Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Yellow Hair

"NEVER shall a young man,
Thrown into despair
By those great honey-coloured
Ramparts at your ear,
Love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair."

These lines from “For Anne Gregory “ by Yeats sometimes come into my head. How well he states the dilemma.
One afternoon, a number of years ago, I was staring absently out the window when I caught sight of the back of a girl passing. It was a particular combination of low sun and exceedingly long hair that produced the most breathtaking effect. Her hair shone. It gave me a poem which is included in Turn Your Head (Dedalus Press):

On days like this trees shine,
leaves spill light,
the garden is a flood,
rooftops are full-flowing weirs.
I am swept along.

You, who collects sunlight
on the spatulas of your fingers
- it clings to you like pollen -
curl a hand upward
to loosen out your hair.

Oh, I wish my eyes were barrels.

As it happens, I knew her and now when I remember her, I invariably remember her golden, gleaming hair.

Barack Hussein Obama: An Opportunity

I would love to see a female president of the USA. However it’s a pity the choice has arisen now.

The US has been held up for most of my lifetime as the champion of peoples’ freedom and defender of human rights. That standing is now, for many, a thing of the past. Its reputation is this area has been seriously damaged.

I don’t know much about the internal politics in the USA and certainly foreign policy is only one consideration for voters, but a life and death one for so many. On that basis I would have thought that the emergence of Obama as a candidate for presidency gave the voters a gilt-edge opportunity to reclaim some of that lost credibility.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Erne Estuary

I’m sitting beside a window full of the Erne Estuary. There’s not the slightest breeze. S-shaped, mirror-still, silvery grey. Shades of ivory, cream and seashell blend in curlicues out to the bar. Beyond there’s a stripe of charcoal and further out the narrow strip of brightness that marks the edge of the world.
By the side of the bay below the fields there is a rag tree before St Patrick’s grotto. On the algae-slimy rocks are small white crosses, the stations of the cross. On evenings like this when the smallest tick of nature can be heard in the briars and whitethorn bushes, it is an eerie but a wonderful place. You get that sense of being in your proper place within the flow of mankind that have lived along these banks since people first arrived into the west of Ireland; here at Ballyshannon, the oldest town in Ireland.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Magical Places

I was looking through old photos when I came to the stained glass windows of Sans Chappell(click on the picture above to see it at its best). I remember climbing the stairs from the lower chapel, not expecting much (shows my ignorance), having thought I'd more or less seen what was to be seen and then..............Explosion of light and colour. The effect was as thrilling as anything that might have thrilled a child's imagination. I have never been so surprised by wonder.

And so I set to thinking about other magical places, taking what first came to mind as being the measure and with magical being the important word: 1. Sir John Soane's Museum in London for it's difference and quirkiness, an unexpected delight. 2. Skellig Michael off the Kerry coast. On a fine Summer's day this place is one step from heaven. As you approach, the gannets wafting on currents of air give the spire of rock an atmosphere of enchantment.3. The Sistine Chapel. Okay this is not the most original choice in the world but it came to mind next and I was mesmerised it is all and more than I had wished for. Even with teeming millions I was lost in the art.

4. Brian Eno/Laraaji.Ambient 3:Day of Radiance. This album will take you somewhere that's a combination of the four choices above.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Dysert O’Dea

My collection of maps has grown over the years. Hillwalkers use the 1:50000 Ordinance Survey maps. There are 89 in the series covering the 32 counties of Ireland. Number 57 has special significance for me, a photograph of a high cross above the caption High Cross, Dysert O’Dea graces the front cover.

It’s a few years ago now since Kay and I stopped there about 7.30pm on a stilly mid-summer’s evening. We were on the way to Corofin for a meal. It was idyllic; peaceful, green, gentle. Disert means an isolated place; it still has that air, and on that particular evening especially so.

How wonderful it is to find the church ruins, round tower, high cross un-exploited, unspoiled, still freely accessible as they have been for centuries. And how much more appealing they are than Clonmacnoise, the wonderful monastic settlement by the Shannon now subsumed by a tourism development that diminishes it’s grandeur and it’s magic.

A short walk on, through the field, past the high cross and you reach the castle. It is an example of tasteful restoration, not imposing itself on the landscape, but holding its own and adding as a backdrop to the other sites.

For the return of this jewel, now archaeological centre in the heart of Clare, thanks to the Wisconsin O’Deas and those who assisted greatly, Risteard Ua Cronin, the Dysert O'Dea Development Association and Bord Failte.

