A review of The Hand of Fate: a review of Unbound by Sinead McGuigan

Reviewed by Peter Mladinic

by Sinead McGuigan
Oct 2022, $5.99, paperback, ISBN-13: 979-8354821549, 72 pages

Sinead McGuigan’s book of poems, Unbound, takes readers to a place that becomes theirs as well as the author’s, a place at times as unsettling in its terrain as it is beautiful in its music. A place of oceans and mountains, rivers and dreams, myths and a reality that references the nightmare of history and celebrates the wonder of being. Unbound takes readers on a journey. A journey of the self that affirms the value of all selves—this journey, going from one place to another. The poems wander; they look in, they reach out.

A restlessness countered by curiosity sparks wander. A wander born of discontent, necessity and wanting to know by going into the self’s uncharted terrain, exploring, discovering, not without conflict.  In the introductory poem, A Thirst For Me, the poet says, “I don’t know you.  But you exist.” And further in, “I exist.”  Alive enough to wander and encounter…the self. “I am the flying dreams of sharp beaks,/ cutting into graves of rebirth.”  In that surreal, life-death image, and throughout these poems, sense embodies sound. The music haunts, and further into the poet’s (and reader’s) wandering, the music soothes. Conflict manifests itself as you. Control begins, “You extracted my ribs to make your/ Arms into a cage.”  Tension is born from stasis and motion, confinement and longing for freedom, the freedom to be “uncaged” and to wander.

The wanderer, on her journey, looks in…to the self.  In the beginning, middle, and end of A Thirst For Truth, there is the imperative “Thirst for more.”  And in A Thirst For Poetry, “Find love in this decaying world.”  Which she does by looking in, and finds “The beauty of amour flowering through/ Poetry.  But to get to that blossoming branch, the poet had to look into, wander through “a valley of corpses.”  To get to that flowering, she first had to encounter “Cracking bones in clustered mouths. Crunching teeth grinding all traces of truth.”  The sense is in the sound, and gotten by looking in, at arresting, nightmare images in the mind’s eye. Then, in “Beneath The Still Waters” lies “the light of summer/ Waiting for you to find her.”  The significance of “waiting” and “you” is noted.  That light is found by looking in, and by reaching out.

Every story, every journey has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  So with this fine book of poems. Its end is a reaching out. To whom? Herself, to other women, to humanity. Her journey affirms a being, a person not alone, in this world with others. In “Master Of Dreams” she is possessed by empathy.  “I weep at humanity’s self destruction.” In Forever Free “a woman fighting back,” fighting the evil that resulted in the burning of women as witches, fighting not alone but in solitary with other women. Reaching out. In The Witches They Couldn’t Burn, “a woman of rights/ the future of us.”

Unbound is replete with arresting images.  Unsettling, disturbing, also soothing and liberating.  The sense is in the sound of Ms McGuigan’s music, a poetic voice uniquely hers. In Master Of Dreams she affirms “I am the hand that holds you/ in valleys shaded by hope.”  The concluding poem My Beloved Poetry begins

I want to get lost in the pages
As I roll back the edges,
Letting you climb in
I trace the letters along your spine
Pausing to inhale your scent.
To be is to wander, to look in, to reach out,
to breathe the air we breathe, to be together.

Her sights, sounds, and the sense of Sinead McGuigan’s lines explore a landscape of myth, dreams, and realities. They celebrate her individuality and ours, and our being together as one human race. Unbound is a beautiful book. It will change your life.

About the reviewer: Peter Mladinic’s latest poetry books are Voices from the Past, published October 2023 and The Homesick Mortician, in January 2024. Another, titled Housesitting, is forthcoming from the Anxiety Press. An animal rights advocate, he lives in Hobbs, New Mexico, USA.