Thursday, 14 January 2016



‘Because we’re going to die, an expression of intensity is justified’, poet C.D. Wright, r.i.p.

How about it, Blandus, an expression
of intensity before you pop your clogs?
It looks like you’re a man without a mission,
and your poetry has departed to the dogs.

Ah 'tis yourself that's in it! you’ll declare,
contemptibly soft-soaping the Grim Reaper –
as if you didn’t know he doesn’t care
for anyone, prince, poet or floorsweeper!

And he doesn’t rate intensity a whit.
It doesn’t matter if you’re numb or feeling.
So go and live life fully for a bit
before your funeral bells begin their pealing.

© Ciaran O'Driscoll January 2016

Tuesday, 29 September 2015


The tenth celebration of the poetry festival Riflessi DiVersi (hence RIFLESSI DIVERSIX on the programme booklet) took place in Perugia and Magione from 20th to 27th September. This photo is from the final night, Friday last, at the Torre dei Lambardi in Magione. All the readings are over, the festival has been hugely enjoyable and good-humoured, there remains a beautiful meal to be savoured at Luciano's in Passegnano, and for Margaret and myself, a 'free day' on Saturday and then it's up on Sunday morning at 5am to drive to Pisa for our flight back home.
Somewhat irreverently, the joke that I'm making here concerns my 'half-stigmata' (right hand only), which means I'm really only half a saint, and therefore not fit to give the assembled pilgrims my blessing.
Present L to R: Aurelio Stoppini, Vera LĂșcia di Oliveira [talking to unseen Marco Viscomi], Self, Margherita Bernardini, Rita Castigli and Andreina Panico.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015


I wrote a post a few years back called 'Did Magritte Holiday in Novigrad?' in which I admired an ancient loggia in that Istrian town. Looking out at the sea through the arches of the little loggia reminded me of the surreal effect of a Magritte painting.
The great thing about the loggia at that time was its public access; now, sadly, it has been privatized, bought, and closed to the public as the Croatian word privatno announces on the notice hanging on the cordon in the picture below.

Here are two of the original pictures taken by Margaret on our first visit to Novigrad in 2011:

In the first of these, a bicycle leans against the end of the loggia, and a woman (presumably the owner of the bicycle) takes a photo from inside, through a glassless arched opening looking out over the sea to the left. That casual freedom to lean a bicycle against a public monument, to inspect and explore a public amenity, are now abolished by the word privatno.
The second picture attempts to capture the 'Magritte effect' which first attracted me to the loggia back in 2011.
And here, finally, is the loggia in full, as it looks today, after privatization, with tasteless up-to-date windows and its eccentric use as somebody's breakfast room. A hybrid, neither here nor there.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015


The Sound of Typing

In a poem I wrote a decade or two ago, a bison appears to me in a dream, and gives me a short, facetious resumé of my writing career, dwelling mainly on the development of the technical aspects:

A sentence now, a sentence then;
a pencil, ruler and a pen;
a page to score a verbal goal on;
comma, full-stop and semi-colon.
Then Appleworks and Microsoft:
up from the basement to the loft
of technological expertise,
forgetting intermediaries....

One of the ‘intermediaries’ which the bison neglects to mention is a typewriter by the name of Brother. One day, I was typing what would now be called an ‘active document’:  something that I was making up as I went along, rather than a completed piece that I was simply transferring from handwriting to print. I know that I must have been in the throes of composition, as opposed to transcription, because there were long pauses without any sound of typing.

I wasn’t really aware of those long pauses, although my attention was finally drawn to them because of a distraction. I had retired to that clinical mind-space into which the environment intrudes only as distraction. A long-lost friend of mine once expressed, very neatly and ironically, the paradoxical attitude writers often display in their dealings with reality: Don’t bother me now. I want to write a poem about how much I care for you. 

Some writers are acutely aware of this paradox, but it doesn’t deter them in the least; they incorporate it into their work. The ancient Latin author, Petronius, in his Satyricon, has a poet sitting on a rock after a shipwreck, writing about the tragedy of it, while people are drowning all around him.

That day, I worked on and on, totally absorbed by whatever I was typing. Gradually, a noise began to insinuate itself into my mind; a sound that had originally been insignificant, part of the excluded environment: a repeated word. There was a voice coming at me that said Again. And then, after another while, Again.

I knew, of course, at some level of awareness, that the voice was my son’s. He was one and a bit at the time, and was in the next room, resting in his buggy. And for some reason, he kept saying Again. A mystery began to grow and grow, opening a sizeable gap in my concentration. Again what? 

Eventually, my wife arrived down from upstairs, laughing.

‘What’s so funny?’ I asked, annoyed by the conviction that the game was up for this particular piece of writing; it would be lost to the world.

‘He wants you to keep typing,’ she said. ‘He likes the sound of it.’

It was a humbling moment. There I was, irritable, fastidious, writing a piece that wouldn’t resolve itself into the simplicity I wanted, while outside my mental exclusion zone, the world was being created anew.  And one of its first sounds was the tapping of my typewriter. 

©Ciaran O'Driscoll 

Monday, 4 May 2015



I stand in the somewhat battered plenitude
of my life, a man in his own garden
in the almost middle of May overawed
by the beauty of lime trees.
They form the boundary between two schools
on the other side of the wall,
these tall latecomers into leaf;
and how long have I waited until
the catch in my breath
when I stepped out the back door last night
and they glistened fresh as morning
in the pallor of city lights?
But gazing at them today
in the slightly drunk mid-afternoon,
I am baffled, ill at ease.
How can I hold my ground against this:
lime trees in newest leaf,
gentle arboreal fireworks
showering in stillness,
clusters of leaf-green stars?
Pendulous with their random constellations,
a receding row of universes,
they stand as much beyond
my language as beyond my wall,
and I’m afraid to look at them
much longer, in case I’ll be struck dumb
or spend the rest of my days
gibbering about lime trees.

From The Old Women of Magione (1997)
©Ciaran O'Driscoll
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