Michael O’Loughlin was seven years old when the Irish trade union movement replaced its headquarters, Liberty Hall – the starting point of the 1916 Rising – with Ireland’s first skyscraper. This bold, seventeen-storey Liberty Hall expressed an aspiration towards the modernity which its builders envisaged as the birthright of future generations. Since then, as one of Dublin’s most iconic buildings, Liberty Hall has cast a personal and political light on the lives of citizens passing below, and formed the backdrop to O’Loughlin’s earliest childhood memories.
In this remarkable new book – a highly original fusion of poetry, visual images and prose memoirs – Liberty Hall becomes both a real and imaginary space, a physical building and a state of mind in which to be free; a place where the boundaries between verbal and visual, poetry and prose, past and present, city and suburb, local and global, all become fluid.
It is a book of numerous journeys: the ritualised crossing of the Liffey from North to South and back again; travels around European cities; and into O’Loughlin’s own family history in the first difficult century of the Irish state. He explores the emotional weather through memory, cinema and architecture, arriving in the end at Liberty Hall.
With its complex layering of themes, this unique new work by one of Ireland’s finest and most innovative poets is as bold a statement as the building itself.