Almost a year to the day since I visited Pearse Hutchinson in St James Hospital and found him in great form. He talked about a nurse he met on his ward; I said he should write the poem; he said he was old and needed to rest that I should write it.That was our last conversation.
A group of students from the Higher National Diploma in Media (Journalism)in Rathmines College are working on a new website to bring together all things Rathmines: businesses, services, clubs, societies, history, events, you name it...........
The website should be up and running by March, but in the meantime they have put in place a facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/InRathmines, a twitter site, https://twitter.com/InRathmines, and a blog, http://inrathmines.blogspot.ie/, which are already very active.
If you have an interest in bringing people into Rathmines for business, leisure or otherwise, you would do well to support these sites.
On a parallel track, Rathmines Community Clubs n Soc's Day, 2013 will take place on 27th April; if you are interested, you know where I am.
Reminding you of Paradise Lost read-a-thon, Friday 14th December 2012, starting at 10 a.m. in the GMB, Trinity College and re-locating to College Chapel from 2 p.m.
Among the readers are Seamus Heaney (at 10am), Eilean Ní Chuilleanáin, Joseph Woods, Gerard Smyth, Macdara Woods, Leeanne Quinn, Peter Denman, David Norris, Iggy McGovern, Terence Brown, and many others. It will continue through the day till approx. 8.30pm. My halfpence-worth comes somewhere around 5.30pm.
It’s all in a good cause, raising funds for the National Council for the Blind. So for a bit of devilment, why not call into Trinity on Friday.
I have no doubt that Yeats was the greatest poet writing in
the twentieth century. He had the complete poet’s palette. I thought it might
be interesting to mash up his lines and see what emerged. So with only his own lines recombined, a few changes to punctuation and the position of line endings, this is what I got, (apologies to the purists):
from the mouths of old men:
I heard the old, old men say,
when you are old and grey
the world is full of magic things:
enwrought with golden and silver light,
silver apples of the moon, golden apples of the sun, faery vats, full of berries and of reddest stolen cherries.
All that's beautiful drifts away like the waters,
for everything that's lovely is
but a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
On the stuff of dreams:
When sleepers wake and yet still dream,
Imagining in excited reverie That the future years had come.
All hatred driven hence,
The young in one another’s arms, birds in the trees —Those dying
generations— at their song.
O, but we dreamed to mend
Whatever mischief seemed to afflict mankind, The fury and the mire of human veins.
If there’s no hatred in a mind,
Assault and battery of the wind Can never tear the linnet from the leaf.
I whispered, 'I am too young,'
And then, 'I am old enough'; Wherefore I threw a penny To find out if I might love.
And paced upon the mountains overhead And hid his face amid a crowd of stars Till the stars had run away.
We taste and feel and see the truth:
A pity beyond all telling is hid in the heart of love: Beauty passes like a dream, All true love most die.
This first year, the potato plants in the water-logged soil
beneath the mountains made a bedraggled- looking crop. They went in late, so we
dug them in late October.
As we uncovered them, I kept thinking how they would have
looked to famine-time diggers. Bright nuggets, valuable as gold; each a
life-saving package of food. Each clod of earth yielding, or not, its
life-saving load. Each decent-sized potato bringing a rush of relief, each
marble a disaster.
How carefully they must have dug with their children’s lives
at stake; potatoes rolling away with the loosened soil, disappearing into the
ground, fingers scrambling after them. How it must have bound families together
in their struggle to survive; how strong must their kinship with the soil have
A different life now: my kitchen stocked with oranges from
Spain, olive oil from Italy, wine from France; leisure filling the space that
was filled with struggle and fertile soil disappearing under concrete.
The opening quatrain to the famous gaelic poem fairly rolls
off the tongue; it is perhaps the easiest few lines to memorise I’ve ever come
across. However I had major problems memorising it owingto the terror of been beaten yetagain by a teacher I encountered during my schooldays in Roscommon. Over the course of a
year, I was slapped numerous times across the face each time I had this
teacher. Well learned verses flowed out of my head like sand.
