Monday, December 27, 2010

Poetry makes Beautiful Sound

I suspect "I love you" sounds beautiful in any language when it is whispered by a lover with real passion and feeling. I imagine the phrase transcends language.

Beautiful poetry read with passion and true feeling should be toe-curling,so often isn't; it should hit home like Maria Callas singing Casta diva.

Here is Khalil Gibran on love from The Prophet; the voice may be a bit sugary but you don't need to understand a single word of the portugese version below to know that the poetry is beautiful.

When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the wind lays waste the garden.

For, just as love crowns you
so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth
so is he for your fall.
Even as he ascends to your height
and caresses your tenderest branches
that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots
and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are malleable;
Then he assigns you to his sacred fire,
that you may become sacred bread
for God's sacred feast.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The UK and US have financed Central African Wars

This KPFA Radio News report(21/3/2010)reports the UK and US financing of Central African wars,approx 8 million deaths.That's roughly equal to a separate 9/11 death toll for each person that died in the 9/11 atrocity.

There is a lot of material online about the funding of the war in the Congo. This is particularly the case this year; it relates to the sale of minerals (conflict minerals) by the militias to the big electronics manufacturers, the proceeds being used to fund their warfare.To the extent that we all use these electronics products everyday, we are all complicit.It also concerns the signing by President Obama, last July, into law a measure that requires corporations to disclose publicly what they are doing to ensure that their products don't contain these minerals.

Read more:

Why did it take so long to take the legislation step? Economic reasons.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Two Favorite Cristmas Poems

Patrick Kavanagh's Christmas Childhood, so accurate, so evocative of my own christmas childhood: the frost on the north side of a garden ridge, the tracks of cattle frozen solid around the water barrels, and I've seen the three kings in the moonlight of a christmas night.

This is a stunningly accurate evocation of the magic of christmas for a child in rural Ireland. Belief made apparations possible, and christmas with it's wonderful imagery made it the hide tide mark of a child's imagination.

A Christmas Childhood
One side of the potato-pits was white with frost—
How wonderful that was, how wonderful!
And when we put our ears to the paling-post
The music that came out was magical.

The light between the ricks of hay and straw
Was a hole in Heaven's gable. An apple tree
With its December-glinting fruit we saw—
O you, Eve, were the world that tempted me

To eat the knowledge that grew in clay
And death the germ within it! Now and then
I can remember something of the gay
Garden that was childhood's. Again

The tracks of cattle to a drinking-place,
A green stone lying sideways in a ditch
Or any common sight the transfigured face
Of a beauty that the world did not touch.

My father played the melodeon
Outside at our gate;
There were stars in the morning east
And they danced to his music.

Across the wild bogs his melodeon called
To Lennons and Callans.
As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry
I knew some strange thing had happened.

Outside the cow-house my mother
Made the music of milking;
The light of her stable-lamp was a star
And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.

A water-hen screeched in the bog,
Mass-going feet
Crunched the wafer-ice on the pot-holes,
Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel.

My child poet picked out the letters
On the grey stone,
In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland,
The winking glitter of a frosty dawn.

Cassiopeia was over
Cassidy's hanging hill,
I looked and three whin* bushes rode across
The horizon — The Three Wise Kings.

An old man passing said:
'Can't he make it talk'—
The melodeon. I hid in the doorway
And tightened the belt of my box-pleated coat.

I nicked six nicks on the door-post
With my penknife's big blade—
There was a little one for cutting tobacco,
And I was six Christmases of age.

My father played the melodeon,
My mother milked the cows,
And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned
On the Virgin Mary's blouse.

Jane Marchant catches the warmth of christmas in the warmth of a family kitchen; this is so much of the pleasure of the day, and most of the reason people reminisce fondly at christmas time.

