Thursday 6 December 2012



In the presence of the present
that was present all along,
some things are terribly right
and some are terribly wrong.

Some things are terribly clear
and some are still subliminal.
They’re singing the same old song
from the new Higgs Boson Hymnal.

The octopus dreams of the fisherman’s wife.
The sea is a gift and an affliction.
The trees outside my window
are bare without exception.

The dishwasher’s gulping water.
The world’s been brought to its knees.
Fingers reach for the moon 
on the boughs’ extremities.

© Ciaran O'Driscoll 2012

Friday 30 November 2012


Toy helicopters? During the Celtic Tiger period in Ireland, the thing to have was a helicopter. It was a toy for those who had made an awful lot of money during those boom years. And of course, if one had a helicopter, one had to have a helicopter pad.
It was nice to be able to say, 'Go round the back, past the helicopter pad, and you'll find us in the conservatory.'
There was a story about a man who used the roof of a building as a helicopter pad, without permission, and damaged the building's structure.
"Keeping up with the Jones's" reached new levels of insanity in the Celtic Tiger era. I try to capture this surreal situation in my poem The Copper Mines of Peru, to show the effect it had on the relationship between a fictitious teenage son and his father, and on the whole family.


A sullen-faced youngster
is getting into his father’s car.
He’s had a bad childhood.
I had a bad childhood too
but I got over it. Look at me,
I’m going through the cycles
of eternal recurrence.
Unlike my father did on me,
I never laid a hand on him
and yet what his eyes are saying
every time I look at him
is that I have failed him,
that I embarrass him,
that my very existence
was the cause of his bad childhood
What he needs is a good funt
but you can’t get away with that 
nowadays. I’m driving him to school
but he doesn’t want to be driven to school,
above all, he doesn’t want me
to drive him to school,
and if he must be driven to school,
it should be in a Merc or a Beamer.
But what he really really wants
is to have his own Merc or Beamer
and drive himself to school.
Would he be happy with that?
No, there’d be something else
biting him. Some day one of his pals
would descend to school in a helicopter.
Then he’d want a fucking helicopter.
And would that take the perpetual sulk
off his face? Would he get a life then?
You can be certain he wouldn’t,
because I’d buy him a shit helicopter
having mortgaged the house to pay for it
and sold my wife into slavery
and sent his younger brother and sister
to work in the copper mines of Peru. 
While other fathers would buy his classmates
brand new classy twin-jet-engined helicopters,
his would only be second hand
with a single piston engine
and not one of the girls in the school
would ask him for a lift.
And if I tried to reason with him:
‘Son, you can take it from me...’
‘Oh Jesus, not that again,’ he’d say.
‘Let me talk, you little fucker,’ I’d say
and he’d throw his eyes to heaven,
heaving a petulant sigh.
‘You can take it from me,’ I’d say,
‘that if a girl likes you, really likes you
she won’t care if your helicopter
is shit. It’s you, not your helicopter, 
she’ll want – your personality.’
‘Tell that to the Marines,’ he’d say.
‘Anyway, I don’t have a personality.
I had a bad childhood –   remember?’
And this is how it would finish:
we’d settle down in our sleeping bags
in the cabin of the shit helicopter
parked on a flat rock
on the top of a mountain.
‘I miss Mom and Billy and Frida,’ I’d say.
‘So do I,’ he’d say.
‘Fuck you and your teenage angst.’
‘Fuck you and your shit helicopter.’

‘Night, Son.’  
‘Night, Dad.’ 

SEE A VIDEO AT of a reading I gave of this poem at 'On the Nail' Readings in Limerick March 2016.

© Ciaran O'Driscoll 2012

Monday 19 November 2012


My novel, A Year's Midnight, recently published by Pighog Press, is set mainly in Umbria, Italy. Here are some pictures from the walk which George, the main character, undertakes on Christmas morning at the beginning of Part II, in an attempt to dispel a tremendous hangover. The stretch of water in the background, which might pass for an inlet of the sea, is in fact Lake Transimene, not far from where Hannibal defeated the Roman Legions in 217 BC, during an earthquake. The grey dog by the side of the path is not one of the three dogs on which the canine characters in the novel are modelled: they were all poisoned later in the 'truffle wars' (cf Rogero's remark, p 52). It wasn't that the dogs were truffle-sniffers, it was just that they ate the meat left out by one lot of truffle hunters to poison rival hunters' dogs.


