmount numerous obstacles before they finally get their hands on the treasure, which is way beyond their wildest dreams.
— Little Island
‘We were intrigued by the way Geraldine Mills has woven a dystopian adventure for children out of big political and ecological ideas. Also, this book is so beautifully written, and the island-hopping adventure in pursuit of gold is such a classic children’s literature idea, we had to publish it.’
— Siobhán Parkinson, Little Island
‘A truly remarkable book with those elements that touch both children and big children. While there are the ‘grown-up’ concerns in the story; environment, social disarray, financial crisis, etc.; these issues never overwhelm what is at its heart and soul an adventure story. With exceptional crafting and a delicate hand, Mills has created a portrait of an unnerving future world. Gripping and compelling, the boys venture from a world of darkness, regulation enforced by fear and mere survival to one of light, possibility, and freedom. The juxtaposition of the two is explored and balanced perfectly through rhythm and cadence in the text.
The characters are tangible and textural, the relationships ring true. Never too heavy or dark, it is exciting, dramatic and filled with nuance and beauty. Written with clarity, compassion and purpose, Gold is open enough to allow the reader to fully engage; come to his or her own conclusions; paint his or her own pictures in the realms of imagination. An amazing story, filled with life, this book simply sings!’
— Mary Esther Judy, Children's literature specialist. Bookseller
Teacher’s notes to Gold can be found here:
Little Island Book Guides
(Arlen House, 2014)
Cover image courtesy of Pauline Bewick
Hellkite is Geraldine’s third short fiction collection. Here she extends her thematic range to excavate new and shifting landscapes. Not afraid to tackle taboos, Hellkite occupies a space all of its own, where gender and expectations are re-aligned to explore woman’s inhumanity to man. Here we meet women who inhabit the world of the hellkite, who are unfaithful to their men, who treat them with contempt, who lock them away in rooms with little ease. Within these small masterpieces, she shines a high-definition light on such cruelty to create a territory of the unspoken.
Geraldine Mills is a fiction writer of astounding verve and style. Her stories are edgy, vivid, darkly funny and at times, scarifying in a way that is almost primal. In this writer’s world there is no such thing as ordinary life, and we are all the better for it.
It is rare indeed to come across a writer whose prose is so infused with imagery and poetic nuance. At times, it’s like being inside a short movie where the reader takes on a sometimes scary but always beautiful and captivating journey only with no guarantee of a safe arrival. I love these stories – the voice is markedly original and enthralling and there are no words wasted.
– Ferdia MacAnna
Heather Ingman’s A History of the Irish Short Story pays significant attention to the contributions of Irish women writers from Emily Lawless to Edna O’Brien. Elke D’hoker’s Irish Women Writers and the Modern Short Story situates her subjects in relation to the canon while focusing on ‘how their work challenges the norms and orthodoxies of the Irish short story itself.’ Geraldine Mills’ startlingly imaginative collection Hellkite demonstrates this potential for Irish women’s short fiction to both enrich and unsettle our understanding of the genre... With its violent reversal of domestic roles, exploration of female cruelty, and mythic imagination, Hellkite is a rich contribution to a tradition in transition. While Hellkite will surely appeal to those invested in Irish women’s writing and the short story tradition, it should also interest any readers weary with happy endings.
– Sarah Harsh, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
For the full review by Sarah Harsh go to:
Breac - A Digital Journal of Irish Studies
The Other Side of Longing
(Arlen House, 2011)
Cover image courtesy of Russ Taylor
In the summer of 2009, award-winning poet, Lisa C. Taylor, from Connecticut, received a Surdna Foundation Arts Fellowship to travel to Ireland to work with Geraldine. They had struck up a friendship at the Cape Cod Writers Conference the previous year. Working in a little stone cottage in Carna, on the west coast of Ireland, they crafted poems, took long walks, shared life stories and discovered many commonalities.
In October 2009, Geraldine travelled to Connecticut and Lisa organised readings at Arts at the Capitol Theater and at Eastern Connecticut State University where she taught poetry and writing. The Other Side of Longing celebrates this collaboration.
With the Atlantic Ocean as the central metaphor, they explore themes of culture, folklore, flora and fauna through a series of poems of call and response, weaving in and out of their own internal and external landscape. The collaboration is infused with each other’s experience in all its humanity, while retaining the individual voice and lyrical honesty.