In my schooldays, primary and secondary, I and most others in
my class groups were struck, (usually on the palms, one teacher liked to catch
the back of the fingers on the upswing), with a snooker cue, bamboo, an
assortment of kitchen-chair legs, leathers. Imagine: even then, (60’s, 70’s), there
was an industry making leather straps with hand-grips for beating pupils.
That culture was accepted to the point that there was no
point telling your parents; children were wrong.
On one occasion, in preparation for catholic Confirmation,
the class group was being examined on its knowledge of Christian Doctrine. The
questioner went around each student in turn asking catechism questions. When a
boy failed a question he got four slaps with the leg of a chair. On and on it
went till there were just 2 boys standing. One of these failed somewhere in the
twenties and got four slaps. The brightest boy in the class went on past the
fiftieth question; when he eventually failed he was hit harder than the rest of
us. Our guess was that this teacher revelled in his only opportunity ever to
hurt this boy.
It was a time of institutionalised cruelty and total disrespect for humans under a particular age. The two examples above show how two people I would credit as basically decent were corrupted by their habitual use of corporal punishment.
This poem was written a number of years ago in response to a sculpture of a grouping of professors/teachers by Simon O'Donnell. Tongue in cheek, the poem pokes fun at the traditional rituals of universities and "old boy" schools and colleges; it could as easily be directed at the wigged personages officiating in our courts.
Now dried tobacco leaves,
whose intellectual travails
have scoured them skinny,
are engaged in the Spring
ritual on the back lawn at Trinity.
Stripped naked, buttocks
slung low over the crew-cut grass,
hands beating mortar
boards; they sway on their haunches,
loosening the centuries'
compaction of soil grains.
Some say they are whipping
up the aurae of their forebears,
others that they are resonating
with the pain of earthworms
as they shift, right to
left, on the balls of their feet.
At the center, standing on
a box, a physics-doctor
with plumb-line hanging
from between forefinger and thumb
is demonstrating down.
I have watched them for an
age, seen their growth rings
water-marks, the knowledge in their face-pouches
Two poems from “Turn
Your Head”. They refer to individuals’ defiance in the face of torture and
death. The looks on two faces among the photographs from Khmer Rouge’s death
camp Tuol Sleng inspired the following two poems.
(I doubt this sort of bravery is on my own list of attributes.)
If I had my choice of buildings to walk into tomorrow
morning; I might just choose the Museo del Prado in Madrid.
I would walk with purpose through the main entrance of the
Villanueva Building, head straight then take a left, the Raphael collection
would be before me but I’d be turning right, pass through the Durer Room with
reservations but carry on, enter two rooms with Flemish paintings then take a
left, and I would be there: Room 56A. Have a look, here is the url:
The local men outside the church interested me as a youngster. On a point of doctrine, did it qualify as attendance at mass if you joined them outside the church or was it a matter of being inside the porch door? I suspect it must be the latter. But why did they bother at all? Does God make these sorts of distinctions? One way or the other they had the best time at mass with the exception, probably, of the priest and altar boys who as far as I was concerned always performed to full houses.
The After-mass Men were these men with the addition of a particular strain of ‘inside the door’ man, a type who appeared to me to be taking the same risk as marijuana smokers who hang out with heroin addicts. Anyway, morally,they all constituted a dodgy breed, endangering each Sunday their eternal living conditions.
These clusters of men arranged themselves in ways that would have excited a sculptor. Dark clothes and, I suspected, dark conversations reigned. They were a dangerous influence, to be avoided by such as myself, to be looked down on, to be prayed for like you’d have prayed for the conversion of Russia;and every boy risked joining them at least once.
The After-Mass Men
Remember those figures by the church wall
Sculpted in after-mass conversations:
That hung there by their jackets;
Museums with pockets,
Pockets full of knives,
pipes and matches.
Pre-Christians defiling Sabbaths
With their Saturday conversations.
Coats would be wrapped against them
As though they were sudden showers of hail.
Plans are afoot to have a reading of the whole text of John Milton's great poem Paradise Lost on Friday the 14th of December, 2012, in
Trinity College Dublin. The event is being organised to raise funds for the
National Council for the Blind (see www.ncbi.ie for further information) and to hear Milton's poem read by many different voices in one continuous reading.