As one can gather from the sunflowers, these pictures were not taken on Christmas Day, but in the middle of August. And there's the grey dog again below, beside an olive tree. She was named 'Pinup' by Fernando, her owner. I could hear Fernando frequently calling Pinup during my stays on his farm: 'Peenup! Peenup!' I came up with a groan-inducing pun which linked the Italian pronunciation of Pinup with a popular type of Italian white wine: Peenup Grigio. (Grigio meaning grey.)

The third picture below shows one of the most striking features of the Umbrian landscape: the patterns made by the rows of olive trees. It also shows another, sadder feature: an abandoned house. There are many such houses in the countryside where I used to stay. This particular house features in my novel as the place where Barbara (George's partner) and her son took a rest on their walks together, and Barbara  'doodled dog faces on a sketchpad...while the dogs hovered and panted around them, impatient to carry on' (p 40).

Quotes from A Year's Midnight, Ciaran O'Driscoll, Pighog Press 2012.

Wednesday 14 November 2012


Delighted to see a new review of 'A Year's Midnight' on this morning. Written by  'Blighty', it is succinct, allusive, witty and seasonal.

Dark amid the blaze of noon13 Nov 2012
This review is from: A Year's Midnight (Paperback)
George, like his sainted namesake, is tormented by dragons in the rural Italian retreat that he and Barbara have chosen for a year of serenity, following his breakdown. Yet the burning Mediterranean sun cannot dispel the darkness within, until George goes down to the woods one day ... and discovers a big surprise. Ciaran O'Driscoll's tale of personal rebirth in Italy, mother to the wider Renaissance, displays the poet's ear for words and keen eye for detail. Barbara's symptoms, for example, "evaporated, like water off the shell of a boiled egg". The book is tautly written and just the right length for a Christmas read by the fireside. 

Monday 29 October 2012



Irish Examiner, on 20th October, 2012.

After school, Ciaran O'Driscoll joined the civil service; then he joined a religious order, leaving after ten years. He went to London where he worked as a secondary school teacher, before studying philosophy. Before retirement, he worked as a lecturer in Limerick School of Art and Design. 

All that time he was writing poetry. He has published six collections; and has written a childhood memoir, some radio scripts, and some essays on poetry. He has won the James Joyce Literary Millennium Prize, the Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in Poetry, and he is a member of Aosdána. 

Who is Ciaran O’Driscoll? 
Date of birth: 2nd October, 1943, in Kilkenny.
Education: Rochestown College, Cork. University College Cork, BA, University of London, MA.
Home: Limerick City.
Family: Wife, and a son, aged 23.
The Day Job: Full time writer. 
Hobbies: Listening to traditional Irish music and opera. Walking, travelling, watching rugby.

Favourite Writers: Mikhail Bulgakov, Flann O’Brien, Stieg Larson

Second Novel: I’m planning to travel somewhere and live there for a while. I hope this will give me a setting, and some characters. 

Top Writing Tip: I believe immersing yourself into an unusual setting can give you inspiration for a novel. 

Web/Twitter: @CiaranODriscoll

The Debut Novel: A Year’s Midnight. Pighog Press: €13.20 
Kindle: €4.69.

George and his partner, Barbara, move to Italy. George is recovering from a breakdown, and hopes to find peace. But the rural scenery, and in particular, a field, starts to bother him. He falls apart, as memory of childhood abuse starts to surface. He turns to drink, develops obsessions, and has hallucinations about a child poltergeist. 

“We went to live in Umbria, when our son was about four. I went with the intention of writing a novel, and I did complete a first draft. I finished a version, but then the idea of a memoir took over. Recently I rewrote the novel, but in a darker form.” 

The Verdict: An atmospheric tale that toys with dark subjects, told with a lot of black humour.

© Sue Leonard. 2012. 

Friday 19 October 2012



Waiter, is this some kind of dupe?
I’ve found a Scobie in my soup.
He’s doing a breast-stroke towards the dole
across my bisque of lobster’s bowl.

He’s caused my peace to fly the coop,
this brat from the lowest income group.
I fear it will not be long before
his sneakers sully my parquet floor.

Waiter, please put me in the loop:
why is this Scobie in my soup?
It’s the social charge that you incur
for dining sumptuously, sir. 

Note: In Limerick slang, according to my son (who knows), Scobie is 'a lighter term for a scumbag'.  Lighter, therefore less judgmental, I'm presuming. Younger than a diehard scumbag, possibly heading towards scumbag-dom, possibly not. Socially deprived and therefore bolshy.

