Storytelling is the heart, and observation the soul, of Paul Durcan's best poems.

There are many in The Days of Surprise (Harvill Secker, £12), the 23rd collection by the Dublin-born writer. Scrupulously paced poems of the life, times and beliefs of this most emotionally intense yet intellectually rewarding of writers are inscribed touchstones. Unique among his contemporaries he also employs the wisdom of humour. In Sleepover he appears to have rediscovered sex. After a morning pushing his " immer frame" he meets her and "she slept in my bed that night... two winters ago". He continues "I never thought I'd live to see/My little fellow rise up again, /My wee Lazarus, James Larkin in excelis".

More selective autobiography informs the earlier poems. We meet a child named "57 Dartmouth Square" who is sometimes known as "Paul". The name-tags stitched to his clothes identify him; "Mostly I was not a who or a what but a where". Dartmouth Square is a secluded place near the Grand Canal on the South Side of Dublin. "Mummy" and "The Judge" cohabit with "No 57".

Several of the following poems, set in Rome in April 2014, affectionately portray "Papa Francesco in his Chair," canonising his predecessors. The poet's reverie is shattered by the behaviour of a "scandalous, venerable Benedictine monk giving scandal". Caustically he observes "spilling-over jowls cowled /In all the fatty finery of snobbery". This is not the only example of Durcan casting a cold eye on passers by. I do hope the man dubbed "The Great Consultant" has his attention drawn to the lines referring to him as "a boorish, contemptuous, conceited bully boy." Less splenetic and more appealing are the quiet moments spent recalling friends such as the poet Michael Hartnett, the painter Edward McGuire and most wonderfully the ghost of Seamus Heaney. The latter addresses him as "Poet Durcan" and gently tells him ,"Calm down, I'm only dead, I'm only beginning/The new life".

Towards the end of the book the tone is even more gentle. "Beau Durcan" declares "I speak the language of sea water and rowlocks;/Ship oars with me." It will be a pleasure Paul and I'm glad to have met "No 57 Dartmouth Square".

Catriona O'Reilly is also a Dubliner. It is nine years since her last collection The Sea Cabinet (2006) which followed her award winning debut The Nowhere Birds (2002). The world of her poems is that created by one gazing through a prism. She not only marvels at the strange but recreates it as the mysterious. The effect is intoxicating. The hangover illumination.

The title of Geis (Bloodaxe, £9.95) means a taboo, both physical and spiritual on behaviour intuited in Irish mythology. It features in eight poems which are the core of this new collection. Their epigram comes from Faustus: "This is hell, nor am I out of it". A lady captured in a "dry tree" is one who "feeds on shadows, /on the wafer's feverish penumbra,/on her own breast's blue milk." In sweat-dreams a figure is "straddled by a great night bird". Escape from the "greenness" of fear is "getting the cramped brain/to release its grip". At our communal end, "The world has eaten us the way the world must".

Mysteries of revelation are glimpsed and then retreat to become our own reflections. Among many poems there is one that sears memory. Chiune Sugihara (1908-86) was Japanese Vice-Consul in Lithuania during world war two. At great personal risk he issued travel visas to thousands of Jews. O'Reilly finds it "Impossible to parse a motive/in the abecedary of your act". She simply concludes, "Some just know/that love must be put into action or it is not love".

The publisher's dust jacket to Christopher Reid's eleventh collection, The Curiosities (Faber, £14.99), announces that it consists of "seventy-odd poems". In fact, including translations and adaptations, there are 73. But they are right about the "odd". All the poems have titles beginning with the letter "C". So while we have Crow, Carnivore and Cowhand we also get Cacophony, Cyborgs and Caryatids. The Courtesies begins "What a night and what a neighbourhood". That sums up the cumulative effect. The 1960s are predictably recalled in The Clearing: "Please don't ask me to explain, or to remember/anything else. I was there". The whimsy is clever but the poems for me are not convincing.