Established poets and writers will feature prominently among the host of voices that will be involved in the day-long reading;a number of well-known poets are already on-board. Dr Philip Coleman and Dr Crawford Gribben of the School of English are the organisers of the event;it sounds great,definitely one of the literary events of the year.
A poem I have come back to many times. Dangerously close to sentimentality, but a challenge to get it right. Normally I'd wait a long time before anyone else would get to see it, but the last draft has been sitting there for ages out-staring me.
We protect our children. If there is a risk to innocent lives we do not fire. Collateral damage in war ..........is our consideration for children based on their race or nationality? Is not the the destruction of their innocent lives the ultimate act of cruelty, of racism?
Culture Night 2012 is Friday, 21st Septembers. I’m looking
forward to reading poems from Above Ground Below Ground at Cruachán Aí Heritage
Centre in Tulsk http://www.rathcroghan.ie/ . Artist Elaine Leigh and I will present images and poems that relate
to the Neolithic sites at Lough Crew in Meath, Brewell Hill and Killeen Cormac
in Kildare, and the legends and myths associated with these sites.
A body of work still in the making: the subject matter has
fascinated Elaine for a number of years, I’ve only caught the bug this year, but I've been amazed at what it has taught
me and at the dam-burst of ideas it has ignited, (those last few words seem to have escaped from a war comic c. 1965).
From“ Above Ground
The sun enters the passage;
I meet him on my way;
he touches my head
I emerge into day;
in the chamber
the sun dwells a moment
on my earlier impressions.
I return after the day
to elaborate my carving,
my perpetual turning.
On Monday 24th, I’m in Mullingar for the
launching of Mullingar Scribblers, Poems and Stories Volume 5.This fantastic
writer’s group, the Mullingar Scribblers, who meet on Monday nights in the
Annebrook Hotel have produced excellent writing for many years; I hope they get
great support from everyone in Mullingar. I might also suggest that, if you are
local and half interested in writing, you could do a lot worse than call into
one of their sessions.
A friend, contemplating the various madnesses of humanity during the week, mentioned the irony of governments paying people to save lives and kill simultaneously; only doctors save lives one by one, soldiers kill in thousands.
There is a short period in childhood when these ironies are questioned, I think this is the only time in which we can save our children from what we've perpetuated. From Sunfire...
Loggers threaten the existence of uncontacted Amazonian
tribes by removing their living resources and space, introducing diseases and by violence. One of the great problems is convincing governments that these tribes actually
exist; the film instances the activities of illegal Peruvian loggers being permitted by the Peruvian government. This moving clip from a BBC Survival
documentary, made with the collaboration of the Brazilian Indian Affairs Dept shows
the first footage of an uncontacted tribe and was made to convince the world
that these tribes do indeed exist. Visit http://www.uncontactedtribes.org/ for
In 1919 John Singer Sargent completed a large scale oil
painting, Gassed. A line of First World War British soldiers, blinded by
mustard gas, is led through a sea of bodies to a first aid station. The scene
is appalling, and as convincing an argument for the barbarity of war as any. It
is strongly reminiscent of Wilfred Owens’ Dulce Et Decorum Est:
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.
I found this video of the painting on Youtube. The camera
picks out the detail in the painting very well, and helps to convey the horror
of it all. Thanks to denise4peace on Youtube for this.
upshot of emigration is the aging of the population, particularly in rural
parts. Old farmhouses, their young families gone, used to be a much more
prevalent feature of the Irish countryside in the sixties and seventies; thenew waveof departures may, sadly, turn the clock back. In silencing dead summer heat, the emptiness of these houses is accentuated.
A Stranger In The Townland.
Autumn the farmhouse
the sun-folded field beneath its chin,
the daylight in its spectacles,
flashes it away.
swing hangs among the orchard's arthritic trees
frantic liveliness now reduced
the occasional commotion of a falling fruit.
songs of apples filled the farmhouse;
the children became photographs,
dust settled on their frames
soon Autumns were flying uncontrollably by.
between its curiosities, a bluebottle drones.