'Will You Taste Some Irishness?' II (2003)

Reply Wed 19 Feb, 2003 05:54 am
Mikey - "The two trees" is wonderful...
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Reply Wed 19 Feb, 2003 09:07 am
margo wrote:

Some of the history of Ireland is so sad - and does lend itself to poetic telling. And, of course, it's all tied up with the history of Australia, and my own family's history.

Has anyone seen Tommy lately - he has some wonderful poetry in his head, and at hand!

Like many Americans I am fairly familiar with the history of the Irish immigration here but know very little about the role of Australia other than many Irish were exiled there and imprisoned there.
I'm LONG overdue in reading a good history of Australia. The little I know suggests that it is an extraordinary story.

RE Tommy
I tried to send him an invitation via PM on the day I started this thread but for some reason the da*n PM is in my 'Out Box' and not in my 'Sent box'!!!

I can't figure why it did that!

Glad you liked Ceílí.

So you've been fiddlin' without a bow eh?!
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Reply Wed 19 Feb, 2003 09:29 am

This is a test to see if I have learned to cut and paste. Razz

Samuel Beckett:
on all that strand
at end of day
steps sole sound
long sole sound
until unbidden stay
then no sound
on all that strand
long no sound
until unbidden go
steps sole sound
long sole sound
on all that strand
at end of day
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Reply Wed 19 Feb, 2003 10:20 am
Hi Jjorge (hello everyone!) -- I am so glad you've revived this "thread" -- it was good to read the Green Beer poem again as well as all these new and old favorites.

For something a little different Very Happy ... I think Van Morrison writes poetic songs:

from Into the Mystic

e were born before the wind,
Also younger than the sun,
'Ere the bonnie boat was won
As we sailed into the mystic.

Hark, now hear the sailors cry;
Smell the sea and feel the sky;
Let your soul and spirit fly
Into the mystic.

And when that fog horn blows
I will be coming home.
And when the fog horn blows
I want to hear it;
I don't have to fear it.

And I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And magnificently we will flow
Into the mystic.

from Everyone

e shall walk again down along the lane,
Down the avenue just like we used to do
With our heads so high,
Smile at the passers-by.
Then we'll softly sigh ay, ay, ay, ay, ay.

Everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone
Everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone!

By the winding stream we shall lie and dream;
We'll make dreams come true if we want them to.
Yes, all will come play the pipes and drum,
Sing a happy song and we'll sing along.

Everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone
Everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone!


Margo -- Please tell more! Your family came from Ireland and .....?

BTW -- In full disclosure I regret to say I am not Irish, but I am the next best thing... mostly Scottish!!
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Reply Wed 19 Feb, 2003 01:02 pm

The PM is in your out-box because Tommy hasn't picked it up yet! When he reads it - then it'll go to 'Sent"

Must see if I still have an email addrress for him
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Reply Wed 19 Feb, 2003 01:20 pm
Fish - Gerhard Falkner

whoever sees me
the way I throw fish
about me
with what a strong
snapping gesture
they bite the air
whoever sees
how these fish
offer their
in flight
how their gills
appear to fight
over monsters
that resemble words,
that person will think to himself:
ha! yet another one
who throws fish about
because he´s short, alone,
forsaken, cruel and nuts to boot!

FISCH - Gerhard Falkner

wer mich sieht
wie ich mit Fischen
um mich werfe
mit welcher starken
schnalzenden Gebärde
sie die Luft peitschen
wer sieht
wie diese Fische
ihre ganze Plötzlichkeit
im Flug
wie ihre Kiemen
um Ungetüme
zu ringen scheinen
die Worten gleichen
der wird denken:
ha ! wieder so einer
der mit Fischen um sich wirft
weil er klein ist, allein,
einsam, grausam und verrückt!
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Reply Wed 19 Feb, 2003 05:55 pm

Gerhard Falkner eh?
I suppose you want me to make HIM an honarary Irishman too?
Ok ...OK! Done.
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Reply Wed 19 Feb, 2003 07:38 pm
can we taste some scottishness here too jjorge?
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Reply Thu 20 Feb, 2003 12:34 am

You mean like Johnny Walker?
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Reply Thu 20 Feb, 2003 12:47 am
For Thursday 2-20-03

from: 'Missouri Sequence'

'Nightfall, Midwinter, Missouri'
To Thomas McGreevy

Our children have eaten supper,
play Follow-my-Leader,
make songs from room to room
around and around;
once each minute
past my desk they go.

