The Good Book Review (Or how I never learned to stop worrying)

Writers are readers. We all have that story of the First Book, the one we fell in love with, the one we still own even now as the cover falls off and the pages are a suspicious shade of yellow. We could talk about those books for days and not be done with them.

Yet being a book lover and being a book critic are two different things. As I’ve grown as a writer, I’ve also grown as a reader. Now, when I read, I search for more than just good characters doing cool stuff in fancy plots. Increasingly I’m searching for something beyond myself, a book which takes me somewhere I had never considered before. It’s a tall ask, I know. This makes reviewing books quite a challenge.

An Opinion, they say, is like a penis: it’s ok to have one but don’t wave it about in front of everyone. A good critic, however, does not just give you an opinion, but rather their honesty.

Honesty is an invaluable resource to any writer, and so here, I give five One-Line Reviews of some poetry collections I have read in the last year. I may not be a good critic, but at least I’m honest about it.


Calamity Joe
Brendan Constantine
Red Hen Press | 2012

“Gets a little lost somewhere in the middle, though not a calamity as one might fear.”


Doireann Ní Ghríofa
Dedalus Press | 2015

“Has the sexiest stamp-licking I’ve ever read.”


Jos Smith
Arc | 2016

“Nature poetry I actually liked.”


A Train Hurtles West
Maeve O’Sullivan
Alba Publishing | 2015

“If you like Haiku / it’s for you. / I do not.”


Bad News, Good News, Bad News
Edward O’Dwyer
Salmon | 2017

“Good news is flanked and outmanoeuvred by bad news, but not by bad poetry.”




If you think you can do a better job at reviewing books than Shane here, then get in touch! We’d love to hear your thoughts. Email us at

The Good Book Review (Or how I never learned to stop worrying)

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