© Ciaran O'Driscoll, 2012.

Wednesday 17 October 2012


About five or so years ago, the committee of Cuisle, Limerick City's Annual Poetry Festival, decreed in their wisdom to offer their invited poets an annual outing on the Saturday of the festival, before the final evening readings at 8pm. This year a different itinerary was on offer: instead of travelling through the Burren's Karst landscape to lunch in Linnane's pub in New Quay, as we have always done previously, the trip was to Lahinch and the Cliffs of Moher, with lunch in Vaughan's pub, Liscannor. There were seven uptakers of the offer this year.

Here we are on Lahinch Beach, from left yours truly, Radharani Pernarcic and Iztok Osojnik from Slovenia, my wife Margaret Farrelly, Tom Slingsby from England and his partner Tila Rodriguez-Past from Mexico. Robin Parmar of Canada (living in Limerick) took this photograph with Margaret's camera.

The weather was uncertain, a few little spits of rain on a chill breeze in Lahinch, but by the time we got to the Cliffs of Moher, the day had settled into breezy sunshine, and everyone set off on their own explorations, unwisely not being given a time to return to the cars, so that.....

Cliffs of Moher with O'Briens Tower

by the time we got to Vaughan's in Liscannor, I was rather irritable with the hunger (can't speak for anyone else!). But as you can see from the photo below, I was soon set right - a couple of glasses of Pinot Grigio did the trick, even though my lunch was the last to arrive. Viva Pinot Grigio!

Tuesday 2 October 2012



Limerick-based poet Ciaran O'Driscoll will be launching his new novel, 'A Year's Midnight', published by Pighog Press, at the following Irish venues:

Thursday 4th October, 7pm: The Irish Writers' Centre, 19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1. Launched by Vincent Woods.

Friday 5th October, 2pm: The Players Theatre, Samuel Beckett Centre, Trinity College, Dublin 2. Reading and discussion. Introduced by John Davies, director of Pighog Press.

Tuesday 9th October 7pm: O'Mahony's Bookshop, O'Connell Street, Limerick. Launched by Jo Slade.

A Year’s Midnight is that rare beast, a truly literary page-turner. A compelling and witty black com- 
edy, it draws readers into the edgy relationship between George and his partner Barbara, as they at- 
tempt to spend a relaxing year in rural Italy.  
But their plans all go awry as between drinks, recriminations, a poltergeist and sinister childhood 
memories, their relationship disintegrates. Soon George is walking a fine line between mysticism and 
madness. His loving artist partner is alienated by his unpredictable mood swings. Failing to see why he 
pays so much attention to a mysterious nearby field, she is drawn into the arms of their landlord 

“A Year's Midnight is a wonderful and beautiful piece of work – written by 
someone who has the eye of a painter, the ear of a listener and the pen of a 
poet. A book that entwines sensual delight with wry humour, landscape with 
lunacy – a joy from first to last.” John MacKenna 
“Disturbing, heart-warming and with generous amounts of darkly funny 
moments, O’Driscoll’s despair has a witty and lyrical edge that means you 
never get sucked so far into the darkness that you stop enjoying the journey. 
Buon viaggio...” Shelley Marsden The Irish World 

Tuesday 28 August 2012


The lighthouse is in Savudrija, on the North Western tip of Croatia, right beside the Slovenian border. It is the oldest lighthouse on the Adriatic, built in 1818. Many lighthouses on the Croatian Coast now serve as tourist accommodation.

We found the accordion player at a seaside restaurant in Umag. He is playing a Slovenian accordion. He told us it was rather rigid, specifically designed for waltzes, and that it would probably be hard to play Irish reels on it.

Friday 24 August 2012


Novigrad, a seaside town in Istria, Croatia, has very few taxis. I counted one on my last visit there but it was missing most nights, and the taximan was not answering his mobile.
However, Novigrad boasts an excellent service from its charming choo-choo trains (not that they puff steam, even if they are Disney-like versions of the old steam engines that made the choo-choo sound of my childhood). And while they look like they were designed to carry children around a funfair, they provide transport for people of all ages, travelling in all directions, for a modest fare, rattling their way over the streets and roads in the direction of out-of-town hotels. And while there are designated official stops along the way, you can always bargain with the driver to let you off at a place not officially designated, provided it's along the route. Late at night, the last choo-choo trains are full of jovial chatting holidaymakers, Croatians and foreigners, in the sultry summer nights. I shout at the driver to remind him that we are approaching our unscheduled stop. We get off and walk the rest of the way to our apartment.

