Three flags fly above the Baptist church
ready for July Fourth. The sign proclaims
THIS SUNDAY: PATRIOTIC SERMON.
The poems in (Un)belonging explore physical and psychological spaces, examining the consequences of a life lived on three continents, defined by separation from homelands and loved ones, shaped by departure and return, and the evolution and multiplication of identity. Throughout the collection, the setting continually moves from Australia to Ireland to the United States, making stops in England, Iceland, Greece, Italy, New Zealand and Slovakia. O’Reilly’s poetry engages with a range of concerns and obsessions, including identity, belonging, expatriation, immigration, exile, ancestry, landscape, alienation, homesickness, suburbia, fatherhood, nostalgia, death and grief … finding beauty, contentment and joy amidst an elusive quest for home.
Read Colin Dardis’s review of (Un)belonging here.
Read Matthew Bulfer review of (Un)belonging in Westerly here
“O’Reilly grapples with the sense of unfamiliarity in a place that was once familiar to him- somewhere he used to feel at home, and now, having been gone so long, he feels like an outsider…” – Kendalyn McKisick in Antipodes, volume 33, issue 2 (Dec. 2019), p. 443-445.
The keenly observed poems in (Un)belonging are palpable with tension, the push-pull between dislocation and home-making. O’Reilly’s poems build, image upon acute image, each line freighted: longing, history, heartsickness and critique. Politically attuned and poignantly playful, this is O’Reilly’s best yet. (Un)Belonging is a wonderful collection of poems.
– Alex Lemon
Even in its quieter moments, Nathanael O’Reilly’s latest poetry collection, (Un)belonging, is a triumph of constant forward-driven momentum, interweaving exquisite, wryly witty and gloriously cinematic, often sensuous, imagery with captivating story-telling, razor-sharp syntax, arresting juxtapositions and perfectly-paced rhythms. Painting vivid depictions of the landscapes he traverses and inhabits¾including a scathing portrait of suburban America¾the poet threads his great love of family and friendships throughout his narratives. The universal traveller, O’Reilly slips easily into ancestral cadences, gliding between worlds with an ever-present longing. There is a deep and constant reverence and sensitivity here to his impact in the world, whether cultural, ecological, interpersonal, or regarding our own precarious mortality, although he does not shy away from the (sometimes explosively) political.
– Anne Casey
Nathanael O’Reilly’s brilliant collection (Un)Belonging reminds us that when at our best, we belong to the world at large, while fiercely holding our family and friends close to our hearts. A truly global poet, O’Reilly showcases the sometimes-fraught sense of twenty-first-century existence on earth with its thorny entanglements and cultural intransigence, countered by an abiding love bigger than continents or even time itself, and an interdependence without flags or borders. (Un)Belonging belongs in World Literature, and on every bookshelf of those who strive to see beyond the blinders of their own arbitrary limitations.
– Matt Hohner
O’Reilly encounters the world with the carefulness of a spy or a professional eavesdropper. Here are poems that notice the moment, all the time documenting the strangeness of the landscape in which our lives unfold. What does it mean to belong? In what states of being do our various lost and found selves exist? This exciting new collection bears witness to the pilgrim nature of a life that might be ours, and the timely question of how a person becomes remembered, in time and space, through the eyes of others. History is a foretold territory that stretches out of the past and far ahead into the distance… As always, O’Reilly is a compelling and expert navigator along the road.
– Annemarie Ní Churreáin