Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Poet For President

I’m pleased Michael D. has got the presidency, assuming he can put aside his tendency towards being a bit pontificatory,(if there is such a word). He has espoused worthy causes over the years particularly in relation to human rights, and he will no doubt champion arts and culture. On top of this he is a very eloquent speaker.

To have a poet president should be particularly welcome, but I’m not sure it’ll be all good. He is such an obvious target for comic impersonators, we have to expect that we’re in for seven years of unmerciful, versified gobbledy gook; a present to the likes of Mario Rosenstock or “Green Tea”. And this is not necessarily a joke, as those who remember the damage Hall’s Pictorial did to Liam Cosgrave and his cabinet will know. When it comes to fallout, a mean caricature is easily worth a thousand words.

While I’m on politics, I was watching Miriam interviewing minister Alan Shatter in relation to the referendums(?). He referred to accountability and transparency while blatantly side-stepping the questions asked. When will these politicians realise that they are the root-cause of our lack of trust.

They promised us change, same old arrogance and disregard for the public; not impressed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Different Musics

Loads of different, weird and wonderful music to be found on the web. Search YouTube for animusic, magic music machine, weird/strange/unusual (musical) instruments etc. No better way to send your mind in a new direction. I think you’ll enjoy these.



Ice Instruments

And that takes me neatly to a poem of mine published in an Irish number of a Belgian poetry magazine, “de brake hond 76”,published in 2002, edited by Nessa O’Mahony, which featured ice musicians.

The Beginning of Science

Long before Saint Patrick,
leather-footed musicians
would keyhole dawn
to catch the sun in ice candles.

They played those flames on strings,
their spikes of sound,
for children’s whistling eyes and lunatics
who, in their distance danced.

Fire caged in ice, ice in their hands;
music lit from within.
Ambition began;
separation became a beauty.

Monday, October 24, 2011


(in memory of Michael Martin)

the stack of papers in the staff room belongs to the past,
the word ‘remember’ keeps cropping up in our conversations
with the cream cakes, jacket pockets lined with biros,
floppy discs abandoned beside the computer.

Suddenly our memories are linked. A day will come
when one of us meeting another on a street will say
“Do you remember ?” and be answered ”Yes. Yes, I do.”
and for a moment the two will be one.

Suddenly “enjoy your summer” also means
“come back well. It matters.”
And some I would wish to kiss good-bye,
for our shared past, for the times we are one.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Two poems on Life Passing

The first by Charles Kingsley has all the maudlin excess that has killed off so much of 19th century poetry for the modern reader. It was learned in primary school from one of the “Young Irish Reader” series that was the staple for countless “Christian Brothers’ boys” back in the sixties and before. Looking at it now, it seems a cause for jumping.
Young and Old
by Charles Kingsley
WHEN all the world is young, lad,
And all the trees are green ;
And every goose a swan, lad,
And every lass a queen ;
Then hey for boot and horse, lad,
And round the world away ;
Young blood must have its course, lad,
And every dog his day.

When all the world is old, lad,
And all the trees are brown ;
And all the sport is stale, lad,
And all the wheels run down ;
Creep home, and take your place there,
The spent and maimed among :
God grant you find one face there,
You loved when all was young.

Then secondary school, and some excellent English text books including “Exploring English” 1, 2 and 3 (Gus Martin’s anthologies) for Inter Cert followed by the recently republished “Soundings” for Leaving Cert poetry. And there was the poem that I think I can call my favourite of all, “Fern Hill”. (When you’ve got the house to yourself, dig it out read it out loud and clear; the only way to do justice to this poem.)

from Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas
And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

…………………………. And final stanza
Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

The full poem is on page

Sunday, October 16, 2011

From Kailas down to the Erne Estuary

From under the rag tree the world looks a kinder place.The dancing dreams and prayers of pilgrims are reminders of human soul before hopes and wishes became more pocket-dependent.

Rag Tree

A thousand dances for Patrick’s stone eyes:


each rag a soul treading thin air.

A thousand advances on Patrick’s stone ears:


each petition a guttering flare.

On The Slopes of Kailas

There are no
january pilgrims

On the slopes
of Kailas.

Buddha squats

In his brilliant
white universe.

prayer rags

Dream away
the off-season.

The Tide's High Blood Mark.

(Before The Firing Squad)


The sun's tide
is licking me.


In one eye-full I have examined every brick,
seen the crack in that window,
the wasp on the flag
and still felt the sun
and heard the voice right down
to the bubble on his vocal cords.


The sun traveled its 93 million miles,
Threw my shadow against the bricks.
My shadow stretched
My shadow stretched
My shadow stretched
And the sun said
That my shadow was as tall and slender
As any wave that ever rose
That ever rose out of the full tide
Climbed and stretched its arms
Over the bricks of this barracks wall.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

1960’s Ireland

If, like me, you enjoy occasional immersions in nostalgia, you might well enjoy visiting the John Hinde Collection - Postcard Archive. Postcards from many countries and all the old favourites from Ireland.For a journey to the past go to:

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,
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,
the Messenger and the Far East,
dress makers and blacksmiths;
hollowed faces in the County Home,
yanks in the sitting room.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Colour of Launguage

The repeated use of colours in this, not so recent, poem came after reading Vincent Woods’ excellent collection “The Colour of Language” (Dedalus Press, 1994). The device opens up a whole new palette of possibilities for unmoored expression, the colours, (excuse me for saying), add colour to what have been a very dull love poem and I think they add a richness that would have been, otherwise, difficult to achieve. I’m not sure how appropriate it is to be so praising of my own work, but I was happy with this poem.

And now a re-reading of Woods’ collection seems well overdue.

The fields, green with snow
under an apple blue sky;

you, brimming
winter’s brightness,

turning cartwheels;
your whole body grinning.

The silver trees of our breathing
in full flower;

my golden happiness
in being with you

till the shafts of shadow
turned purple at sunset;

and our hours together
colourless at parting.

Monday, October 3, 2011


I wonder will anyone remember the man I'm describing here; he was a familiar sight at one time in south Dublin.


frost-forged face.

tarn-deep irises.

bog-cotton hair.

shadow man.