Test, Orange is Cherry Smyth’s third collection of poetry. Her two previous collections, When the Lights Go Up, 2001 and One Wanted Thing, 2006, were published by Lagan Press. Cherry was selected for Best of Irish Poetry, 2008, Southword Editions and The Watchful Heart: A New Generation of Irish Poets, Salmon Press, 2009 and has been widely published in magazines. She was commended in the UK National Poetry Competition, 2010. She is a visual arts critic and lectures in poetry at the University of Greenwich.
From Alison Brackenbury’s review in Poetry Review:
“Cherry Smyth’s poetry has an extraordinary quality, expressed in the title of her first poem, ‘Transparency’. Smyth’s listener or reader is rewarded by remarkable variety. Formally, Test, Orange ranges from haiku to prose poems. It challenges the intellect…It is deeply reflective…But it also echoes a primitive rawness…the poems are side-lit by beauty…They are courageous…She is a restless, prolific poet whose work pulses wonderfully with both sex and art…throughout, her meaning remains transparent.”
‘Cherry Smyth’s poems are precise, tough and full of passion. Whether writing about visual art, war, desire or aging, Smyth doesn’t shy from the world, but embraces it in all its brokenness, confused beauty and pain. Test, Orange continues the poet’s dream to convey the truth at all costs, to take risks, break rules, run red lights. Her poems leave us breathless, at times bruised, but more alive, in the centre of her, our own, lives. Smyth’s work fulfills her own credo: to have the strength to do the heart justice.’
‘These distinctive poems speak with great clarity about things which are often hard to say. Compassionate, self-questioning, sometimes shocking, Cherry Smyth’s work pays the world close attention, exploring the varied connections between human beings, both those that enrich and those that damage. With their vivid locations, the poems are alive with film, food, love, politics and fable. They are never less than fully committed, unafraid of acknowledging the joy or injury involvement might bring.’
‘Cherry Smyth’s poetry not only values the abstract but often contemplates the valuing of self. She is uncompromising in her use of her chosen subject matter, often unflinching in her language. Smyth brings her experience as art critic to her work as a poet where serious subjects are given serious attention.
Throughout the book, Cherry Smyth reminds us of the ‘bright anomaly’ that is poetry. How it makes us present, informs a life. Many of these poems are rigorously disciplined, concentrated, and use description with both delight and a depth of understanding.’
From Test, Orange:
Still Life at 44
In your office, one afternoon, you pointed
across the yard to an empty house, windows
boarded up inside, one bay window open at the top.
A grey blear hunched behind the pane.
‘It’s birds,’ you said. ‘They fly in and can’t get out.’
Then the shapes became distinct, the pile
of pressed feathers, furred hats without heads.
I imagined their efforts, flapping below flight,
beating, beaten back.
‘I’ve been over there,’ you said,
‘flung stones to try and break the glass.’
Months later, I watched them move
your arms, stretch your legs, change
the feed in your nose. Your eyes flew
round the room after the trapped words.
I reached for your hand,
waited for the shatter.