Dom Bernard O'Dea

Writing about Dysert brings Dom Bernard to mind. He was my father’s first cousin and, of course, chaplain to the O’Dea clan for many years. We always looked forward to Bernard’s all too rare visits. When he came, he brought his stories, his regard for children and his great bright smile.

For a commeration of his death, James O’Dea asked me to write something. I could have written a eulogy but decided instead to recall that childhood impression of his visits. This is the poem with some alterations

In Memory of Dom Bernard.

We were coming home at night,
children in the back, you out front,
the colored lights on the dashboard;
up hills, down valleys,
the whole car singing.

But there were neither hills nor valleys,
it was the wild careering over and around
your songs and stories.
Close my eyes, we’re skittering on still
snug in the warm blanket of your gentleness.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Artists with Poetry in their Hearts

I have been told more than once that I have a tendency towards melancholy. It shows in the writing and it shows in my choices when I go searching for inspiration. Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth are two american artists that never fail to stir that mood in me.If I allow myself to wallow in their art, invariably a poem will begin to form in my head.On this side of the water Martin Gale sometimes evokes similar moods and his work has echoes of both american artists.

Old Man

The tyre hanging in the garden
is proof that children used to play there;
but in the breeze it’s a shaking head.

Today snowflakes flying by
leave the sycamore white on its northern side.
The garden is still: no snowman, no footprints.

The tyre is an old man;
with an old voice he explains
“I cannot remember names, truth is

I hung too close to the trunk to be of use;
the sycamore branches bolted upwards,
to this day they’ve never spread out.”

from "Turn Your Head" published by Dedalus Press

Anyway it's nice to be able to include some examples of this art in the following presentations from Youtube; Wyeth on top, Hopper below.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Rathmines Festival Information


THIS YEAR’S 6th RATHMINES FESTIVAL TAKES PLACE FROM 17th to 20th April. The festival boasts even more events than ever at venues dotted around Rathmines – most free of charge.

DANCE workshops with the Dance Theatre of Ireland, Siamsa Tire and Fluxusdance means this is your chance to experience and enjoy tango, hip hop and contemporary.

Emer McDonagh, world-renowned flautist, will enchant you. Nightly Festival Clubs in local pubs will offer a diverse feast of music that is sure to please everyone.

We are adding a touch of Bollywood spice to proceedings with film showings in D.I.T. The very popular guided tours of the historic Cathal Brugha Barracks will also feature this year. The enthusiastic Eanna Ni Lamhna will inform and entertain you with a lively canal bank nature walk.

DHARMA: Talks and workshops on mind body and spirit. Anne Sweeney will lift you to a higher plane with her Angel workshops and Mary Tuohy will relax you with the ancient Japanese art of Reiki. There is Tai Chi in the Park.

Younger participants will be able to enjoy free readings in some of the local bookshops from well-known authors as well as competitions, Batik art displays, street art and performers, musical storytellers and a Party at Portobello.

Tommy O’Neill of Fair City has written a one-man show. Shirley Temple Bar will deliver another custom-made show, Transition, sure to titillate. As gaeilge, the Fibin Theatre Company will perform An Trial.

For the Francophiles: “Pays Blanc Pays Noir” is a choir from St Nazaire made up of 12 singers and a pianist. The group dress in black and white and the choir conjures up images of la Brière, the Guérande and Saint-Nazaire.

Seamus Hosey chairs the Forum, Trial by Media, featuring John Cooney and other prominent journalists.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Rathmines Festival 2008

Some of the events from the upcoming festival:
Fri 18th April

Performance by French Choir, “Pays Blanc, Pays Noir” from St Nazaire, France and music Youth Orchestral Pops Orchestra. 19.00 – 21.00 in Rathmines Parish Church (Free)

Festival Drama – World premier of the “The Mines Dublin 6” specially written and peformed by Tommy O’Neill of Fair City. 20.00 – 21.00 in St Mary’s Junior School Hall €10

Saturday 19th April

Guided Tour: Cathal Brugha Barracks. 14.00 – 16.00 Free

Anthony Cronin: reads from and talks about his work. 14.00 – 15.30 in Town Hall €5

Medieval Dublin interactive DVD and film. 14.00- 15.00 in Town Hall (Free)

Forum with Seamus Hosey and panellists: Trial By Media Town Hall 16.30 – 18.00 in Town Hall (Free)

Fete Mélange – with Master of Ceremonies Promises O’Ferfaille and the Bugle Babes and Shirley Temple Bar. 20.30 – 22.30 in Town Hall €10