Gave a reading to a Creative Writing class at the DIT Kevin Street, on Wednesday last (21.04.’10). And what a great bunch they are! Very interested and appreciative as to how I came to write some specific poems and in what I had to say en route about the writing process and the importance of the spoken word. I took ‘Returning Swallows’ as an example to show how a poem grew from something my Co. Clare mother-in-law said when people told her she should try to stop the swallows coming back to nest again in the eaves of her newly-painted house. Quite an ‘eco-poem’, although I didn’t myself appreciate that slant at the time (It was published 1991 and written about 2 years previously. I include it at the end of this post). I also went through ‘The Orange Bus’, a poem based on a series of drawings my son did after a school outing when he was very young. I still find the innocence of the drawings very moving. Such complicated things set down in such simple ways!
I used my ‘Gloria Mundi’ poem (‘The Glory of the World’) to draw some poetic attempts out of the class– and I succeeded!– I told you they were great! All three of these poems come from my first collection of 1998, ‘Dispatches and Recollections’ , which contains some of my earliest poems and, I think, some of my most direct and lyrical and I have always found they go down well in class.
Finally, we ended up with an ‘open mic’ based on five words called out at random. And such good stuff! So, thanks to Huda (Open Mic winner!) Martin, Matts, Leanne, Morgan and the several other wonderful people whose names I can’t remember. And of course a big THANK YOU to Dr Susan Norton, the class tutor, for having me in. A great two hours was had by all. So, well done, class, and I hope I’ve been some small help to you all. And GOOF LUCK in all your future exams!
(for Mary O’Keeffe, Carrowkeal, Crusheen, Co.Clare)
What should I tell the swallows come from Egypt
to my eaves? That they can now no longer
count on reckless hospitality? My
younger neighbours, all grown modern-wise
about house-maintenance and the new emulsion paints
remark how nests besmirch the white facade
of this my house, new renovated. How
so easily one can rid the roof of all these
singing loafers never did a hand’s turn
all these years around the place but foul
the sills… Still, all these years to travel
from the Valley of the Kings to County Clare —
to wheel, dive, yearly find the selfsame spot
atop the brick, behind the gutter’s kind
projecting rim. And I, grown all these years
much better at divining miracles, can
merely stand out on the lawn at evening
marvelling at their punctuality, their
single-minded industry, their
self-assurance in the scheme of things.
(from ‘Dispatches and Recollections’, 1998, Lapwing (Belfast)