Thursday 25 August 2011


There’s a wasp in the session, zig-zagging
among the dancing fiddle bows. I can see
the hills of Clare from a window behind
the keyboard accompanist, who’s annoyed
by the presence of the wasp. Neophytes sit 
with instruments en garde, in expectation 
of doing battle with a jig they’ve learned.
Nattering non-stop, another wasp 
plonks himself in a chair reserved for players:
music has pressed his talk-button. Praise
in this culture is reticent, addressed
to the instrument – That whistle is going well
for you – or to the time and toil devoted
to the craft –  It’s not today nor yesterday
you took up the fiddle. A stout countryman
pauses on his way from the Gents and stares
at the lead fiddler as if staring could
yield up the point, the mystery of the music.
When the global economy collapses,
these tunes will still be played – wasps or no wasps.
A dozen or so digital recorders,
some of them so small they must have been
designed by Flann O’Brien’s Third Policeman,
are planted near the session. The wasps have gone,
one through an open casement, one through the door.
Somebody calls for a song. The Clare Hills
are looking good: I see them through the window
as if for the first time. It’s not today
nor yesterday they learned to play the light.

© Ciaran O'Driscoll, 2011

Note: I wrote the first draft of this poem in Feakle, Co Clare, during a Sunday morning session at the annual Traditional Music Festival, on August 7th last. The 'lead fiddler' in the poem (and in the session) was Vincent Griffin.

Thursday 11 August 2011


Reka is the Slovene word for river. There is a river in Slovenia which is simply called Reka. Hence when we call it the Reka River in English, we are calling it the River River. An interesting idea: is there a River River, the essence of all rivers, the Platonic Idea of Riverdom?
The Reka rises in Croatia, flows through western Slovenia and enters the Skocjan Caves, where it disappears beneath the caves to re-emerge eventually as one of the springs that feed the Timavo River in Italy, hence makes its way to the sea as part of the Timavo. Many lives were lost in the nineteenth century by volunteers with inadequate equipment and experience who tried to find the path taken by the Reka when it went underneath the Skocjan Caves.
A strange river, but looking at this photograph (taken very close to where it enters the cave) you wouldn't think so!

river don’t cast me aside
in a mood-swing of your psyche 
we are passing the time of day
together, let me stay 
crouched here listening
to your pure palaver