New and Selected Poems
Irish emigrant poet Mairéad Byrne’s provocative and unhinged You Have to Laugh showcases, for the first time in one volume, more than twenty years of groundbreaking poetry that ranges from taut lyrics, sustained narratives, prose and occasional poems, to high-wired sound texts. Byrne’s brash energy, wry quips, and engaged bittersweet critiques of the overinflated language of consumerism and world-weariness elevate these poems from the laugh-out-loud funny toward understated pathos. The way the work integrates high cultural references with spoken-word intensity, while the syntax swerves with wildly varied diction, is sure to attract a wide audience even as it undermines easy categorization.
I think what I like most about Byrne’s poetry is that it makes me laugh like a monkey (baring my teeth, mad with fear, involuntary, like something being electrocuted) and like a human being (subsiding into my chair, telephoning someone to read it to them straight away) at the same time.
Mairéad Byrne’s poetry is linguistically dazzling, each poem a tactile ecstasy.