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

Joe Nation
Reply Mon 3 Mar, 2003 05:32 pm
The wife and myself went down to the shore for the weekend not knowing that the biggest Saint Patrick's Day Parade in New Jersey would be taking place in Belmar, the next town over from where we were staying. A lobster dinner was our objective on Sunday and we cruised towards Klein's early on the Sunday afternoon knowing that we had nothing to worry about because the weather was fierce. A driving rain had been falling since before sunrise, and the temperature was in the high 30's only when the wind stopped howling. The parade and the crowds wouldn't be a problem for us, the innkeepers assured us. Off we went.
And there they were.
In the streets of Belmar, NJ, the pipers, the dancers, the firemen's brigade and along the sidewalks, wrapped in plastic and shielded by a forest of umbrellas, 8000 intrepid souls stood and cheered as the bands and floats eased down the block.
"I can't believe you are all out here in this." I exclaimed to one group of onlookers. The band started playing 'Roddy McCorley' and there was a round of applause.
"We love it." says one of them on the corner," It's as close to Dublin weather as we get around here." More applause.......

We had a cup of chowder and two two pounders while we watched them dismantle the floats at parade's end.

Joe (Grandfather from Inch) Nation
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Reply Mon 3 Mar, 2003 08:31 pm
Nice story Joe
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Reply Wed 5 Mar, 2003 08:30 am
Late entry for Tuesday March 4 2003:


I want my funeral to include this detour
Down the single street of a small market town,
On either side of the procession such names
As Philbin, O'Malley, MacNamara, Keane.
A reverent pause to let a herd of milkers pass
Will bring me face to face with grubby parsnips,
Cauliflowers that glitter after a sunshower,
Then hay rakes, broom handles, gas cylinders.
Reflected in the slow sequence of shop windows
I shall be part of the action when his wife
Draining the potatoes into a steamy sink
Calls to the butcher to get ready for dinner
And the publican descends to change a barrel.
From behind the one locked door for miles around
I shall prolong a detailed conversation
With the man in the concrete telephone kiosk
About where my funeral might be going next.
(Michael Longley)

For more on Michael Longley go to:

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Reply Wed 5 Mar, 2003 08:42 am
For Wednesday March 5 2003 A lovely poem by
Paula Meehan:

'Grandmother, Gesture'

My grandmother's hands come back to soothe me.
They smell of rain. They smell of the city.
They untangle my hair and smooth
my brow. There's more truth

to those hands than to all the poems
in the holy books. Her gesture is home.

The lines on her palms are maps:
she makes the whole world up --

she disappears it. It sings for her.
Its song is water, the sky is its colour.

She unpicks all riddles and solves
the small mysteries. She keeps wolves

from the door. She opens wide the door.
Summer comes spilling in with a roar.
(Paula Meehan)
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Reply Wed 5 Mar, 2003 10:47 am
Hello Jjorge, I'm so glad you're providing these poems for us. Thank you!!! The funeral parade? ... what a concept.

I wish I'd had a grandmother like that... I love the idea of multi-generation households. Now, do you think, with an Irish accent that all those couplets would really rhyme??? Just wondering! Having no accent myself (LOL) I adore hearing them. I think I saw somewhere that the Scottish brogue was considered most popular, BTW, followed by the Irish. This on BBC -- who else would care?!!
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Reply Thu 6 Mar, 2003 09:23 am
Hi Piffka

Interesting point about the rhymes with an Irish accent.

Re multigenerational families:
they seem less common nowadays. It also used to be that we had larger extended families and relatives tended to live nearby. As a result relationships with aunts, uncles, cousins, etc were often very important. Now, in our era of smaller families and restless moving from state to state, it is common for kids to have uncles, aunts, and cousins that they've never met or see only at great intervals.

I'm glad you're enjoying the poems.
Having had a very successful version of this thread last year I started this year with high hopes and improved it, I thought, with many new poets and introductory/biographical links to each poet.
I even envisioned making it an annual thing, but too tell you the truth I have been discouraged by the level of interest and discussion.

The same thing has happened on Abuzz (where I am simultaneously doing the thread). I invited about eighty abuzzers to the thread but have heard nothing from the vast majority of them.