Inside the house is warm.
Winter outside blows from Canada
freezing rain to ice our trees
branch by branch, leaf by leaf.
The mare shelters in the barn.

On the impassable road no movement.
Nothing stirs in the sky against the black.
If memory were an ice-field
quiet as all outside!
Tonight the poetry is in the children's game:
I am distracted by comparisons,
Ireland across the grey ocean,
here, across the wide river.

* * *
We live far from where
my mother grows very old.
Five miles away, at Byrnesville,
the cemetery is filled with Irish graves,
the priest an old man born near Cork,
his bloss like the day he left the land.

People drifted in here from the river,
Irish, German, Bohemian,
more than one hundred years ago,
come to make homes.

Many Irish souls have gone back to God from Byrnesville,
many are Irish here today
where cedars stand like milestones
on worn Ozark hills
and houses white on bluegrass lawns
houses people honest, practical and kind.

All shows to a long love
yet I am charmed
by the hills behind Dublin,
those white stone cottages,
grass green as no other green is green,
my mother's people, their ways.

France one loves with a love apart
like the love of wisdom;
Of England everyday love is the true love;
there is a love of Ireland
withering for Irishmen.

Does it matter where one dies,
supposing one knows how?

Dear Tom, in Ireland,
you have known
the pain between
its fruiting and the early dream
and you will hear me out.

* * *
Our children have ended play,
have gone to bed,
left me to face
what I had rather not.

They know nothing of Ireland,
they grow American.
They have chased snakes through the couch-grass
in summer, caught butterflies and beetles

we did not know existed,
fished for the catfish,
slept on an open porch
when Whip-poor-Will and tree-frog
work all night,
observed the pupa of the shrill cicada
surface on dry clay,
disrobe for the short ruinous day.
The older ones have helped a neighbor, farmer,
raise his field of ripe corn
in heart that hurt us to the bone,
paid homage to dead men
with fire-crackers in July,
eaten the turkey in November.
Here now they make their friendships,
learn to love God.

Yet we must leave America,
bitter necessity no monopoly
of Irish soil.
It was pain once to come,
it is pain now to go.

How the will shifts from goal to goal
for who does not freely choose.
Some choose, some are chosen
to go their separate paths.
I would choose, I suppose, yet would be chosen
in some equation between God's will and mine,
rejecting prudence to make of conflict
a monument to celtic self-importance.

The truth is, where the cross is not
the Christian does not go.

* * *
Return home takes on while I dream it
the fictive form of heaven on earth,
the child's return to motherly arms
for fright at frogs disturbed among iris leaves.

One poet I admire has written:
wherever the soul gives in to flesh
without a struggle is home.
Would one want home like that,
rest, supine surrender
to oneself alone,
flight from where one is?

There is no heaven on earth,
no facile choice for one
charged with care of others,
none for one like me
for whom no prospect opens
fairly on clear skies.

It grows late and winter
lays its numbing pall.
Doubts restless like what you see
when you lift a flat damp stone
exasperate my warring wishes
until wrenched apart by desperate extremes
I am back where I started.

Pain it was to come,
pain it will be to go.

* * *
Not just to go,
not just to stay,
but the act done in wisdom's way-
not impossible
if one is wise.

Our William Butler Yeats
made island flowers grow
that need as much
the local rain
as wind from overseas
to reach their prime.
He struggled towards the exact muse
through a sunless day.

No servant, the muse
abides in truth,
permits the use of protest
as a second best
to make clean fields,
exults only in the actual
expression of a love,
love all problem,
wisdom lacking.

* * *
How near the surface of the pool
sunfish play, distract
us from where down deep
real reasons impose their rule.

The room is filled with children's lives
that fill my cares who turn again
to sudden starting words
like birds in cages.
Without all is silent,
within I have no peace at all,
having failed to choose
with loving-wise choice.

Midnight now.
Deepest winter perfect now.
Tomorrow early we shall make lunches
for the children to take to school,
forgetting while working out the week
our wrestling with the sad flesh
and the only Ireland we love
where in Achill still
the poor praise Christ aloud
when the priest elevates
the Saviour of the world.
(Brian Coffey)

For more on Brian Coffey go to:

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Reply Thu 20 Feb, 2003 09:35 am
Brian Coffey is a very interesting man... trained as a scientist, but became a poet and a printer. Thanks Jjorge, for the link so that we can read more about him! I was especially taken with his self-books; they provide some insight into his life. Odd that he ended up in Southhampton. (Why didn't he go back to Ireland?)

