Like a Tree Cut Back


Like a Tree Cut Back weaves a memoir of Michael McCarthy from his boyhood in rural Ireland – overshadowed by an accident that resulted in the death of his brother – to his journey towards priesthood and poetry. Interspersed throughout is a brief history of Carlow College, 19th century Catholic Ireland’s answer to Trinity College, Dublin, and – as McCarthy shows – a training ground for priests, apostles and rebels. Part history, part memoir and part meditation, this outstanding book of poetry and prose confirms Michael McCarthy as a powerful storyteller and an acute observer of the human condition.

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Published April 2021

What Writers and Critics Think

  • Like a Tree Cut Back brings together the individual and the communal life: not deliberately but because, as son and student, priest and poet, Michael McCarthy lived that way – from the heart and with a quiet honesty and humour the heart alone can know.

    Gillian Allnut
  • A masterpiece of the ordinary life, Like a Tree Cut Back says so much about memory, how a life is built, forged, and really lived with curiosity and attention. ‘The Accident’ opens and anchors the book: everything else emerges from there. Passing from prose to poetry, it doesn’t miss a beat: it flows, as a life does, in and out. It is quite amazing.

    Shawna Lemay
  • McCarthy, as child, is a revelation of innocent observation. [...] The stylistic simplicity of his prose yields a neat counterpoint to the tender, aching lyricism of the poems, [which] transfigure experience, finding beauty in the hitherto prosaic.

    The Yorkshire Times


Michael McCarthy grew up on a farm in West Cork, Ireland. His first poetry collection Birds’ Nests and Other Poems (Bradshaw Books, 2003) won the Patrick Kavanagh Award and was followed by children’s books, which have been translated into seventeen languages. At the Races (Smith|Doorstop, 2009) was the overall winner of the 2008 Book & Pamphlet Competition, chosen by Michael Longley, while The Healing Station (Smith|Doorstop, 2015) was selected as a Book of the Year by Hilary Mantel in the Guardian. Michael worked as a priest in North Yorkshire where he died in July 2018. His penultimate collection, The Bright Room and other poems (Smith|Doorstop, 2019), brought together poems written over the last decade of his life.

Additional information

Dimensions 21 × 13.8 × 1.2 cm

eBook (ePub), Hardback, Paperback


978-1-912196-36-4, 978-1-912196-49-4, 978-1-912196-93-7



Publication Year

April 2021