Notwithstanding the above I DO intend to fulfill my commitment to continue the thread until March 17th.
0 Replies
Reply Thu 6 Mar, 2003 09:28 am
For today:

'10:30 Mass, June 16, 1985'

When the priest made his entrance on the altar at the stroke of 10:30
He looked like a film star at an international airport
After having flown in from the other side of the world
As if the other side of the world was the other side of the street;
Only, instead of an overnight bag slung over his shoulder,
He was carrying the chalice in its triangular green veil --
The way a dapper comedian cloaks a dove in a silk handkerchief.
Having kissed the altar, he strode over to the microphone:
I'd like to say how glad I am to be here with you this morning.
Oddly, you could see quite well that he was genuinely glad --
As if, in fact, he had been actually looking forward to this Sunday service,
Much the way I had been looking forward to it myself;
As if, in fact, this was the big moment of his day -- of his week,
Not merely another ritual to be sanctimoniously performed.
He was a small, stocky, handsome man in his forties
With a big mop of curly grey hair
And black, horn-rimmed, tinted spectacles.
I am sure that more than half the women in the church
Fell in love with him on the spot --
Not to mention the men.
Myself, I felt like a cuddle.
The reading from the prophet Ezekiel (17:22-24)
Was a piece about cedar trees in Israel
(it's a long way from a tin of steak-and-kidney pie
for Sunday lunch in a Dublin bedsit
to cedar trees in Israel),
but the epistle was worse --

St. Paul on his high horse and, as nearly always,
Putting his hoof in it - prating about "the law court of Christ."
With the Gospel, however, things began to look up --
The parable of the mustard seed as being the kingdom of heaven;
Now then the Homily, at best probably inoffensively boring.
It's Father's Day -- this small, solid, serious, sexy priest began--
And I want to tell you about my own father
Because none of you knew him.
If there was one thing he liked, it was a pint of Guinness;
If there was one thing he liked more than a pint of Guinness
It was two pints of Guinness.
But then when he was fifty-five he gave up the drink.
I never knew why, but I had my suspicions.
Long after he had died, my mother told me why:
He was so proud of me when I entered the seminary
That he gave up drinking as his way of thanking God.
But he himself never said a word about it to me --
He kept his secret to the end. He died from cancer
A few weeks before I was ordained a priest.
I'd like to go to Confession -- he said to me:
OK -- I'll go and get a priest -- I said to him:
No -- don't do that -- I'd prefer to talk to you:
Dying, he confessed to me the story of his life.
How many of you here at Mass today are fathers?
I want all of you who are fathers to stand up.

Not one male in transept or aisle or nave stood up --
It was as if all the fathers in the church had been caught out
In the profanity of their sanctity,
In the bodily nakedness of their fatherhood,
In the carnal deed of their fathering;
Then, in ones and twos and threes, fifty or sixty of us clambered to our feet
And blushed to the roots of our being.
Now -- declared the priest -- let the rest of us
Praise these men our fathers.
He began to clap hands.
Gradually the congregation began to clap hands,
Until the church was ablaze with clapping hands --
Wives vying with daughters, sons with sons,
Clapping clapping clapping clapping clapping,
While I stood there in a trance, tears streaming down my cheeks: Jesus!
I want to tell you about my own father
Because none of you knew him!
(Paul Durcan)
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Reply Thu 6 Mar, 2003 09:31 am

Don't mistake the absence of other posts on this thread for a lack of interest. I read all your posts with great interest, and miss them if you skip a day, and I suspect there are many others who feel the same way. I haven't posted any poems myself because I've been too busy lately to search out any new poems, but I'm grateful that you make the time to do it. And if I don't discuss the poems you post, that simply reflects the fact that I'm not "into" discussing what poems (or books, for that matter) mean to me: I prefer to read them, and ponder them by myself.
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Reply Thu 6 Mar, 2003 11:10 am
jjorge*197982* wrote:
I have been discouraged by the level of interest and discussion.

The same thing has happened on Abuzz (where I am simultaneously doing the thread). I invited about eighty abuzzers to the thread but have heard nothing from the vast majority of them.

Notwithstanding the above I DO intend to fulfill my commitment to continue the thread until March 17th.