The Other Side of Longing was chosen for the Elizabeth Shanley-Gerson Reading at the University of Connecticut, 2011
An Urgency of Stars
(Arlen House, 2010)
Cover art courtesy of Charlotte Kelly
This third collection by Geraldine Mills explores landscapes and inhabitants from Ancient Greece through Cape Cod to pre-and post-Celtic Tiger Ireland. Here we meet ghosts with ‘a hollow of bones on walkabout’, a foxwoman who cries ‘guilt tears’ for leaving her children alone, graves washed out to sea. She does not, however, surrender to a world of such stark truths. While her ‘bones know change the way birds know sky’, she chooses to inhabit a space where ‘it all comes down to light’.
The quietly ambitious poems are replete with journeys at once literal and emblematic, and with observances so attentively and bracingly witnessed they startle on the page with their lived immediacy and human resonance. ‘My bones know change the way birds know the sky… the way the grass knows it, bitten down to the quick,’ she reflects in ‘Changing Ground’. That subtle, encompassing movement from sky to earth, from imagined expanse to blunt particular, bears further witness to her poems’ reliance on the lived detail, their un-showy but sharp intellectual play, their emotional resourcefulness.
– Daniel Tobin
– Mary O’Donnell
The Weight of Feathers
(Arlen House, 2007)
Front cover image courtesy of Gerald Davis
Back cover image courtesy of Ness Kelly
The Weight of Feathers is the second short fiction collection from award-winning writer, Geraldine Mills. The connecting thread between these twelve stories is one of rejection and alienation. Using mythical realism and her keen poetic eye the tiny ‘lacerations of the heart’ are vividly exposed. In the title story a man falls out of the sky. In ‘Cut’, Paul rejects his maleness while in ‘Butcher-Bird’, Hypatia is alienated from ancient society. There are no cosy mother-daughter relationships, only those that are unsettled and unsettling, where redemption is rarely assured.
The fictional world of Geraldine Mills occupies a space all of its own. It is a place where the magical rubs up against the quotidian, where quasi-mythological tales of shape-changers and bird-people are infused with a cannily nuanced modernity, underscored by a wry understanding of the frailty of human condition. Playful, surprising, tender and at times, deeply moving, connected by subtly spun threads of theme and images, it demands to be savoured at leisure, morsal by delicate morsal, rather than devoured in a rush.
– Mia Gallagher
Lick of the Lizard
(Arlen House, 2005)
Front and back cover images courtesy of Joan Hogan
The journey of Geraldine Mills into the world of the short story has earned her many plaudits, and it is clear from this collection why. She shines a high-definition light into the various landscapes of her different characters, so that even her minor actors are presented to us in a very visual way and leave very strong imprints. She brings lyricism to her prose along with a keen sense of how the surreal crops up in everyday life. Her heroes fight constant battles with jealousy, marital disappointment, infidelity and death. Though the themes are dark they are not without humour. Taking the title from her Hennessy award-winning story ‘Lick of the Lizard’ the prose in these nine highly wrought stories sings.
She brought off something which is probably the hardest thing to bring off when you are starting out. Her story had a sense of finish, a sense of arrival, a sense of paying attention to every word in every sentence and indeed in every paragraph of the story. We felt very struck by the temperature of her language. It felt very controlled and new and vibrant. It would stand up to publication anywhere in the world. We're going to hear a lot more of Geraldine Mills.
– Colum McCann
on judging the Hennessy when Mills won
New Writer of the Year 2000
Toil the Dark Harvest
(Bradshaw Books, 2004)
Front cover image courtesy of Joan Hogan
Toil the Dark Harvest is a collection of forty-seven poems, some written as sequences containing up to six sections. The title for the collection comes from the poem ‘Pearl’, one of the many strong memory poems that bind the themes of personal searching and larger myth within the work.
History and myth are here, retellings of stories, often with an oblique, edgy voice: we witness the death of Hypatia, the prophetic feelings of Iphigenia, the drownings at Annaghdown. The writer creates a world in which her own memory and vision fuse with the mythic and the everyday, where a modern mother of Icarus ‘lets go of everyday myth’ to fly.
In these poems, Geraldine Mills is building on the strengths evident in her first collection, Unearthing Your Own, developing her talent as acute observer and as a writer with a clear ability to find the right word and shape it in her own individual way.
– Vincent Woods
– Maurice Harmon
Geraldine Mills is a poet of considerable substance. She is quite frankly astounding in her craftsmanship, her vision and maturity. She is a highly gifted writer.
– Sheila O’Hagan