Wednesday, 9 November 2022
Wednesday, 21 September 2022
Below is the cover of my poetry collection The Old Women of Magione (1997) designed by the late David Lilburn. I am currently writing an essay for an Arts Council Blog (related to their 70th Birthday Celebrations) on my various collaborations with this brilliant artist, untimely gone from us.
Wednesday, 17 August 2022
I sit on the sofa beside
My one-year-old grandson
Watching midsummer showers
Speckle the window pane
His warm hand in mine
I think of Kavanagh’s poem
‘Every old man I see’
And know I’m one of them
I show my face on the mobile
To the offspring of my son
And then show him his own.
He slips my hand and is gone
Taking me through the rigours
of a mad merry-go-round
He’s a yacht out on the bay
I’m a hulk that’s run aground
But the foc’s’le of the spirit
on the wreckage of my hope
still boasts a live transmitter
towards which my fingers grope
And from perdition’s shell
Till the channel disconnects
I’ll sing him songs of culture
and its enlightened texts.
Copyright Ciaran O'Driscoll 2022
Tuesday, 19 April 2022
LENDING HANDS IN LISBON
"The duty of a writer is to remind us that we will die.
And that we aren't dead yet." Solmaz Sharif
I fell with my chair outside A Brasileira,
slumped to flagstones as it tipped a ledge
beside the coffee shop frequented by
Fernando Pessoa. A woman near me
was sipping a clear drink I thought was schnapps
until she told me later it was port.
As for Pessoa, he sat there impassive
under his trilby, taking nothing in.
But others reached out to lever me from
my prone position: half-a-dozen hands
descended towards me in slow motion, faces
full of solicitude looked down on me.
A voice called Gently, gently, lift him gently.
Out of nowhere, a doctor declared himself,
inspected the wrist which bore my tumble’s brunt,
said I was fine and recommended ice.
I felt well enough to finish my brioche
despite some pain and discombobulation,
but I thought it churlish of Pessoa
to sit there dandily indifferent,
a simulacrum, while a fellow poet
plummeted on a ledge-forsaking chair
to possible perdition from the platform
I visited in portly pilgrimage.
It was mid-morning. Not having touched a drop,
even of clear port, I was clear-headed
enough to catch Pessoa’s quiet response
to my hasty umbrage at his disregard:
Beaten in bronze and far beyond the year
of grace I was given to ghost through Lisbon,
I, too, would have liked to lend you a hand.
My dilemma was, and remains, that I am dead.
© Ciaran O'Driscoll 2022
Friday, 29 October 2021
Martina Evans reviewed four poets in last Saturday's Irish Times Magazine.
She begins with Tipperary native Eleanor Hooker's Of Ochre and Ash, quoting from "When you dream of the dead":
Dad's by the hearth, encouraging ash back to life.
I've never lived in a house that held its heat I tell him,
unable to say I miss you in case he recollects
his death. Somewhere in the house
a child is crying. Find her, he says.
There's an awful lot in those six lines. The enigmas of ordinary Irish rural speech, its mind-challenging indirectness; what's not said; a flavour of Isabel Allende's novel The House of the Spirits; pathos; a simplicity which is not the same thing as directness (Martina Evans speaks of Hooker's 'deceptively plain writing.')
There's one guy and three gals. The guy is Raymond Antrobus and his collection is called All the Names Given.
My mother said my father had a heartless sense of humour.
That winter she fell, ice on the road...
He watched from the kerb – boozy red-eyed Dad –
laughed when she said he had a heartless sense of humour,
I think that's how he handled pain.
("Heartless Humour Blues")
This is not as full as Hooker's lines, but I like the repetition of the heartless sense of humour, and the swift character sketch of Dad, with the pinprick epiphany of the last line.
In The Sun Is Open, Gail McConnell grieves for the loss of her father, shot in front of his wife and children, a sectarian execution of 1984:
night and day he made and trees
and peas and wendy houses
tricycles sunglasses that go snap
let there be lights let lights appear
Finally, Parwana Faraz in "Forty Names", the title poem of her book, "tells the story of 40 young women shot in a cave. We know their names but not why they died, grief is expressed in their naming and the cinematic vision of that mountain place, their dresses animated, a herd of colours".
Faraz speaks of her mother who, on being exiled, 'carried her box of sewing needles and her butterfly sewing machine made in the USSR'. She advised her daughter to be 'a woman with an idea and a wallet."
© Ciaran O'Driscoll 2021