Sunday, July 31, 2011

Patrick Kavanagh

A snippet of Patrick Kavanagh talking from 1962, one of my favourite poets and one that has had great influence on my writing:

As always,a search of YouTube will throw up more wonderful links.

Wasted Treasures

The lighthouse at St John’s Point in Donegal Bay in one photograph mimics a wave on the sea, in another a seagull.
It’s such a pity that lighthouses tend to be behind closed gates; they have such allure. I remember visiting one, years ago, in Finistere, Brittany; I loved it. Beautiful brass and wooden fittings, the great glass lens, the winding stairs; a walk straight into previous time, a more romantic time.
And then again you’ve walked a distance, away from towns and houses, out along a headland and there’s this one tower with commanding views all around, and entry is forbidden.
So it’s great to hear Loop Head lighthouse is opening to the public, and let’s hope it will be the first of many.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Alone in the City

I’m a great fan of Edward Hopper’s art: those images of solitary people in city venues are haunting. There is so much emptiness, sparseness in his pictures; his people caged in the emptiness. I have often sat looking at reproductions of these, they move me; yet when I went to write a poem on a similar theme, it came out crowded: more influenced by urban jazz and its motor-junk sound than by those wonderful images.
Funny that, writing poetry is often more about letting it happen in your head than directing it. The subject matter seems to negotiate the furniture in your head and emerge as it will.

City Lives.

They shout into space,
answer each other like whales
across great haunted distances;
they never meet,
only sound waves ever meet.

Alone in their canyons,
they roar.
Rooms upon rooms
upon houses upon houses
upon streets upon streets:
roars spilling out,
spilling over,
spilling down.

A million sound waves,
a million discordancies
tumbling, surging,
pouring out
onto the streets,
into the traffic,
wheels, cogs, pistons:

the cannibal jazz
of cities.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

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.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Revisiting Lough Ree

There is a recollection in Brian Friel’s “Philadelphia, Here I Come” that rings a loud bell in my head: Gar Private recounts a May afternoon out in a boat, fishing with his father. He remembers the fine detail: peeling paint, an empty cigarette packet floating in the water, a rowlock kept slipping. He recounts....”between us at that moment there was this great great happiness, this great joy………………an active bubbling joy”. I admire Friel for so much in his writing, but his accuracy in his encapsulation of the Irish character, and particularly that of the young man,Gareth O'Donnell, in this play is breath-taking.

I was particularly struck by this recollection, because one of my most treasured memories from childhood is very similar. My father had to visit a property on an island on Lough Ree. There is a special atmosphere around a becalmed lake in Summer warmth; it induces a sense of complete ease and, dare I say it, spiritual fulfillment. I never had Friel’s difficulties in my relations with my father, but on that lake, on that morning, my ease and pleasure in his company were complete, and I feel very grateful to have had the experience.

Revisiting Lough Ree

Morning comes colourless;
trees stoop to the lake like pilgrims
witnessing images that are riddles in the water.

A sudden shriek: “Over here, no here, over here.”
I see nothing; the lake keeps its children chilled
in ice buckets among the reeds.

Once I trailed a ripple from a boat
that beveled this water. I’ll remember the oars’
loud soft thud, slap, lick till I die.

It was June. Insects teemed on the surface.
The sun, that tanned our backs, lulled the countryside
into sleep before the fields were even cranked.

My father was there.

Now December.The lake drags its cutlery
through this cress-green landscape
with an indifference that leaves memories shivering.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Wonderful to have access to new and high quality Irish writing for free, and if you haven’t found Southword Journal Online yet, that’s what it offers. Number 19 and Supplement 19A is now online for poetry and short story readers to enjoy.

Southword Editions is the publishing section of the Munster Literature Centre, “a non-profit arts organisation dedicated to the promotion and celebration of literature, especially that of Munster.” Apart from publishing, MLC also organizes readings, workshops, competitions and festivals. (Long may the funding from Cork City and County Councils and the Arts Council last)

Leanne O’Sullivan is poetry editor of the last two online publications, Patrick Cotter and Tania Hershman, the fiction editors; go see. Explore the Munster Literature Centre website and follow links to Southword.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Heightened Vision

Heightened vision. And seeing everything around you as part of the texture of your life.(Too much texture.) The minutest detail magnified, and considered like a tiny echo of the main argument in your head. This lucidity that can be part of the dam-burst of a lover’s quarrel.If you see it coming, get out of the way.


(part of my love story)

discarded matches on the pub floor,
reflections in gutters,
cobwebs in the corners of ceilings,
petals shed and shriveling,
railings’ wrought iron curlicues,
broken windows, tattered curtains,
carrier bags snagged on branches,
the moon running along beside me,
heron one-legged by the pond,
a glove on the footpath;

each fleck, speck, flaw in your argument;
every minute branded, second burned
as thoroughly as a pipe smoker’s match.

I would like to refer back a few posts to July 1st, Autumn Conversations; it seems I posted an earlier version of the poem, not the one that was finally published in the Sunday Tribune. So for anyone interested, I've made the changes.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Waiting for the New Testament (Scientifically Speaking)

Homo Sapiens.

They were anxious to put as many genera between us and ape
as possible; so each new jaw-bone, each different skull,
each new femur became a new genus.
Gradually then, all these rungs were being discovered.

Then someone said " Hey, where’s the cut-off."
No one knew, it hadn't been discovered,
or had but wasn't recognized.

So we're still waiting for him who'll come to announce:
"Hallelujah, this is The Bone, the One that'll divide the fossil record
into b.b. and a.b, (before and after bone).”

Friday, July 1, 2011

Autumn Conversations

There is something very re-assuring in the congregation of old people in parks or wherever enjoying a hearty conversation.They look so comfortable together. Presumably a certain pressure of competition is lifted and they can just enjoy the moment.(Then again maybe the pressure is as intense as ever). One of the pities of Irish weather is that communal park life never got to the levels that can be seen in warmer countries.

Bridge Life

It was, of course, bridge life:
the monk-like garb of old men,
their herring-boned elbows on the parapet,
at home with those ancient lichens
and warmed by their burning pipe fires.

It was those muffled conversations
drifting back between their capped heads
like smoke; their ease, their shapes
hardened or softened by the rain
like limbs of trees left there for cutting.

And it was the river flowing, weaving
their childhood and old years into a tweed:
a comfortable cloth, their cloth, the cloth
to warm their bones when the wind comes
that makes old teeth chatter.