I'm sorry that you're feeling discouraged... it is really a wonderful idea and I, for one, am reading all of these and hope they'll always be here for me to refer back to. It is a wonderful thing you're doing, Jjorge, truly.

I feel badly that it has become a commitment, not a joy, but I understand. I've faded away from my ESVM postings, thinking nobody was interested, though today, oh joy, somebody new has posted on one of the oldest ones. It takes a fair amount of time and research. I won't fault you if you need to slow down a bit. But remember, I'm here, cheering you on!

Thanks again.
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Reply Sat 8 Mar, 2003 12:00 pm
i think i posted this on another thread awhile ago,,,not sure.
so,,,at the risk of being lectured on the difference between scotch whiskey and "real" whiskey, (not much difference after you have a few anyway) i've strayed a bit.

The Witch of the West-mer-lands
Archie Fisher

Pale was the wounded knight
That bore the rowan shield
Loud and cruel were the raven's cries
That feasted on the field, saying:

Beck water, cold and clear,
Will never clean you wound.
There's none but the Maid of the Winding mere
Can make thee hale and soond.

So course well, my brindled hounds,
And fetch me the mountain hare
Whose coat is a grey as the Wastwater
Or as white as the lily fair, who said

Green moss and heather bands
Will never staunch the flood.
There's none but the Witch of the West-mer-lands
Can save thy dear life's blood.

So turn, turn you stallion's head
Till his red mane flies in the wind
And the rider of the moon gaes by
And the bright star falls behind.

And clear was the paley moon
When his shadow passed him by;
Below the hill was the brightest star
When he heard the houlet cry, saying

Why do you ride this way,
And wharfore cam' ye here?
I seek the Witch of the West-mer-lands
That dwells by the winding mere.

Then fly free your good grey hawk
To gather the golden rod,
And face your horse into the clouds
Above yon gay green wood.

And it's weary by Ullswater
And the misty brake fern way
Till through the cleft o' the Kirkstane Pass
The winding water lay.

He said, Lie down, my brindled hound,
And rest my good grey hawk,
And thee, my steed, may graze thy fill,
For I must dismount and walk.

But come when you hear my horn
And answer swift the call,
For I fear e'er the sun shall rise this morn
You will serve me best of all.

And down to the water's brim
He's borne the rowan shield,
And the golden rod he has cast in
To see what the lake might yield.

And wet rose she from the lake,
And fast and fleet gaed she,
One half the form of a maiden fair
With a jet black mare's body.

And loud, long, and shrill he blew
And his steed was by his side;
High overhead his grey hawk flew
And swiftly he did ride, saying:

Course well, my brindled hounds,
And fetch me the jet black mare.
Stoop and strike, my good grey hawk,
And bring me the maiden fair. She said:

Pray sheath thy silvery sword,
Lay down thy rowan shield,
For I see by the briny blood that flows
You've been wounded in the field.

And she stood in a gown of the velvet blue,
Bound 'round with a silver chain.
She's kissed his pale lips aince and twice
And three time 'round again.

And she's bound his wound with the golden rod;
Full fast in her arms he lay,
And he has risen hale and soond
Wi' the sun high in the day. She said:

Ride with you brindled hounds at heel
And your good grey hawk in hand.
There's nane can harm a knight wha's lain
With the Witch of the West-mer-land.
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Reply Sat 8 Mar, 2003 01:12 pm
Nice poem. Thanks for sharing it.

bree, Piffka
Thanks for your kind words.

Late entry for Friday 3-7-03:

'The Wild Dog Rose'

I go to say goodbye to the Cailleach*
that terrible figure who haunted my childhood
but no longer harsh, a human being
merely, hurt by event.

The cottage,
circled by trees, weathered to admonitory
shapes of desolation by the mountain winds,
straggles into view. The rank thistles
and leathery bracken of untilled fields
stretch behind with -- a final outcrop --
the hooped figure by the roadside,
its retinue of dogs
which give tongue
as I approach, with savage, whinging cries
so that she slowly turns, a moving nest
of shawls and rags, to view, to stare
the stranger down.

