a good man long forgotten
      : charles the good      was murdered
praying to his god
in eleven twenty-seven
      so galbert of bruges informs us

      : all those warring kings
and disappointed heirs
      the plundering soldiery
            the inquisitions      burnings
at the stake      or worse

      : and charles the good      the good
            who fought the barons      fed
the poor in times of famine
      ministered to the sick
            : poor charles the good

      the times being what they were
            (and have been since      or worse)
poor charles the good
      -- with a name like that      he was
      a murder waiting to happen.

I wrote this poem shortly after reading a book by the historian Galbert of Bruges (d.1134) * about Charles, count of Flanders (1084-1127) who, as the poem says. met his end in the same way as did Thomas a’ Beckett. Prince Hamlet baulked at the idea of killing Claudius while he (Claudius) was at his prayers and therefore, according to the superstition of the time, would go straight to heaven. Charles’s murderers didn’t care where he went. They just wanted him out of the way and not be around to interfere with their ambitions

I suppose the poem touches on the well-worn theme of how difficult it is to find goodness in the murk of the political world. Or in the world at large, for that matter. U.S President Joe Biden looks a decent man. Certainly, for many, he would seem to outshine his predecessor as regards being sensitive to the needs of those outside his own electoral support. It’s hard to pin down, this idea of the good man, or woman. We always we end up with no real candidates, just approximations. Even saints, like Augustine, were often not so saintly in their early days.

So it is too with Count Charles, whom we find took part in the Crusades and which are now seen as little more than looting expeditions undertaken in the name of Christianity. Still, he seems to have been one of the clearest examples we have of someone worthy of the title ‘the good’, a sobriquet bestowed on him because of his exemplary character, his care for the less well-off (not much of a political priority in those days) and his religious devotion.

My thanks to Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and the editing team of Cyphers Magazine for including this poem in edition no. 91.

  • The Murder of Charles the Good, by Galbert of Bruges. Translated and edited by James Bruce Ross. Published by the University of Toronto Press (1982) in association with the Medieval Academy of America.

Cyphers 91

And … Lots of fine writing in this edition of Cyphers. I particularly liked The First Time the Pope Came by Colm Scully, with its combination of shrewd observation and understated humour. It brought back memories of that long-forgotten (and little-lamented), Ireland of the past. Nell Regan’s poem The Geologist in Lockdown is also a fine piece with its vocabulary of apposite hard, gritty words. And Ann Zell’s First Readers is an excellent example of terse telling. Lots of other top class work too, including two brief but memorable sketches by my good friend Richard W Halpern. And Natasha Cuddington’s review of Leontia Flynn’s new book, Slim New Book, makes me want to look at Catullus again.

Also I must thank to the other members of the our Troika workshop: Liz McSkeane, Anamaria Crowe-Serrano and Ross Hattaway for their valuable support in the writing of this poem.

I am delighted to see my poem Best Time of Day published in the Italian on-line magazine Formafluens <https://www.formafluens.net/magazine/> translated with the assistance of the Italian poet Anna Maria Robustelli. This poem was included in my collection It’s Time, published by Salmon Poetry in 2017. http://www.salmonpoetry.com

Like everyone, my mother had difficult days and when the time came to go to bed she always breathed a sigh of relief. In the moment I describe, I was still a child and shared the room her. My hero was Kit Carson the ‘Indian Fighter’ and I used to read anything about him I could find, at all hours.

My thanks to Tiziana Colusso, director of Formafluens and to the Editorial Director Natal Antonio Rossi (of FUIS: The Italian Federation of Writers).

Sono felicissimo di vedere la mia poesia Il momento migliore del giorno pubblicata sulla rivista on-line italiana Formafluens <https://www.formafluens.net/magazine/> tradotta con l’assistenza della poetessa Anna Maria Robustelli, dalla poesia originale Best Time of Day inclusa nella mia raccolta, It’s Time, pubblicata da Salmon Poetry nel 2017. http://www.salmonpoetry.com

Come tutti, mia madre aveva giorni difficili e, quando veniva il momometo di andare a letto, tirava sempre un sospiro d sollievo. Nel momento in cui  sto descrivendo, ero  ancora un bambino e dividevo la stanza con mia madre. Il mio eroe era il ‘combattente indiano’ Kit Carson. Ho letto tutto quello che potevo trovare su di lui, a tuute le ore.

Ringrazio Tiziana Colusso, Direttrice della rivista, e Natale Antonio Rossi (Direzione Editoriale) della FUIS (Federazione Unitaria Italiana Scrittori).

Best Time of Day

In a charity shop I find a stack
of dusty women's magazine,
the kind my mother read each night,

her candle winking on the ledge
behind her. Out across the frontier
with Kit Carson at my side

I led the covered wagons west
across the arid plains, Winchester
ready until, felled by sleep,

I'd wake a little later, find her
reading still a Woman's Own
or People's Friend. "Best time of Day,"

she'd say. I hear her say it still
each night I open back the sheet,
pick up my book. Best time of Day.