Here is what is being called the earliest Irish poetry, from Amergin.

Toghairm na hÉireann -- The Invocation to Ireland
Áiliu íath nÉireann
éarmach muir
mothach sliabh screatach
screatach coill citheach
citheach ab eascach
eascach loch linnmhar
linnmhar tor tiopra
tiopra túath óenach
óemach ríg Teamhrach
Teamhair tor túathach
túathach mac Mhíleadh
Míleadh long libearn
libearn ar nÉirinn
Éireann ard díglas
dícheatal ro gáeth
ro gáeth bán Bhreise
Breise bán buaigne
Bé adhbhul Ériu
Érimon ar dtús
Ir, Éber, áileas
áiliu íath nÉireann

Amergin's Invocation of Ireland
I request the land of Ireland (to come forth)
coursed is the wild sea
wild the crying mountains
crying the generous woods
generous in showers (rain/waterfalls)
showers lakes and vast pools
vast pools hosts of well-springs
well-springs of tribes in assembly
assembly of kings of Tara
Tara host of tribes
tribes of the sons of Mil
Mil of boats and ships
ships come to Ireland
Ireland high terribly blue
an incantation on the (same) wind
(which was the) wind empty of Bres
Bres of an empty cup
Ireland be mighty
Ermon at the beginning
Ir, Eber, requested
(now it is) I (who) request the land of Ireland!

............ some notes...............
"Amergin" is the word as it has been written in English, but the actual spelling of this name is "Amhairghin". It means "Birth of Song".

According to legend, Amhairghin was one of the leaders of the "Men of Míl", who battled the Tuatha Dé Danann (or the Faery Clan) for possession of Ireland. The Song of Amergin is, in itself, a self-claiming by Amergin of this island, as well as a challenge to the Tuatha Dé Danann, who were considered to be the gods.

Amergin's invokes the powers of the Land here upon first stepping ashore in Ireland. These words came from Amergin's "imbas" ('poetic inspiration') and they marked the start of battle over sovereignty of the Land. With the words of this poem, Amergin claims the elements of Ireland. This gesture displays his Otherworldly wisdom and power over the elements. Here, he is actually "becoming"... all of these elements, or "duile" as they were called by the Druids. He joins himself (his "Fein" and internal "duile") with the spirit that controls the elements of the Cosmos. This could be looked upon as merely symbolic, but however you wish to see it, it got results. The wind died down and the Gaels claimed sovereignty on Ireland .

There are two other existing poems by Amergin, The Song and The Challenge.

The Song of Amergin

I am a stag of seven tines,
I am a wide flood on a plain,
I am a wind on the deep waters,
I am a shining tear of the sun,
I am a hawk on a cliff,
I am fair among flowers,
I am a god who sets the head afire with smoke.
I am a battle waging spear,
I am a salmon in the pool,
I am a hill of poetry,
I am a ruthless boar,
I am a threatening noise of the sea,
I am a wave of the sea,
Who but I knows the secrets of the unhewn dolmen ?

Amergin's Challenge

I am a wind across the sea
I am a flood across the plain
I am the roar of the tides
I am a stag* of seven (pair) tines
I am a dewdrop let fall by the sun
I am the fierceness of boars*
I am a hawk, my nest on a cliff
I am a height of poetry (magical skill)
I am the most beautiful among flowers
I am the salmon* of wisdom
Who (but I) is both the tree and the lightning strikes it
Who is the dark secret of the dolmen not yet hewn
I am the queen of every hive
I am the fire on every hill
I am the shield over every head
I am the spear of battle
I am the ninth* wave of eternal return
I am the grave of every vain hope
Who knows the path of the sun, the periods of the moon
Who gathers the divisions, enthralls the sea,
sets in order the mountains. the rivers, the peoples.

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Reply Thu 20 Feb, 2003 10:50 am
You passed the 'copy and paste test'! Mission accomplished. Very Happy Very Happy
Thanks a lot for the Beckett poem. I had never seen it before. Beckett incidentally, appears to have been something of a mentor to Brian Coffey.