Wednesday 8 August 2012



There’s a head on the water. I see it
every morning and evening as I stand
on the beach’s frothy edge – the walrus-head
of a healthy human specimen between  
me and the motor-driven schooners moored 
in mid-harbour, their sails superfluous 
and furled; between the open sea
and the cactus-clustered mountains.

Between me on the hissing hem of froth
and the schooners’ supernumerary sails,
between the cliffs and the promenade I see
a regular middle-aged hominid head,
a brine-encompassed brainbox that proceeds
stealthily from my waking to my sleep,
its wet mouth lapped by whiskers, half-closed eyes
rapt in some indecipherable bliss.

A head that has made this incongruous
element its own, a head on its own 
that has made the sea its own, a head 
that I cannot get out of my own head,
moving without making sense between
the harbour mouth and the holiday apartments,
de facto as the cactus plants that rest
snug in their places on the mountain slopes.

I watch it daily from the ocean’s edge
shifting without a ripple or a wake
in the lagoon between a reef of yachts
and my reluctant water-testing toes,
I see it floating through recurrent dreams –
a king in a country of his own making,
capo di capi not to be discounted
in the fortunate isles of imagination.

A cranium building a head of steam
in its unwimpling progress up and down
the smoothness of the surface, unconcerned
by what is happening offshore or on.
This head of heads, no other head’s contentment,
content without companion head, ensconced
in isolated mindfulness. A head
to end all heads, the mother of all heads.

© Ciaran O'Driscoll 2012

Tenerife, January 2012

Monday 9 April 2012


My novel A Year's Midnight, published by Pighog Press, is being launched during the London Book Fair, on 17th April, upstairs at The Prince of Teck, 161 Earls Court Road, SW5 (near Earls Court Tube Station), at 8.45 pm.
You are all most welcome to attend.

"A Year's Midnight is a wonderful and beautiful piece of work – written by someone who has the eye of a painter, the ear of a listener and the pen of a poet. A book that entwines sensual delight with wry humour, landscape with lunacy – a joy from first to last."
John MacKenna

Pighog Press is currently celebrating 10 years in existence. A Year's Midnight is Pighog's first novel (and mine too!) My launching at 8.45 pm will be preceded by the launching of Kay Syrad's new poetry collection at 7.45 pm, same venue.

Monday 13 February 2012


I thought I might have more to say about this picture; at the time I took it, that is. The black sheep looked more menacing then than it does now. As if he was going to contest our right to go any farther. But like most bullies, gave way when we challenged. A doubly biblical image: sheep and the dead. We were on a walking tour in Sussex. Later some of the sheep became quite impertinent, when we settled down to have a churchyard lunch. Nearly snatched a sandwich out of my hand, one of them did.

Thursday 9 February 2012


While the rest of Europe, including the UK, is in the grip of ice and snow, the western half (at least) of Ireland is mild and damp. I did a bit of a double take this morning when I looked out at the garden and saw the rose bush below beginning to bloom. Is this Climate Change or am I a Dutchman?

Perhaps my brother Donal, a keen gardener, would care to comment? Or anyone else for that matter.

Wednesday 11 January 2012



Oh I’m drivin’ me auld sulky in the rain
Yes I’m drivin’ me auld sulky in the rain
The seat it bites me ass
But I’m feelin’ kind of class
‘Cos I’m drivin’ me auld sulky in the rain

Oh I’m drivin’ me auld sulky in the rain
But you’ll never ever hear me complain
In any kind of weather
Long as I can hold together
When I’m drivin’ me auld sulky in the rain

Yes I’m drivin’ me auld sulky in the rain
And I’m not too sure which part of me’s me brain
Me feet are way up where
Me head should be but I don’t care
When I’m drivin’ me auld sulky in the rain

Yes I’m drivin’ that auld sulky in the rain
Not a bother to occupy me brain
Though the seat’s gone up me hole
And I’m signin’ on the dole
I’m still drivin’ that auld sulky in the rain

Oh I’m drivin’ that auld sulky in the rain
And there’s no room for a missus or a wain
So I say ‘Thank God for that’
As I speed along the flat
Drivin’ me auld sulky in the  rain

© Ciaran O’Driscoll 2012