And I feel again
that ancient awe, the terror of a child
before the great hooked nose, the cheeks
dewlapped with dirt, the staring blue
of the sunken eyes, the mottled claws
clutching a stick
but now hold
and return her gaze, to greet her,
as she greets me, in friendliness.
Memories have wrought reconciliation
between us, we talk in ease at last,
like old friends, lovers almost,
sharing secrets.
Of neighbours
she quarreled with, who now lie
in Garvaghey graveyard, beyond all hatred;
of my family and hers, how she never married,
though a man came asking in her youth.
"You would be loath to leave your own'
she sighs, "and go among strangers" --
his parish ten miles off.

For sixty years
since she had lived alone, in one place.
Obscurely honoured by such confidences,
I idle by the summer roadside, listening,
while the monologue falters, continues,
rehearsing the small events of her life.
The only true madness is loneliness,
the monotonous voice in the skull
that never stops
because never heard.

And there
where the dog rose shines in the hedge
she tells me a story so terrible
that I try to push it away,
my bones melting.
Late at night
a drunk came, beating at her door
to break it in, the bolt snapping
from the soft wood, the thin mongrels
rushing to cut, but yelping as
he whirls with his farm boots
to crush their skulls.
In the darkness
they wrestle, two creatures crazed
with loneliness, the smell of the
decaying cottage in his nostrils
like a drug, his body heavy on hers,
the tasteless trunk of a seventy year
old virgin, which he rummages while
she battles for life
bony fingers
reaching desperately to push
against his bull neck. "I prayed
to the Blessed Virgin herself
for help and after a time
I broke his grip."
He rolls
to the floor, snores asleep,
while she cowers until dawn
and the dogs' whimpering starts
him awake, to lurch back across
the wet bog.

And still
the dog rose shines in the hedge.
Petals beaten wide by rain, it
sways slightly, at the tip of a
slender, tangled, arching branch
which, with her stick, she gathers
into us.
"The wild rose
is the only rose without thorns,"
she says, holding a wet blossom
for a second, in a hand knotted
as the knob of her stick.
"Whenever I see it, I remember
the Holy Mother of God and
all she suffered."
the air is strong with the smell
of that weak flower, offering
its crumbling yellow cup
and pale bleeding lips
fading to white
at the rim
of each bruised and heart-
shaped petal.
( John Montague)

* 'hag'

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Reply Sat 8 Mar, 2003 01:25 pm

Please do not confuse lack of response with lack of interest. I read your entries every day, follow the links when I have time, and revel in the Irishness! I certainly appreciate your hard work in researching them for us. Like Bree, I'm just not good at expressing opinions on poetry, books, etc., but certainly appreciate the chance to become aware of wider worlds of literature.

At the time of writing this, the thread has 706 views. Someone's checking in regularly.

You're doing a grand job Very Happy
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Reply Sat 8 Mar, 2003 01:36 pm

Thanks for posting. I'm glad you're enjoying the poems and the links. You make a good point about the 'views'.

Sorry if I seemed to be whining.

Today's poem:

'Requiem for the Croppies'

The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley …
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp …

We moved quick and sudden in our own country.

The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.

A people hardly marching … on the hike …

We found new tactics happening each day:

We'd cut through reins and rider with the pike

And stampede cattle into infantry,

Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.

Until … on Vinegar Hill … the final conclave.

Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.

The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.

They buried us without shroud or coffin

And in August … the barley grew up out of our grave.

(Seamus Heaney)

For more on the rebellion of 1798 and the Croppies go to:

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Reply Sun 9 Mar, 2003 09:27 am
I found a poem I thought you might like to have here, Jjorge. It was read at the memorial to JFK. I'm only going to quote the first two stanzas but you can find the entire poem in either of the links.

In Memory Of Major Robert Gregory
The Wild Swans at Coole. 1919.
W.B. Yeats (1865-1939).

NOW that we're almost settled in our house
I'll name the friends that cannot sup with us
Beside a fire of turf in th' ancient tower,
And having talked to some late hour
Climb up the narrow winding stair to bed:
Discoverers of forgotten truth
Or mere companions of my youth,
All, all are in my thoughts to-night being dead.

Always we'd have the new friend meet the old
And we are hurt if either friend seem cold,
And there is salt to lengthen out the smart
In the affections of our heart,
And quarrels are blown up upon that head;
But not a friend that I would bring
This night can set us quarrelling,
For all that come into my mind are dead.

