St. Patrick’s Week: After Heaney – Seven Great Living Irish Poets


Seamus Heaney, Poet
Seamus Heaney, Poet

By Niall McArdle

Seamus Heaney’s final words were “Noli timere”: Don’t be afraid

And I suppose we shouldn’t be: Irish poetry is still in good hands.

Here are some contemporary Irish poets.

All poetry quoted below remains the copyright of the poets.

Image
Ciaran Carson

Ciaran Carson

Belfast Confetti

Suddenly as the riot squad moved in, it was raining exclamation marks,
Nuts, bolts, nails, car keys. A fount of broken type.
And the explosion
Itself – an asterisk on the map. This hyphenated line, a burst of rapid fire …
I was trying to complete a sentence in my head, but it kept stuttering,
All the alleyways and side-streets blocked with stops and colons.

I know this labyrinth so well – Balaclava, Raglan, Inkerman, Odessa Street –
Why can’t I escape? Every move is punctuated.
Crimea Street. Dead end again.
A Saracen, Kremlin-2 mesh. Makrolon face-shields.
Walkie-talkies. What is
My name? Where am I coming from? Where am I
going? A fusillade of question-marks.

boland
Eavan Boland

Eavan Boland

Love

Dark falls on this mid-western town
where we once lived when myths collided.
Dusk has hidden the bridge in the river
which slides and deepens
to become the water
the hero crossed on his way to hell.

Not far from here is our old apartment.
We had a kitchen and an Amish table.
We had a view. And we discovered there
love had the feather and muscle of wings
and had come to live with us,
a brother of fire and air.
We had two infant children one of whom
was touched by death in this town
and spared: and when the hero
was hailed by his comrades in hell
their mouths opened and their voices failed and
there is no knowing what they would have asked
about a life they had shared and lost.

I am your wife.
It was years ago.
Our child was healed. We love each other still.
Across our day-to-day and ordinary distances
we speak plainly. We hear each other clearly.

And yet I want to return to you
on the bridge of the Iowa river as you were,
with snow on the shoulders of your coat
and a car passing with its headlights on:

I see you as a hero in a text —
the image blazing and the edges gilded —
and I long to cry out the epic question
my dear companion:
Will we ever live so intensely again?
Will love come to us again and be
so formidable at rest it offered us ascension
even to look at him?

But the words are shadows and you cannot hear me.
You walk away and I cannot follow.

Paul Muldoon
Paul Muldoon

Paul Muldoon

The Hedgehog

The snail moves like a
Hovercraft, held up by a
Rubber cushion of itself,
Sharing its secret

With the hedgehog. The hedgehog
Shares its secret with no one.
We say, Hedgehog, come out
Of yourself and we will love you.

We mean no harm. We want
Only to listen to what
You have to say. We want
Your answers to our questions.

The hedgehog gives nothing
Away, keeping itself to itself.
We wonder what a hedgehog
Has to hide, why it so distrusts.

We forget the god
under this crown of thorns.
We forget that never again
will a god trust in the world.

Rita Ann Higgins
Rita Ann Higgins

Rita Ann Higgins

Be Someone

For Christ’s sake,
learn to type
and have something
to fall back on.
Be someone,
make something of yourself,
look at Gertrudo Ganley.
Always draw the curtains
when the lights are on.
Have nothing to do
with the Shantalla gang,
get yourself a right man
with a Humber Sceptre.
For Christ’s sake
wash your neck
before going into God’s house.
Learn to speak properly,
always pronounce your ings.
Never smoke on the street,
don’t be caught dead
in them shameful tight slacks,
spare the butter,
economise,
and for Christ’s sake
at all times,
watch your language.
Dennis O'Driscoll
Dennis O’Driscoll
Dennis O’Driscoll
Nocturne
Time for sleep. Time for a nightcap of grave music,
a dark nocturne, a late quartet, a parting song
bequeathed by the great dead in perpetuity.
I catch a glance sometimes of my own dead at the window;
those whose traits I share: thin as moths, as matchsticks,
they stare into the haven of the warm room, eyes ablaze.
It is Sunday a lifetime ago. A woman in a now-demolished house
sings Michael, Row the Boat Ashore as she sets down the bucket
with its smooth folds of drinking water…
The steadfast harvest moon out there, entangled in the willow’s
stringy hair, directs me home like T’ao Ch’ien: A caged bird
pines for its first forest, a salmon thirsts for its stream.
Moya Cannon
Moya Cannon
Moya Cannon
Viola D’Amore
Sometimes, love does die,
but sometimes , a stream on porous rock,
it slips down into the inner dark of a hill,
joins with other hidden streams
to travel blind as the white fish that live in it.
It forsakes one underground streambed
for the cave that runs under it.
Unseen, it informs the hill
and, like the hidden streams of the viola d’amore,
makes the hill reverberate,
so that people who wander there
wonder why the hill sings,
wonder why they find wells.
, Frank McGuinness
Frank McGuinness: like me, a Booterstown man
Frank McGuinness
In the worst hour of the worst season of the worst year of a whole people a man set out from the workhouse with his wife. He was walking – they were both walking – north. She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up. He lifted her and put her on his back. He walked like that west and west and north. Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived. In the morning they were both found dead. Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history. But her feet were held against his breastbone. The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her. Let no love poem ever come to this threshold. There is no place here for the inexact praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body. There is only time for this merciless inventory: Their death together in the winter of 1847. Also what they suffered. How they lived. And what there is between a man and woman. And in which darkness it can best be proved. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/20089#sthash.yjLsiWtG.dpuf
In the worst hour of the worst season of the worst year of a whole people a man set out from the workhouse with his wife. He was walking – they were both walking – north. She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up. He lifted her and put her on his back. He walked like that west and west and north. Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived. In the morning they were both found dead. Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history. But her feet were held against his breastbone. The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her. Let no love poem ever come to this threshold. There is no place here for the inexact praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body. There is only time for this merciless inventory: Their death together in the winter of 1847. Also what they suffered. How they lived. And what there is between a man and woman. And in which darkness it can best be proved. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/20089#sthash.yjLsiWtG.dpuf
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6 thoughts on “St. Patrick’s Week: After Heaney – Seven Great Living Irish Poets

  1. Well from a northsider to a southsider great to have stumbled upon you thanks be to twitter d’yaknowwhatimeanlike?
    Chris.
    PS you might even have a comment to pass on my scribblings?

    Like

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