MICHAEL S. BEGNAL has reviewed The City Itself, Billy Mills’s new collection.
The City Itself (Hesterglock Press, 2017), employs compact and intricate soundplay, occasional lyric flashes, documentary historical material, and even personal narrative in order to make an argument about the interplay between urban and natural spaces and human beings’ place in the network of things. Divided into five sections plus a “Coda,” the book might initially seem like a patchwork or amalgamation of unrelated pieces, but an attentive reading quickly reveals that certain overarching themes wend their way throughout: access to housing, humanity’s role(s) in the continuum of the environment, the ephemerality of existence, and language as a material (if imperfect) medium for knowing the world, among others.
The book’s first section, “A Short History of Dominick Street,” incorporates found texts on the subjects of living conditions and poverty in that area of Dublin, where Mills himself was born. Drawing on newspaper accounts and books, this material goes as far back as 1847 to document a series of bread riots, continuing on to focus on the deterioration of this once upscale part of Dublin (which descended into slum tenement housing by the turn of the twentieth century). Mills also incorporates transcripts of Dáil debates on these issues from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. In so doing, he sets the stage for wider explorations of the need for home and shelter in what I guess we could term an impersonal universe, or perhaps more to the point a laissez-faire, free-market economy.
Read the rest of this erudite review by Michael here
Many thanks Michael.