DID YOU PUT THE WEASELS OUT? A Perverse Novel In Verse.
An epic for an age without heroes, Did You Put The Weasels Out? is a celebration of the modern mythology that takes place in every small town. A modern update of the 8th century Gaelic saga The Táin, written in Alexander Pushkin’s fiendish ‘Onegin sonnet’, Niall Bourke takes strict form to the extreme, and turns it into a hilarious, sharp-sighted satire of ordinary people’s neuroses, indulgences and four AM fears. Abandon your preconceptions: Bourke’s prose-poetry operatic-versenovel breaks all the rules – while managing to keep to them at the same time. Both traditional and undeniably of our time, Did You Put The Weasels Out? is poetry that celebrates the playfulness and uncertainty of being alive.
Born ’81, in North Kilkenny, lives in London, SE 4. Likes and loves? Large and many: weekend coffee, poky bookstore, friends, laughter, his girlfriend, daughter, sailing slalom through life’s whitewater. Works as a teacher, thinning hair. Dislikes? If pushed, will declare distaste for the growing global race with man ’gainst fellow Wo and Man and the Devil take the also-rans. And how to end? With ignoble grace: stretches, yawns, scratches his head, sheathes his pen, goes off to bed.
Sometimes, through no fault of anyone else, I find myself getting bored of knowing what to expect when I pick up a new collection. It takes a radical formal gesture to really refresh things, and that’s what I found in Niall Bourke’s Did You Put the Weasels Out? A surreal Onegin, endlessly, viciously playful, reinventing itself in every sonnet and sonnet-footnote like a linguistic Mandelbrot set. And what might have come off as a sophisticated but purely academic exercise is instead governed by a scabrous, self-effacing wit and a deep sense of love and its absurdity, which anchors every flourish into prose poetry and free verse and runs throughout the appendices and index. It’s a debut so energetic, so bursting with ideas and insistent music, it reminds you why you started writing in the first place and, whether you like it or not, that you won’t be able to stop. — Luke Kennard