The Christmas Thing
My grandmother sat
On Christmas morning
Mending overalls.
A tall tree glittered,
A hen was roasting,
And the room was merry
With dolls and balls,
So why was she mending
The air is magic
On Christmas morning
And it isn't a time
For doing chores.
We had given her
A brooch that glittered
After anxious searchings
Of ten cent stores
So why was she working
At everyday chores?
I didn't know then
But I learned much later
That Christmas magic
Goes through and through
The fabric of living
Love, threading her needle,
Made mending
The Christmas-thing to do.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Flying through Ireland

I came across these two videos on Youtube. The first, posted by FaoleannOBradaigh, shows footage of Ireland from the air; it is absolutely gorgeous and in places quite exhilarating. I particularly enjoyed flying alongside the escarpment at Ben Bulben and flying low over the road that skirts the Burren in North Clare. It’s a great advert for scenic Ireland.

The second is a motorbike ride through parts of Donegal posted by IrishBikedotCom. The video is a promo for Irish Motorcycle Adventures and definitely succeeds in whetting the appetite for a bike tour through the county, (the music is great too).

Two very enjoyable sight-seeing videos; hold onto your hat.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Remembering My Mother

December has sad memories for my family. Both my father and mother died in December; my mother five years ago. She was a very down to earth, practical woman completely devoid of any pretensions. Maybe that’s partly why I found it hard to write about her. However I was pleased with this short poem; I think it captures the sort of person that she was and the importance of home in her life.

She was

Two cups of flour resourceful

Plumb-line straight

Three sides of a triangle logical

Rain-coat wise

Five woollen blankets caring.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Strange how the world turns

Strange how the world turns. Empty houses dotted the countryside in the twentieth century. Emigration hollowed out rural Ireland right up to the nineties. Old cottages in various stages of dilapidation were everywhere. Then came wealth and with it those houses were demolished and replaced, or they were renovated; the semi-ruins of previous decades became thin on the ground.

Now empty houses dot the country again. Half-built housing estates abandoned without even the melancholy beauty of having once been inhabited; ugly building sites on the peripheries of towns;ugly as rotten teeth.

Both situations happened because of the lack of money, but one marks an era that was tarnished by run-away excess, and frequently greed. These remains will, since they have no other redeeming factor, at least remind us of that.

This poem from Sunfire (Dedalus Press, 1998)was an attempt to catch the sadness of emigration and the aging of the resident population as I saw it in the seventies.

A Stranger In The Townland.

In Autumn the farmhouse
with the sun-folded field beneath its chin,
traps the daylight in its spectacles,
then flashes it away.

A swing hangs among the orchard's arthritic trees
without stirring;
without remembering
a frantic liveliness now reduced
to the occasional commotion of a falling fruit.

Once songs of apples filled the farmhouse;
but the children became photographs,
the dust settled on their frames
and soon Autumns were flying uncontrollably by.
Today, between its curiosities, a bluebottle drones.

Now that the conversation with the hillside
is ended, the farmhouse
with the sycamore stole
has become an eccentric;
a stranger in the townland.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It was the Sixties

There is suddenly a new feeling and, unlike the sixties, it's not coming here second hand; it's our very own Irish turning and my instinct is it's good. But for those old enough here is a taste of the sixties, Irish style.

It was the time of Afton and Albany,
Joe O’Neill’s band and the Adelaides,
hay forks sharing pub windows
with Daz and Persil; the Smithwicks sign
and the Harp sign, half-ones of Guinness.

It was a time of pipe-smoking
beneath naked bulbs and neon strips,
the priest in his cassock,
Hillman Hunters, Ford Corsairs,
Wilkinson Swords and Fruit Gums.

Of scarved heads at mass, berets,
the Messenger and the Far East,
dress makers and blacksmiths;
hollowed faces in the County Home,
yanks in the sitting room.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Length of Eternity

Studying Geology in U.C.G. eons ago (geologic time),I came across this wonderful evocation of eternity:

High up in the north, in the land called Svithjod, there stands a rock. It is a hundred miles high and a hundred miles wide. Once every thousand years a little bird comes to this rock to sharpen its beak. When the rock has thus been worn away, then a single day of eternity will have gone by.