The Amergin poems are fascinating. Thanks for posting them.
RE Brian Coffey: Did you notice that in addition to the accomplishments you mention he also had a Ph.D in philosophy and studied under Jacques Maritain!!? Shocked

The "Green Beer Poem" ( as you call it) is actually not the same as last year's poem. It is intended to be a continuation of it.

Here's what it looks like all together:

"Will You Taste Some Irishness?"

Will you taste some Irishness
In lieu of greenish beer?
Please sip of Heaney, Yeats and Joyce.
their verses are served here.

Draughts of loss and sadness too
The Irish poets bring;
And yet...the tears a beauty make.
--A strange transfiguring.

Will you taste some Irishness
in lieu of greenish beer?
Please savor sorrow, pain and pride
and ancient flavors queer,

A trace of moon, and mist and sea,
A poteen brewed of tears,
Of turf and toil, and hate and strife,
And love of country fierce.

Clarke and Durcan, Kavanaugh,
Are offered here to you,
Fallon, Boland, Hartigan,
O'Grady, Montague.

Drink, long and deep of Irishness
it seeks the deepest part,
it curls around your human-ness
and seeps into your heart.
( jjorge)
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Reply Thu 20 Feb, 2003 03:11 pm
Hello there everyone. Could I give you a little history lesson about the town in which my father was born? And there's a bit of a poem afterwards.
(BTW Margo thanks for notifying me of this thread)

Yes, he was born in the village of Kanturk in County Cork. Kanturk in Irish is Ceann Toirc which means "The Boar's Head". Legend has it that the last boar in Ireland was killed here. Kanturk lies at the confluence of the Dalua and Allua rivers so you may take it that there are a couple of bridges in the town.

The town belonged to the family of Dermod McOwen. The lands around the town once belonged to the McCarthy Clan up until the time of Cromwell.

Anyway around about 1600 Dermod McOwen/McCarthy, decided to build a dwelling on the site of an old castle outside the town, but the Privy Council in London on learning that he was building a "regular fortress" - "a house much too large for a subject" - ordered him to stop. Naturally he was very cross about this and there are two stories about the blue glass tiles that McCarthy was going to roof the castle with. Firstly, the tiles never arrived in Kanturk in the first place - the carters stopped for refreshment in Mallow, a town about ten miles away, on their journey from England, got completely sozzled and smashed all the tiles. Secondly, McCarthy, on hearing about the stop put on his building, got into a rage, smashed them all up and threw them into a pool in the river, below the Dalau Bridge, in the town. Hence the name of that part of the river which is known as "The Blue Pool" until this day.

Now I'm getting to the poetry part, and thank you for your patience.

In 1760, the Landlord of the Town, My Lord, the Earl of Egmont ordered that a stone bridge be built over the Dalau River. It consisted of six arches and on top of the bridge wall were placed six polished limestone coping stones. On the northern piers of the bridge were inset niches with seating accommodation for weary travellers or courting couples. On each of the polished limestone coping stones was engraved a verse as follows:
(These are the Coping Stones talking - (you should forgive me stating the obvious))

I, from my womb on Windmill Hill*
Great Egmont's order to fulfill
Was brought with seven of my race
His Lordship's honoured town to grace.

Secured from surly wind and rain
The gentle nymph and amorous swain
May here their tender vows repaeat
Which I shall surely ne'er relate.

Hence Bluepools waving groves delight
Amuse the fancy, please the sight
And give such joy as may arise
Friom sylvan scene and azure skies.

See Kanturk Castle and Fermoyle
Retreats of Perceval and Boyle+
Illustrious in their country's cause
And guardians of its rights and laws.

See Dalau roll its flood along
And Allau famed in Spenser's Song
Where lordly swans in wanton pride
Expand their plumes to stem the tide.

The weary here in safe repose
Forgetting life's attendant woes,
May sit secure, serene and still.
And view with joy yon famed hill.#

*The Quarry on Windwill Hikll is the womb.
+Early Clan Chiefs of Cork.
#O'Donovans Hill - which can be seen from the Bridge.

(With grateful thanks to Seamus O'Mahoney and Patrick O'Sullivan)
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Reply Thu 20 Feb, 2003 03:25 pm
Strike up the band...Tommy has arrived!


Thanks for that fascinating story and the poem.
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Reply Thu 20 Feb, 2003 11:03 pm
For Friday 2-21-03:

'The Oral Tradition'

I was standing there
at the end of a reading
or a workshop or whatever,
watching people heading
out into the weather,

only half-wondering
what becomes of words,
the brisk herbs of language,
the fragrances we think we sing,
if anything.