Some Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats

Bartleby's Listing for Yeats
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Reply Sun 9 Mar, 2003 09:32 am
For Sunday March 9 2003:

'Meeting At A Salesyard'

It was a damp mild day of clinging mists that we met
In mid-winter outside Mullingar's busy Patrick Street
Coming home for Christmas from the African seminary, I
Stood in debt
On the pavement to the warmth that gripped my pen-soft
Hand hard.

I could smell the brute fear of the farm animals even on the
You asked me how I fared at college. There was no
December sun
To light the small traffic-soiled houses. I heard the drovers
Fat stores and yearlings into the bidding ring. Your cattle
had done

Better than you had hoped for. A mean string of coloured
Hung across the cold thoroughfare that murky salesyard day.
Cattle bawled, cowered in pens. Shopfronts blazed with
the terraza rites
Of a small-town Christmas. Come night, our docile stock
would be on Dublin Bay

Shipped to Liverpool. Huddled, we pass jobbers arguing
at the gate
As the first lorry squelched by us boatward. As it went
Out, a thin trail of falling liquid dung told of the fate
Of beasts, pure terror. O drizzly sad Christmastide of

We must wade to our knees through you yearly and the
At home in the country at Corralstown the fields were still
Back in town, at the cathedral, shoppers rosaried the
Christ-child's gentle stare
While workers hired from the Labour Pool hosed the
salesyard clean.

For more on John Ennis go to:

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Reply Sun 9 Mar, 2003 10:31 am
Nice selection.
I hadn't read it in a long time. If you don't mind I'll post a little more of it.

After remembering Lionel Johnson, John Synge, and George Pollexfen in stanzas 3-5, Yeats proceeds, in line 5 of the 6th stanza, to discuss Robert Gregory who he calls 'Our Sidney'.
The latter is a reference to Sir Philip Sidney 16th century statesman, poet, and courtier. Sidney was son of the lord Deputy (governor) of Ireland and when he (Sidney) died at age thirty two he was much mourned and referred to as "The Perfect Knight'. **

They were my close companions many a year.
A portion of my mind and life, as it were,
And now their breathless faces seem to look
Out of some old picture-book;
I am accustomed to their lack of breath,
But not that my dear friend's dear son,
Our Sidney and our perfect man,
Could share in that discourtesy of death

For all things the delighted eye now sees
Were loved by him: the old storm-broken trees
That cast their shadows upon road and bridge;
The tower set on the stream's edge;
The ford where drinking cattle make a stir
Nightly, and startled by that sound
The water-hen must change her ground;
He might have been your heartiest welcomer.

. . .and he finishes . . .

I had thought, seeing how bitter is that wind
That shakes the shutter, to have brought to mind
All those that manhood tried, or childhood loved
Or boyish intellect approved,
With some appropriate commentary on each;
Until imagination brought
A fitter welcome; but a thought
Of that late death took all my heart for speech.

** http://www.luminarium.org/renlit/sidbio.htm

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Reply Sun 9 Mar, 2003 12:18 pm
Wow, Jjorge... you're good! I've had quite a literary lesson checking those links. <winks!> I'm glad you posted more of the stanzas -- thanks!
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Reply Mon 10 Mar, 2003 02:30 pm
RE 'In Memory of Major Robert Gregory'

I was puzzled by the reference to 'Our Sidney'. At first I thought it was a nickname that family and friends called him. I was curious enough to do a little google-search (thank God for google!).

That's how I discovered that 'Our Sidney' was a reference to Sir Philip Sidney -- a high compliment that Yeats was paying to the deceased son of his good friend Lady Gregory.

For today, March 10 2003:

'Seals at High Island'

The calamity of seals begins with jaws.
Born in caverns that reverberate
With endless malice of the sea's tongue
Clacking on shingle, they learn to bark back
In fear and sadness and celebration.
The ocean's mouth opens forty feet wide
And closes on a morsel of their rock.

Swayed by the thrust and backfall of the tide,
A dappled grey bull and a brindled cow
Copulate in the green water of a cove.
I watch from a cliff-top, trying not to move.
Sometimes they sink and merge into black shoals;
Then rise for air, his muzzle on her neck,
Their winged feet intertwined as a fishtail.

