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by Cherry Smyth
£10 (pub. 2019)

This collection is startling. More than that, it is vitally important. Combining lyrical poetry with statistics, quotes, newspaper cuttings, snippets of conversation and even nursery rhymes, it charts the Irish Famine from the potato blight and the impossible poverty that followed, through the disease and death on a massive scale, the political decisions that worsened an already dreadful situation, to the people forced to pay passage to North America and Australia on freight ships, known as ‘coffin ships’. Finally, Cherry Smyth evokes the current day as she describes the journey into her country’s past, its language and the ‘plot of scarcity’ that decimated a nation – a scarcity that bears no little comparison to the plight of political and economic refugees today.

A trailer for the stage performance based on Famished can be seen here.
An interview with Cherry about Famished, including excerpts from the stage show, broadcast by Radio Ulster on 17 May 2019, can be heard here
(interview starts about 14 mins in).
An article in The Irish Times reviewing the show can be read here
And an interview with Cherry in the Honest Ulsterman Magazine can be seen here.

Praise for Famished:

“Famished is a powerful read. I can only imagine the extraordinary work of composition and transformation that Cherry Smyth must have gone through to turn such extensive, and what must have been pretty harrowing, research – historical and haptic – into such a finely crafted map of poems. It is a brave book. It should be handed out at tube stations. Lest we forget, not simply that it happened (and it happened like this, and it continues to happen) but also lest we forget the complicity of forgetting itself. Thank you, Cherry Smyth, for the reminder.”

Brigid McLeer

“So much sorrow and complexity – reading this I felt as though I was being tossed in a turbulent sea, without gravity yet leaden, held down by the legacy of history – struggling for breath. The stuff of revolutions!”

Anne Tallentire

“Famished is devastating yet measured, profound yet curious, elegant and full of compassion, solidarity and momentary sparkles of humour - it’s such a gift.”

Mikhail Karikis



I’m dying of hunger/I could eat a horse/I’m famished/I’m starving/I need a good feed/I’ll eat you out of house and home/I’m fine/I’m set/ I’m finished, I’m grand/I’m stuffed/I’m bursting/I’m full/I couldn’t eat another bite/my eyes are bigger than my belly/I am going to puke/boke/vomit/I don’t want it to go to waste/waste not, want not/I’ll try a little just to taste it/I’m peckish/I could do with a snack/I fancy a nibble/I don’t know what I want but I want something/just a taste/a soupçon: who’s for seconds?


(from Famished)



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