Thursday 28 October 2010

Lime Trees in Autumn

These trees, behind my garden wall, have found their way into a number of my poems, bringing with them the ancient wall with its layered look of stone and red brick.

Pendulous with their random constellations,
a receding row of universes,
they stand as much beyond
my language as beyond my wall...

(from 'Lime Trees', The Old Women of Magione, 1997) 

The shards of glass on top of the wall were there before we arrived in 1991. Behind the wall, separated by the row of trees, are two schools, a primary and a secondary. The hanging terracotta pieces come from Arezzo, Italy. Two of them are meant to be sundials, representing the sun and the seasons, and the third, the smallest, is The Lovers as Sun and Moon. The green clump to the right is 'ivy's last stand': it is the remnant I haven't yet had the time or inclination to prize slowly and carefully off the wall.

Trimming of ivy, task of dislodging
petrified tendrils, allowing
the Virginia Creeper 
a suffocation-saving breather.
The long end-wall on which are hung
a terracotta moon and sun,
its layered look of lichened rock
with interruptions of red brick.

This last bit is from a poem I'm still working on. Note how the detail given above about the terracotta pieces becomes simplified and, you might say, inexact, under the pressure of rhyming couplets. But perhaps other people might more easily relate their own terracotta pieces to a less precise description.

The photograph was taken this morning, 28 October 2010, at about nine o'clock.

Friday 22 October 2010

Poem Based on a Dream

Looking over an old notebook yesterday, I read an entry for 29 September 2006, which began with the remembered details of a dream which I had the previous night. The notebook entry continues as an attempt to put some kind of poetic shape on the details of the dream. Yesterday, over four years later, I revised the notebook's drafts and shaped them into fourteen lines (an unrhymed sonnet). I didn't try to make sense of the original jottings, which contain many illogical shifts as well as two very clear statements. I felt that the dream had its own weird logic, and that I should try to keep this seeming absurdity in the poem.


Hot springs, flaming arrows, permafrost on her patio,
a coloured shadow, pistil and stamen, downfall
of stilettos. ‘If you haven’t written a good line
for years,’ she told him, ‘there are others who have.’
Something was casting a shadow in two colours
on the gazebo ceiling. ‘Shouldn’t it please you
that good lines are being written, even if not
by you?’ Hot springs and flaming arrows, shadows 
in colour on permafrost, a million sea-exits
on this aircraft. She didn’t know the poetry of it,
she was the poetry, pistil and stamen and downfall.
He wrote a poem for her about the night. It had
a million sea-exits. One of them caught her eye.
Hot springs and flaming arrows, shadows on permafrost.

© Ciaran O'Driscoll, 2010

Wednesday 6 October 2010


Donald Hall, Penelope Shuttle and Robert Hass at last year's Cuisle Festival

The 15th Cuisle Limerick City International Poetry Festival will take place next week, from Wednesday 13th to Saturday 16th October, with lunchtime and evening readings by international, national and local poets, as well as a varied programme for schools and a Young Poet of the Year Award.
    This year’s festival includes performances by the popular Rita Ann Higgins and Mary O’Malley from Galway; Chris Agee, editor of Irish Pages; American award-winner Allan Peterson from Gulf Breeze, Florida; Poet-Surgeon Veronika Dintinjana and Poet-Songwriter Jani Kovacic from Slovenia; younger poets James Brookes and Sarah Jackson from Sussex; poet and novelist Kerry Hardie; Vincent Woods, poet and author of At the Black Pig’s Dyke; Máire Áine Nic Gearailt, sár-fhile i nGaeilge; Limerick’s Jo Slade, Catherine Phil MacCarthy and Patricia Byrne. Mark Whelan launches the latest edition of The Stony Thursday Book. Mark Hederman launches the festival at 7pm on Wednesday 13th at Daghdha Space, John's Square.
    There will be discussions, socializing and crack, nightly open mike sessions, book launches and the much-loved Cuisle Grand Poetry Slam.
    If you’re within an ass’s roar of Limerick, or need some poetry in your life, pay us a visit. Further information from The Arts Service, Limerick City Council 353-61-407421 or

Tuesday 5 October 2010


Two members of the Golden Boat Translation Workshop 2008 confer about the strength of the currents at an entrance to the Skocjan Caves, Slovenia.


It could be in Ireland, what with the grass in the middle of the lane and the drystone wall, except for the fruit and vegetables growing on the left. This patch is not beside any house, but is obviously tended, a kind of rural allotment.
The lane is a short walk from one of the largest caves in the world. The month is September, the weather balmy.
I was there to attend the 2008 Golden Boat Translation Workshop, run by Iztok Osojnik and Ana Jelnikar.
'The Golden Boat' is the title of a book of poems by Srecko Kosovel, a brilliant Slovenian modernist poet who died at the age of twenty-two, early in the last century. He died from pneumonia, having walked home from the opera in Trieste during a storm. Kosovel's Golden Boat refers back to the Golden Boat of Rabindranath Tagore.



After I buried my mother
(under fire, I sprinted from the graveyard)

after the soldiers came with my brother
wrapped in a tarp
(I gave them back his gun)

after the fire in the eyes of my children
as they ran to the cellar
(the rats ran ahead of them)

after I wiped the old woman's face
with a dishtowel
(terrified to reveal a face I knew)

after the ravenous dog
feasting on blood
(just another corpse in snipers' alley)

after everything

I wanted to write poems like newspaper reports,
so heartless, so cold,
that I could forget them, forget them
in the same moment that someone might ask me
'Why do you write poems like newspaper reports?'

Goran Simic, from The Sorrow of Sarajevo  (English version by David Harsent)


(Museé d'Orsay, Paris)

You’ll find me presently, in Room Number Fourteen.
If you want to love me, forget the other one 
who stares out of the canvas far too brazenly.
I, Olympia, would like to see you again
and wonder why you have ignored me for so long.
Don’t spend too much time with Caillebotte’s floor-planers
or Bouguereau’s nymphs and satyrs, or the sweet-toothed
dancers at Renoir’s Moulin. I too have a sweet tooth
for galettes. Beware the tricksters who approach you
in the street and pretend to pick a gold ring off the ground.
Gold rings, like me, are treasures not easily come by.
Look at the bunch of flowers my maid is giving me:
it’s from a statesman, he’s quite close to Bonaparte.
But, powerful men apart, I’m very partial 
to poets and artists. Manet was the making of me,
and Baudelaire was bawdy with me once or twice.
In the Orangerie, Paul Klee is thinking of death
and as for Monet’s wall-to-wall lily pads, they
are fine in their way, if it’s lily pads you want.
When a young woman hands you a five-Euro note,
don’t treat her the same as those peddlers of false gold:
you’ll have dropped it searching pockets for your métro ticket.
At Place de la Concorde, pause to remember me
in the sweep of the river passing under bridges,
bearing boat-trippers, its shimmer in the summer heat.

© Ciaran O'Driscoll, 2010

Sunday 3 October 2010


The future's like an unsent letter:
addressed but not yet stamped or sealed or weighed
or even waited on as yet, as yet
as yet it says, not yetted yet, unyesterdayed,
tommorrow’s post but somehow post-tomorrow,
tomorrowing itself out of today.

By ANDREW JAMISON, published in Cyphers, No 70


When I went to my son's parent-teacher meeting
the teachers sat at their desks smiling.
Each had a book of noughts.

I sat opposite
each teacher in turn.

When each one had finished
showing me their book of noughts
they asked me if I understood
the meaning of noughts.

I nodded saying it was obvious
that noughts stood for absence.

And they all nodded too.

By TERESA LALLY, published in Cyphers No 70.