(From The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem Van Loon)

I mention it because I really like it and secondly because elsewhere on the net this day is calculated, see

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Poems to do with Lovers, Loving and Loving no More

People change, time moves them along,their loves change like trees, like fires, like buildings.Most keep the narratives in their heads or poets "tell it slant". From Sunfire and Turn Your Head:


When I am sleeping
you come
softly over these stones;
I turn deeper.
You slip words into my ears,
liquid syllables,
sickles sliding down.

Night-time turns drunk;
longing for more,
your tongue to enwrap me;
I turn deeper.
You trickle down dreams;
our limbs braided,
we slip into one.

When you pass

cups miss mouths,
ladders slip,
buckets crash down,

cars veer,
cyclists swerve,
drunkards sober up,

poles and policemen collide,
business men miss kerbs,
schoolboys drool.

Me? I’m just your wing mirror,
enjoying the devastation
behind you.


It's a certifiable moment
a punch-drunk second
a pulse's high tide.

A dog eats grass
a water drop shivers
a barrel fills to its brim
an apple falls
a body drifts
a face buckles
a lover screams.

At the tip of an orgasm
passion powders;
the creek turns to dust.

Fifteen Irises from my Black Humour to You.

The mallards go off like a shot gun;
each a storm of wings
and black as a keyhole.

The pond, empty now,
is gripped in a glacial sulk.

Fifteen irises from my black humour to you,
their shadows only;
the pond will part with no more.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Netherlands American Cemetery

I was going to write about the Margraten Cemetery after my visit two weeks ago. War is an abomination; but the sight of all those headstones, all those names, all buried in the beautiful green countryside at Margraten;seeing all that on a sunny Summer's day left only sadness and a confusion of thoughts in my head. What would the world be now if those soldiers,(8,032 buried there), had not died?

This inscription on a wall there is beautiful:


Friday, July 16, 2010

From The Netherlands

In the Netherlands for a few weeks. It's been warm, unusually warm, mid to late thirties. That's not a complaint. I've enjoyed it here; I've like the Dutch and the countryside is postcard perfect. And the cycling is a pleasure. But that's nothing to do with this post.

She Leaves.

She leaves
a country of mountain tops,
pencil points in nothing
and crosses on current arrows
to where the sun shines on a space.

look over the rails,
cheering ferries on the sea

of her worries;
for that is where she bobs,
among all the sparklets
on the sea-top.
And fears
scratch their fingernails
down the glass

she has left;
not left,
left, not left.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Armani Stops at our House

I was sitting opposite this guy one Friday evening. We were both waiting in the lobby of one of the bigger multi-national companies in Dublin. He had the camera ready to go for the weekend. The words for the poem came quickly.

Armani Stops at our House

sunbathing on the verge,

surveyed from the wall.

grinning up a cuff,

stole grand-dad’s gappy smile.

snapping the moment shut,

stepped from the grass;

spat dust into our gateway.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Cezanne's mountain

I would love to write a series of poems to accompany Cezanne's many paintings of Mont Sainte Victoire near Aix de Provence. I love the play of light, different times of day,year, catching the mountain in different moods. His ability to find so much in the same inanimate rock, to paint it in different guises, like characters on a stage. I love the diamond facets, the iceberg, the turbulence, menace,ghostliness, disappearance, its solidity, its transparency, remoteness, closeness, blueness, whiteness.

That ability to see so much, to make the mass so ethereal but as often so solid and present.That would be an achievement for a poet.

It would be nice if someone would translate the following YouTube video (thanks to manonous for uploading), but even without translation I enjoy the painting of Cezanne's mountain.

Here's my start:

Cezanne's Mountain


Like ice,
like iron,
like glass,

like air, granite.

The sun inside it,
through it,
off it.

Purpling into thunder,

convulsing cumulusly,
into storm.

Sugary brilliance this morning,
the brow of Provence
clear as the first day:
a tooth,a molar

Thursday, April 22, 2010

In Sickness There Was Only You

Frequently the years knock rough edges off a character. In this instance, an acquaintance was on her deathbed before I got to see the lovable side of her personality. A great pity.