She opens her fierce mouth like a scarlet flower
Full of white seeds; she holds it open long
At the sunburst in the music of their loving;
And cries a little. But I must remember
How far their feelings are from mine marooned.
If there are tears at this holy ceremony
Theirs are caused by brine and mine by breeze.

When the great bull withdraws his rod, it glows
Like a carnelian candle set in jade.
The cow ripples ashore to feed her calf;
While an old rival, eyeing the deed with hate,
Swims to attack the tired triumphant god.
They rear their heads above the boiling surf,
Their terrible jaws open, jetting blood.

At nightfall they haul out, and mourn the drowned,
Playing to the sea sadly their last quartet,
An improvised requiem that ravishes
Reason, while ripping scale up like a net:
Brings pity trembling down the rocky spine
Of headlands, till the bitter ocean's tongue
Swells in their cove, and smothers their sweet song.
( Richard Murphy )

For more on Richard Murphy go to:


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Reply Mon 10 Mar, 2003 07:37 pm
Jjorge, very clever to check on Sidney... it is those little references that can make a poem mean so much more than just the words. I am impressed with Murphy biological understanding of seals. He seems to have truly studied them, odd creatures that they are. Not a beautiful poem, but very good. Neither of those links worked for me, so I found something about Murphy and am just adding it here for us. It's from the Boston Review.


"With the publication of Collected Poems 1952-2000, Richard Murphy, born in 1927 and thus Heaney's senior by twelve years, likewise stakes a claim to readerly attention that he has not garnered consistently over a half-century career. Arriving on the literary scene a good decade before the development of Irish Studies (even as an academic cottage industry centered around Yeats and Joyce), Murphy seems also to have slipped between the cracks of the critical attention devoted either to the chorus of poetic voices responding to the Troubles in Northern Ireland -- Heaney, John Montague, Derek Mahon, Michael Longley -- or to the first generation of Irish women poets to command international recognition -- Eavan Boland, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, and Medbh McGuckian.

"At least some of Murphy's past-due attention should relate to his evincing a Yeats-like mastery over theme and poetic form as the way and the means for transforming personal experience into "the artifice of eternity." The precisely worded and meticulously phrased opening strophe of "Sailing to an Island," the title poem of his breakthrough second volume, epitomizes the authority of Murphy's poetic stance:

The boom above my knee lifts, and the boat
Drops, and the surge departs, departs, my cheek
Kissed and rejected, kissed, as the gaff sways
A tangent, cuts the infinite sky to red
Maps, and the mast draws eight and eight across
Measureless blue, the boatmen sing or sleep.

Born in County Mayo, Murphy turns and returns to the familiar world of the west of Ireland in poem after poem. But his work is informed too by a unique cosmopolitan temperament. Currently dividing his time between Dublin and Durban, South Africa, Murphy also spent five formative years in Ceylon, where his father was the last British Mayor of Colombo, and spent subsequent sojourns at boarding schools in Ireland and in England and as a scholarship student at Oxford (where he was tutored by C. S. Lewis).

"Thus, while a detailed remembering of a childhood experience in Ceylon, a poem like "The Writing Lesson" reads readily as a parable of Murphy's lifelong grappling with both the daunting demands and the melodious possibilities of words:

"Run out and play." Appu's cooking curry for lunch.
He stands under a flowering temple tree
Looking up at a coppersmith perched on a branch:
Crimson feathers, pointed beard.
All day long it hammers at a single word.
Is it bored? Is it learning?
Why can't it make a sentence, or break into song?

"Whether personal domestic lyrics, evocative sketches of return visits to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), a narrative recounting of the bloody Battle of Aughrim in 1691, or the fifty-sonnet sequence The Price of Stone -- which charts the poet's life through an architectural catalogue of buildings modest and grand that he has lived in or visited -- Murphy's poems register with a cumulative weight and density approaching the monolithic. The publication of his Collected Poems begins to give this poet long-deserved recognition. <
0 Replies
Reply Mon 10 Mar, 2003 09:30 pm
a very nice bit of detective work and some very interesting info. on Richard Murphy.

sorry that my two links were a bust. I re-visited them and found that on the first one there was
a 'link on the link' I have added that below. It contains some of what you have posted and some additional info.

For some reason the second link just doesn't want to work.

0 Replies

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