We were left behind
in a firelit room
in which the colour scheme
crouched well down -
golds, a sort of dun

a distressed ochre -
and the sole richness was
in the suggestion of a texture
like the low flax gleam
that comes off polished leather.

Two women
were standing in shadow,
one with her back turned.
Their talk was a gesture,
an outstreched hand.

They talked to each other
and words like 'summer'
'birth' 'great-grandmother'
kept pleading with me,
urging me to follow.

'She could feel it coming' -
one of them was saying -
'all the way there,
across the fields at evening
and no one there, God help her

'and she had on a skirt
of cross-woven linen
and the little one
kept pulling at it.
It was nearly night . . .'

(Wood hissed and split
in the open grate,
broke apart in sparks,
a windfall of light
in the room's darkness)

'. . . when she lay down
and gave birth to him
in an open meadow.
What a child that was
to be born without a blemish!'

It had started raining,
the windows dripping, misted.
One moment I was standing
not seeing out
only half-listening

staring at the night; the next
without warning
I was caught by it:
the bruised summer light,
the musical sub-text

of mauve caves on lilac
and the laburnum past
and shadow where the lime
tree dropped its bracts
in frills of contrast

where she lay down
in vetch and linen
and lifted up her son
to the archive
they would shelter in:

the oral song
avid as superstition,
layered like an amber in
the wreck of language
and the remnants of a nation.

I was getting out
my coat, buttoning it,
shrugging up the collar.
It was bitter outside,
a real winter's night

and I had distances ahead of me: iron miles
in trains, iron rails
repeating instances and reasons; the wheels

singing innuendos, hints,
outlines underneath
the surface, a sense
suddenly of truth,
its resonance.
(Eavan Boland )

For more on Eavan Boland go to:
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Reply Thu 20 Feb, 2003 11:06 pm
Jjorge, I apologize! I'm sorry I didn't notice that this began with a fully new set of verses. I won't call it the Green Beer poem anymore; I'll call it the Taste of Irishness, OK?

I delved into Maritain and thence to an online St. Thomas magazine where I was totally offended to read that Thomas Aquinas, in his essay on Fools, called Celts one of the twenty kinds of fools...sicut dicitur de celtis qui sunt stolidi.. stolidus... who lack sensibility and cannot connect cause to effect. I wonder what Brian Coffey thought of that!

Tommy - Good story about your father's town, Kanturk. I love the idea of having those verses along the bridge. But, can you tell me, you say there are six stones, yet in the first verse the stone says it was brought with seven of its kind. What happened to the other two? It sounds like there must be another story there!
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Reply Thu 20 Feb, 2003 11:17 pm

I think 'The Green Beer Poem' is kinda funny.
Besides you're my friend so you can call it ANYTHING you want and it'll be OK with me.

Amazing that you ferretted out that St. Thomas quote.
I guess the 'Angelic Doctor' (his nickname) had his predjudices.
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Reply Fri 21 Feb, 2003 12:35 am

Wonderful to see you as ever! More! More! More!!!
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Reply Fri 21 Feb, 2003 08:15 am
Here's another one I like a lot.
(I may have posted this on another thread recently)

'The Planter's Daughter'

When night stirred at sea
And the fire brought a crowd in,
They say that her beauty
Was music in mouth
And few in the candlelight
Thought her too proud,
For the house of the planter
Is known by the trees.

Men that had seen her
Drank deep and were silent,
The women were speaking
Wherever she went-
As a bell that is rung
Or a wonder told shyly
And O she was the Sunday
In every week.
(Austin Clarke)

For more on Austin Clarke go to:
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Reply Fri 21 Feb, 2003 09:16 am
Piffka. I knew someone would catch on to this!! Yes there were eight coping stones altogether. When I visited there last year, I noticed that the stones had been re-arranged and cemented on to the bridge wall. I was told by an old-timer there that a flash flood had damaged the bridge a few years after it was constructed and two were lost. I think that the people of Cork (The Rebel County) and Kanturk had a little more to worry them than two lost coping stones - at least that was the impression I got. It is the mystery of the age! But if you are ever in Kanturk - and I recommend a visit if you're ever in Ireland - you can always ask a local about the missing verses. Kanturk is beautiful, especially in summer.
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