Tuesday, November 29, 2011


If only you’d come,
seen the moonfire on the mountains,
the granite glowing underfoot,
the cream grass shining.

And those clouds like flames
whipped from the mountain-top
with the moon’s alabaster whiteness
trapped, a prisoner inside them.

And I wish you’d seen me
with the mad swirl of a kite
lashing songs into the wind
beyond the city’s iodine stain.

If pushed for a favourite Neil Young tune, I might just pick "Harvest Moon". It's like you unfurled the heart's sail and set it on a warm breeze to a faraway island dancing on sparklets on the sea.Beautiful.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Exciters

The Exciters was a showband from Roscommon - now there’s a name to tick all the boxes. The local ballroom was Fairyland, (we had a way with names back then). Back in the sixties, Reynolds’ ballrooms promised almost heavenly delights: Dreamland, Cloudland, Roseland and (wait for it) Wonderland. The promise involved careful cultivating from the ruck to the dance-floor to mineral bar back to dance-floor to balcony to rear of dancehall. Meanwhile bicycles, cars, Honda 50’s, tractors, vans, passion wagons of all sorts waited with bated breath, sometimes with glorious expectation, sometimes with an over-powering whiff of sheep dung.

This is by way of introducing the following poem, but it also gives me the opportunity to recommend a visit to the Irish Showband website which brings back all of the above. < http://www.irish-showbands.com/index.html>

Last Tuesday Fabulous Arthur Quinn
was Found Dead in his House.

Fabulous Arthur Quinn
and The Rhythm Fountain,
Cloudland, 1967.

They saw the advertisement
in the Roscommon Herald.
It was in a box under the bed.

The Fountain must have dried up
quickly; Arthur worked
in the meat factory for years.

Left with a broken wrist in 1983
and went home,
he can’t have been that old.

They said Fabulous Arthur
must have stared at his ceiling
for at least 6 days without blinking.

from Turn Your Head, Dedalus Press

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Apparently my face changes as soon as I cross the river Shannon. I am home in Roscommon and a smile spreads across my face as broad as the river in spate.
And it’s true. Even on route to Galway, I savour the stretch between Athlone and Ballinasloe as though it basked in the only patch of sunlight in the whole of Ireland. In that second passing by the familiar road to Kiltoom, Lecarrow, Knockcroghery and home, my eye travels the first half mile and I am back to school and college years and for a few moments I’m in a wash of the carefree feelings of that time.
I suppose that’s what it is: I had a privileged childhood, an easy and safe passage; my parents gave us that. Happiness made home and I’m carrying it still.
Main St in the photograph is Main Street as I best remember it. My grandmother had a butcher’s shop, Connollys, where the car on the right-hand side is parked. There were some treasure troves on the street: Finns toyshop just beyond Morris’s was our source of Lucky Bags, ( all the money I spent on those surprises !); Higgins where that bread lorry is visiting: I can smell that delivery, Kellys Bread sliced and unsliced; I had a particular fondness for the small Hovis pan. In a tiny space Nelly Higgins had grocery, newspapers, a bar and a press full of toys.
Further up on the right, Smiths (out of view) with petrol pumps outside the door; do they still make Charms sweets? I bought my first proper books in Morris’s, Treasure Island, Coral Island etc and started a small collection. But best of all was Josey Kerrigan’s under the Bush sign, a small cave chock a block with appliances and wonders of all sorts and on a good day Josey would demonstrate a gizmo just in with the greatest of pride. Wherever you are Josey, my guitar sounds as good today as the day it left your shop all those years ago.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

From a Child's Bedroom Window

A small child with a view of countryside from his or her bedroom window has a million miles of darkness for imagination to roam through after darkness falls. Heaven and earth merge in the blackness;so the realms of spirit and man become one.

The Boy Who Watched For Apparitions.

Goodnight to the twin moons
stretched along the railway tracks
outside Roscommon.
My night-time window halved
with those trains rushing across the glass,
strips of film filled with their own lives:
adventurers and bon-vivants,
whose strings of lights recreated as they passed
the grassy slope, the elder bushes,
the buffer with the hole in the side;
strangers oblivious to such little worlds
and to the boy who watched for apparitions
from his bedroom window.
And in a moment they were gone,
leaving the darkness darker and the boy listening,
trying to gauge where the sounds
finally disappeared into the wind.

What lay beyond that window-world ?

The station to the right,
the white gates to the left,
and then..........

Now I remember those film strips
sailing through that pitch emptiness;
sometimes they were only ruffed impressions
when the window was full of pouring rain.
I remember how my imagination filled like a can
when all that was left was the headlight's beam
over the trees of Bully's Acre.
And there is often disappointment in these poems;
the disappointment of that place beyond
where the rhythms of trains were reclaimed by the wind.

......from Sunfire (Dedalus Press)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rain in Donegal

I never really appreciated the beauty of rain on the landscape. Looking out over Donegal Bay from Murvagh beach, the short-range weather forecast is well within everyone’s capability.

