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.