Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Writing Too Much About Carrigskeewaun

09/04/2011 Comments off

Michael Longley’s new volume A Hundred Doors is slim and snug and almost weightless in the hand. He returns again, almost apologetically, to a place that changed his life: ‘I am writing too much about Carrigskeewaun.’

He is there for the millennium, at Christmas, at lambing time, and – for the first time – with his new grandson Benjamin: ‘This is your first night at Carrigskeewaun. / The Owennadornaun is so full of rain / You arrived in Paddy Morrisson’s tractor’.

And then abruptly, we are in the Berg Room at New York’s Public Library where Longley peeks at the field note-books of the war and nature poet Edward Thomas: ‘A shell blast killed Edward Thomas, a gust / That still rifles the pages in the library.’

At the end of the collection the poet loops back to Carrigskeewaun and imagines a time when ha has left the place for the last time: ‘I hope you discover something I’ve overlooked, / Greenshanks, say, two or three elegantly probing / Where sand from the white strand and the burial ground / Blows in.’

Ireland’s Largest Single Literary Event

27/03/2011 Comments off

So said Margaret Hayes, Dublin City Librarian at the opening of the DublinSwell event in the city’s gleaming, green-lit, Convention Centre last week. This, she said, was Ireland’s largest literary event ever.

It was a celebration of Dublin’s listing as a UNESCO City of Literature – one of only four cities in the world to receive this designation.  A happy audience of some 2,000, led by President Mary McAleese, gathered to listen to Dublin poets, musicians, writers and actors.

I had a few quibbles, like the half-hour delay in getting the programme underway, our seats being double-booked and the blaze of gore in the visuals of Iran that accompanied Mike Scott’s rendering of Yeats poems.

The poets were my stars of the night. Seamus Heaney read ‘Postscript’, one of my favourite Heaney poems: ‘As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways / And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.’  We had Paul Durcan’s tragic-comic verses, Dermot Bolger’s tribute to his late wife, Paula Meehan’s earthy Dublin lines, Biddy Jenkinson’s poems as Gaeilge and verse-drama excerpts from Mark O’Rowe’s Terminus.

The President spoke of ‘Brilliant’ – Roddy Doyle’s short story that was the inspiration for Dublin’s Saint Patrick’s Festival 2011 parade. The word could be applied to DublinSwell. Great to be there.

See details of full DublinSwell programme and review here.

What is Poetry?

18/02/2011 2 comments

Mary O’Donnell’s piece from the recently launched provides an insightful perspective from a practitioner into what poetry is and what poetry is not.  

Mary O’Donnell: What Poetry Is

Biography Poem from Painter Poet

05/01/2011 Comments off

Jo Slade’s biography poem The Artist’s Room traces the artist Gwen John (1876-1939) through Paris at the start of the twentieth-century: ‘I looked for her in Paris…/ walked from place to place, lived the smells, the sounds, / followed a plan I’d drawn.’

A painter-poet, Jo Slade uses her artist’s eye to distill the essence of Gwen John’s biography in a precise poetic structure where the artist’s decade-long relationship with Auguste Rodin is central. ‘Look, she’s holding out a hand to him / something like torture has begun.’

I envy those who, like Jo Slade, can write with a painter’s eye and express themselves with tone and precision in paint or ink: ‘Learning the habit of colour / raw umber, yellow ochre, burnt sienna.’

Sean O’Faolain provocatively wrote in an Introduction to Paul Henry‘s autobiography An Irish Portrait (1951): ‘Very few painters have written books and few of these are satisfying.’  Henry himself had a fascination with writing and finding the exact word to convey his emotions.

Jo Slade’s slim volume portraying Gwen John’s ‘passionate melancholy’ contrasts with the efforts of Mary Taubman – another writer and painter – whose work on the life of Gwen John became a life commitment.  When she did publish a book in 1985 it was not the expected comprehensive biography but a succinct monograph covering the events of Gwen John’s life.

Jo Slade says of Gwen John’s artistic impulse:  ‘She felt changes of colour, subtleties of tone / each of the other everything seeping together / making the world seamless, complete.’

Ooze of Light from Sun and Moon

21/12/2010 Comments off

This morning I watched online as crowds at Newgrange gathered to experience the coincidence of a winter solstice and lunar eclipse only to be disappointed when snow clouds prevented the blended light of sun and moon from seeping though the passage tomb.

Out the window a blackbird chases a robin from the bread I’ve left under the plane tree that looks famished in its peeling bark. The temperature is -10C. What’s happening to the weather?

I read Gerry Dawe’s poem ‘Solstice’, composed for the winter birth of his daughter:

‘I see the ice outside fall / and imagined the fires burning / on the Hill of Tara ring …’

A year flickers to a close. To-morrow the days will start to lengthen once more. On the brink of another beginning.

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