In sickness there was only you

light as a feather,
relieved of the weight
of position and pride;

neither bluff nor brashness
nor the strength
to be more than your dying self.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Truth

As much and all as we admire the truth, sometimes we must keep it tethered and locked away. Sometimes it’s just too fearsome a beast.When Homer Simpson said "It takes two to lie. One to lie and one to listen",he was right; we must sometimes make a judgment as to what the listener can bear to hear.

And if sometimes it’s difficult to tell the truth, sometimes too it’s difficult not to. This from "Sunfire".

The Wind Claps The Slates

The wind claps the slates;
all night they are hooves running berserk,
all night the wind is inciting them;
all night.

At twenty past two and twenty past three
and twenty past four I am looking at you;
how I would love to have hooves to come
crashing through your sleep, to burst into
your solitude.

And there I would, for better or worse,
demolish the muzzled years with as much
violence as reverberates beneath iron shoes,
as causes such a frenzy in stone that slates

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wassa Wassa in Rathmines

Wassa Wassa – 3.00 pm Rathmines Sq (Previously swimming pool car park).
A huge success at last year's festival; Wassa Wassa, a West African percussion, song and dance group, are back again this year with their traditional rhythms and dance, contemporary and traditional African songs, adding their own arrangements and wearing traditional costumes and hats you won’t forget!

Monday, February 22, 2010

A New Rathmines Festival

Festival Under The Clock is a one day festival happening on 20th March. One of the events on the day is MuteFish, a band that mixes trad Irish with Eastern European music in a very exciting, very energetic way. Here's a sample.........come for the rest!

Programme of Events (Festival Under The Clock)

(Please note there is limited capacity in the Town Hall. Admission on a
first come basis. All events are FREE.)

Saturday 20th March

1:00pm Anatoly Kudryavitsky
Reading by the Russian-Irish novelist, poet and literary translator.

1:45pm Vereneja
Dance group with an eastern European
heritage, perform dances from all over the world.

2:15pm Ostroha Dance Group
Slovakian Dancers performing traditional
Eastern European folk. A Cultural event to be enjoyed by all the family.

3:00pm Vladimir Jablokov
This Slovakian violinist and his quartet
are a must see, giving the audience a
truly unique performance.

4.15pm MuteFish
Traditional music as you’ve never seen it before. A high energy performance.

8.00pm Eric Lalor
After touring with Des Bishop on his
record breaking “Fitting In Tour” Eric Lalor has truly made a name for himself. Belly achingly funny.

9.00pm Don Baker
Irish blues musician and actor. He is a legend. A performance not to be missed.

(previously swimming pool car park)
Saturday 20th March

12:00pm Historical Walk of Rathmines leaving the square.

2:00pm Traditional Irish Music, there will also be face painting, balloon modeling, stilt walkers.

3:00pm Wassa Wassa Dance Group. AInvited back after a wonderful performance at last year's festival, don't miss this riveting performance of African music and dance.


11.00am Little Princess Energetic and Charming a must see for any little boy or girl (G)
1.00pm Irish Premiere of Wow Wow Woopsie
Animated movie featuring the voice of Beyonce Knowles. (G)
3.00pm Paper Heart Comedy and romance; another great performance by Michael Cera. (15)
5.00pm I Sell The Dead A frightful insight into the life of a 19th century grave robber. (15)
7.00 pm Irish Premiere of The Graves
A horror to satisfy the most eager of horror fans.(18)
9.00pm Irish Premiere of Slammin Salmon
The latest comedy from Broken Lizard

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Festival Under the Clock 2010, Rathmines

Festival Under The Clock happens on 20th March 2010 in Rathmines Town Hall and on Rathmines Road.

A totally free, one day festival with blues man Don Baker, violinist Vladimir Jablokov, comedian Eric Lawlor. Also Mutefish, folk dancing from Eastern Europe and street performances at the newly built Rathmines Square (old swimming pool car park ).And if that's not enough there's a mini film festival too running from morning to late with a programme that covers all ages.

The day is organised by students of Rathminess College in conjunction with Dublin City Council.