Showers approaching over Mullaghmore, will be hitting Ballyshannon, Creevy and Rosnowlagh in 6, 8 and 10 minutes. Mount Charles will remain dry until hit by a following bank of showers ten minutes later. Sun shining on Slieve League and will continue into the foreseeable future, i.e. until 3.30pm, beyond which time weather forecasting is for now purely speculative.

Meanwhile God’s fingers radiate from behind an encroaching cloud and for the next five minutes there is an almost a divine glow of light in the middle of the bay.

Back in Barnesmore the rain blurs the Bluestacks into the grey backs of beasts grazing ethereal meadows that were not there five minutes ago.

The beyond has disappeared, taking Ballybofey, Stranorlar and all points north with it; it is now a million miles away.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

By the Grand Canal.

The trees “in their Autumn glory”; the canal an unstirring, uncreased line of sky, almost a memory of blue. The lock houses holding their breathes as though they too, might blow away like leaves of the departing year. All nature seems entranced on days like today. And though the background din of cars is incessant, the atmosphere is as it must always have been on becalmed days: serene, slightly eery, lonesome almost. But the butter coloured light gives it a touch of Constable, romantic if you’re with a lover, sad if you’re alone. And everywhere memories falling with just the gentlest of alarms.

Beyond The Twelfth Lock.

All the world was in a pool by the canal;
all the Autumn,
all the Summer turned peacock
gazing at itself
quietly, still, face to the water.

Where I had seen the swans
flaming in Spring,
today I came on Summer,
gold and beautiful,
about to die.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Blue-veined old hands:

I never saw them coming
till they were spread bleak
as the limbs of Winter trees
across vacant heavens.

When I said I loved you
I lashed at the wall
with a stick of oar weed
picked off the strand.

Cantankerous old fool:
never saw him coming
till words I spat out
fell like lightning turned
to twigs of rotten wood.

from "Turn Your Head"

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Consideration of Pearse Hutchinson's Poetry

Placed not Cast

Hurling the frail door wide open, erupting down
from dim-lit narrow side-street three shallow steps
into the dark, small, quiet pub the raw young marine
in the dark blue blared
‘Is there nobody here?’
(from Saturnino by Pearse Hutchinson)

Following the marine back out onto the street, publican Saturnino cried Are we nobody? and back in the bar, Are we not people? not once nor twice but three times at least. This declaration of the most basic human right: to be recognized as a person, occurring in a circumstance most of us would probably file under forgettable, is a recurrent theme in Pearse Hutchinson’s writing.

The poems are frequently anecdotal. In the telling, he relates an incident, a minute event, the sort most of us think nothing of; and in the light he throws, we see the metal strip, the watermark. So much that passes as mundane transactions between people carries within them the watermarks we’re born with. Hutchinson recognises this; his anecdotes carry within them the universal truths about humankind.

His regard for people, the downtrodden, small, voiceless people is apparent time and time again. The narrowing of his focus from the Vatican-voluptuous, higher than God’s own sky ceiling in York minster to the timber model of Barnsley Main Seam....... nestling modest into the minster wall exemplifies this perfectly. The grandeur merits myriad cold, lavish adjectives. By contrast, the small model made by miners receives a distinct lack of adjectives, but the warmth in (and when was ‘w’ more effectively used) the phrase he chooses, well worked in wood, is palpable. It is not primarily a statement on the relative merits of the craftsmanship on display, but the honest endeavour of those who do not have the means to be loud. When he contemplates what would be revolutionary, it’s not of the ‘pull the palaces and parliaments down’ variety, but universal courtesy that comes to his mind. He is right; though not often referred to nowadays, courtesy between all would indeed eliminate most of the injustices we live with.

Another seldom mentioned virtue, gentleness, appears regularly in his poetry; a virtue that manifests itself in the daily transactions between individuals.

If love is the greatest reality
and I believe it is,
the gentle are more real
than the violent or than
those like me who
hate violence,
long for gentleness,
but never in our own act
achieve true gentleness.
We fall in love with people
we consider gentle,
we love them violently
for their gentleness”
(from Into their true gentleness)

His gentle spirit suffuses not only the subject matter of many of his poems e.g. regarding the raw-looking hand in All The Old Gems but also in the expression of his subject matter as in Legend:

The Russian word for beautiful
is the Russian word for red.
The Chinese word for silk
is the Chinese word for love.

Beautiful red silk love.

Silk isn’t always red -
is love always beautiful?
When you are with me,

even in his choice of writing style e.g. the softness of the prose style adopted in A True Story of Art and Friendship.

His eye for the small detail: a snowflake in a web, a dandelion recalling a yellow fire, a wooden stile, enables him to reach the heart of poetry as a listener for the bass line in music reaches into the middle of the tune. Who else would ask,

Would unspent matches
lightly driven against
the handle of a silver spoon
make a different sound?

This after hearing the sound of spent matches touching the handle of a silver spoon in the poem Koan.

The last poem in Pearse Hutchinson’s Collected Poems is River. A girl plucks a flower and walks to the river outside the town,

She stood for a minute, watching the water move,
Then bending down she placed - not cast -
The flower on the water.

This last image might well be his poetry.