Judy Ireland’s poetry benefits from the verdancy and barefaced authenticity of the Midwest’s working class culture, which keeps her work grounded and focused in the ordinary world, where extraordinary ideas reside with great subtlety and power. Her work is also influenced by the lush excesses of South Florida, where she currently lives and works. Her poems have appeared in Calyx, Saranac Review, Eclipse, Cold Mountain, Hotel Amerika, and other journals.
Cement Shoes, Winner of the 2013 Sinclair Prize
by Judy Ireland
Early in Judy Ireland’s debut collection, in “Lot’s Wife,” the speaker laments “how unfair it was/to turn her into a pillar of salt when all she was doing/was looking.” Daring to look back carries risks—whether it’s seeing an Iowa landscape where “Seven AM hog reports on the radio” become a young girl’s “cement shoes” or a father who “voted for Nixon” and whose “shame for me/was a big flashlight” nonetheless lives on “in the dim sun/of my yearning”—but so does looking at the present carry risk, for a lover may suddenly announce as if she were “someone saying, ‘I’m partial to strawberries’” that she’s “afraid of dying.” Risk is everywhere in this collection—the rewards are these wonderful poems. —Stephen Gibson, author of Rorschach Art Too, 2014 Donald Justice Prize winner
Judy Ireland grew up wild with her sisters and their corn silk hair, barefoot in the dark Iowa earth. In the title poem of this beautiful collection, Cement Shoes, we hear the poet’s brother from his Harley tell her, … “your soul is different,/ your soul is full of books, / and your feet are in cement shoes.” He couldn’t be more right … cement carrying the landscape of Iowa, the land, the creeks, the earth, and the girls growing up among the rows of corn, whose “hair hung down, crazy silks among the rows; / banshees in the corn, …/. Here are lines that resonate long after reading these strong and radiant poems envisioned with an eye as clear as you might imagine an Iowa sky sees in reflection. Here is a poet grounded in her Iowa as in her poems … observant, wry and beautiful lines that weave to water’s edge, from Dry Run Creek, to New Orleans, to New York and back to Iowa … the poet tells us, “I have come so far from Iowa / only to find it in my body. / The blackest dirt on earth and I am every inch and acre of it./ bones planted deep, where no light nor rain can reach. The tall corn grows … and still my hair grows / like prairie.” This wildness pressing the edges of her lines, compels the poet’s voice in this gorgeous body of work. —Susan R. Williamson, Director, Palm Beach Poetry Festival, author of Burning After Dark, winner of the Hannah Kahn 25th Anniversary Chapbook Prize
Read a selection from Cement Shoes: Growing Girls in Iowa 47; My Father Voted for Nixon 48; Arguing about Chaos 49; Lot’s Wife 50; Snowbirds 52; My Sisters in Iowa 53; Farm Woman with Shotgun 54 from