It’ll be party day in Rathmines. I’ll post details next week.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Empty Countryside

This poem from Sunfire is based on rural Ireland of the eighties,when the country was dotted with houses beginning to decay as they became peopled by elderly people or empty houses where parents or grandparents had died, children emigrated or in Dublin, no money to renovate. Today there are similarities, but it's the Chinese, eastern Europeans,Africans, who came for a while,that are leaving in their droves after the short-lived boom.

And there are thousands of empty houses, newly built houses, unfinished, half-finished; housing estates on the edges of towns left to be abandoned building sites. Without ever having been inhabited they lack the atmosphere which inspired this poem,they stand like rotting teeth on the landscape.

Inheriting The Land

Here the sea is no more than a sigh in a shell;
conversations speed past, pole high, Dublin to Galway
and music is the wind whistling beneath a door.
Slightness describes Summer's step,
stonework its skies; a little light drips
from its edges but it's falling from a miser's hand.
Across the fields the church, within its necklace
of dead congregations, is a rusty hinge;
a place filled with a century's stillness.
And the ivy-choked trees lean closer together
like old men guessing at each others' words.

If you were to fly over these patchwork hills,
along the hedgerows and through the lightless haggards,
you wouldn't meet a soul. The old farmers are sitting
in their twilight kitchens, their families standing
on the mantlepiece in the other room that's never used
with their faces tanned beneath American skies.
Only the din of crows seeps into that silence;
crows more numerous than leaves on the sycamores,
always bickering, hogging the light,
building their cities, staking their inheritance.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


This poem from "Turn Your Head" is one of those I am happiest with. It says what I wanted it to in a striking way. The separation described is complete, the poem's logic builds to an appropriate climax, the sadness heightened by the absolute separation of land and sea. The last sentence hits a tragic truth for many people.

Growing Apart - A Separation.

You take the sea, I’ll take the land.
Growing cautious in air currents
my ears will extend to points,
my nose grow long, eyes flinty.
I will have hair to thwart the wind,
jointed limbs that angle to take a fall.

Your sides will be sleek to cut the water,
your face an arrow, even eye-lids
planed to nothing. Your skin
will have the dapples of flowing liquid,
drop-shaped scales. By then, of course,
we will not recognize each other at all.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Amended Google Book Settlement agreement

I am very grateful to Gill Spraggs for clarifying the issues around the Google Book Settlement agreement, she helped me greatly in my decision.This email, concerning the amended settlement and the changes as they relate to authors in Ireland and the U.K., arrived today.I have included a link to her website in the the links section below.

Hi Michael,

The Google Book Settlement agreement was withdrawn for redrafting in September, following serious criticism of it by the US Department of Justice. An amended version was filed with the court on 13 November. The major change was the exclusion of most books published outside the US - with the exception of books published in the UK, Australia and Canada.

Ireland as a publishing territory is now outside the settlement, but of course many Irish writers have published with British and US publishers.

There is a new opt-out period which will end on 28 January 2010.Authors who opted out of the settlement earlier this year do not need to do so a second time.

As you are aware, doing nothing at this point amounts to staying opted in.

I am circulating my latest paper, 'The Google Book Settlement: a survival aid for UK authors'.

It sets out to provide authors with information that will help them a)decide whether to opt out of the settlement b) manage their copyrights within the complicated framework set up by the settlement agreement, if they decide to stay in. There are appendices on how to opt out, and how to find out more about actively opting in and 'claiming' works.

I attach a copy, and also a copy of a shorter paper that explains how the GBS offers a particularly raw deal to poets and other authors who have had work published in anthologies.

They may also be found online at:


Please forward this email, with the attached papers, to anyone you know
who may find it helpful.

All the best,

Gillian Spraggs (Dr)

Friday, January 8, 2010

you build the fire
and I will show you something wonderful:
a big ball of snow!

(Basho 1686)

I have separated this from its prose-written context, but what I love is that it's a gentle explosion. Like all good haiku, the spare writing creates space for the reader to wander in; it’s all subtlety. How I wish I could achieve the same.