Il momento migliore della giornata.

In un charity shop trovo una pila
di riviste femminili impolverate,
il tipo che mia madre leggeva ogni sera,

la sua candela ammiccante sulla mensola
dietro di lei. Oltre la frontiera
con Kit Caron al mio fianco

guidavo i carri coperti verso ovest
attraverso le pianure aride, il Winchester
pronto finche' , piegato dal sonno,

mi sarei svegliato un po' tardi e l'avrei trovata
che leggeva ancora Woman's Own
o People's Friend. "Il momento migliore della giornata,"

diceva. Sento che lo dice ancora
ogni sera quando spiego il lenzuolo
e prendo il mio libro. Il momento migliore della gionata.


Eamonn Lynskey
con Anamaria Robustelli

https://www.salmonpoetry.com/details.php?ID=430&a=305

So beautiful …

There is that famous piece of World War II newsreel that shows London on a morning after another night of German blitz bombing. A lone double-decker bus makes its way through the ruin and devastation all around it and brings to mind that George Orwell said something to the effect that as long as he found that the milk was still being delivered and that the buses were still running he was assured that civilisation still survived.

So it is in this Pandemic that, whatever about the milk, the sight of buses (mostly empty) dutifully servicing deserted bus stops is a welcome glimpse of the normality we used to enjoy (so unthinkingly) and a harbinger of the hope that life might soon return to what it used to be.

Two of my good friends ...

Many are the pleasures I miss during the ‘Lockdowns’, not the least of them my journeys into town by bus from its terminus conveniently located a short distance from my home. Such Great Thoughts I did be having on the top deck! Such unequalled views of the N4 and the wide very variety of traffic that courses along its majestic thoroughfare! –Yes, you’re right, I didn’t get out much before the Pandemic. And now, with the 5km restriction, I can hardly get out at all. And travelling on buses is definitely out!

There are so many miseries caused to other people by this awful scourge of covid19 — so many grieving families and sufferers of the ‘long covid’ – that I hope that no one will take it amiss that I am whinging about not being able to use the bus. I am very sensible, believe me, of how hard the lockdowns have been on so many people — and will be until about June 2021 (horrible thought, but with the new variants popping up all the time, this gloomy scenario seems inescapable, despite calls for an early lifting of restrictions).

Really now, it’s just a bus journey you’re talking about, you’ll tell me. – Not so! A bus journey is an opportunity to think things out a bit, in the mandatory but comfortable confinement of a bus seat. True, it may be a little less comfortable when a rather stout person wedges in beside you, but by then you will be so immersed in your book or your podcast or your own thoughts that you will barely notice.

Own thoughts. Taking stock of family affairs? Of other affairs? Going over some old regrets? New fears? Wondering how it is that things seem to happen to YOU that never happen to anyone else?

Mr Mark Ulysses chose to include my poem ‘On the Bus’ on his excellent Live Encounters website last December 2020 and I am very grateful for that, and for publishing another poem alongside. ‘On the Bus’ is something of an ‘accidental’ piece. After I arrived into Dublin city centre I decided to have a quick coffee in Starbucks (oh! the long-lost luxuries of those pre-Covid days!) and there I wrote out a rough draft in a few minutes. Of course the metrics and stanza-work took some time afterwards, (not to mentionthe help from my Troika workshop colleagues Liz Mc Skeane, Anamaria Crowe Serrano and Ross Hattaway) but the poem is substantially much as it came out in the café, even including the Hamlet reference. Sometimes it happens like that. Not often enough though …

On the Bus

Not my usual bus this - travelling 
my accustomed route yes, but
taking in a few more twists and turns.
Look, that crumbling wall reveals a gap
I hadn't seen before; that gable end
extends a length back longer than I'd reckoned -
all these unfamiliar twists and turns
disclose a new perspective on old journeys,

like this morning that discarded notebook
found forlorning in a desk drawer
and my half-hour spent deciphering
who was it wrote those hurried lines - who was it
tried to slow the world was whirling round him
faster than these neat suburban landscapes
racing past my window now? And yet
I knew of course that hapless wight was me.

This filtering of the ever-present past,
this yearning to go back, rein in the years
and speak a word to all those selves I was,
selves gauche and ill-advised and God knows what -
I want to shout to them above the maelstrom 
swept me on relentlessly before it.
What the resurrections could be mine
if like to Hamlet's crab I could go backwards?

                                                  Eamonn Lynskey

I offer my profound thanks to DublinBus, without which this poem would not have been possible, and to Live Encounters <https://liveencounters.net/le-poetry-writing-2020/12-dec-pw-vol-two-2020> for publishing it. And please be advised that no crabs were harmed during its writing.

 The Where

Late that evening and her bus missed
and no lift, she hitch-hiked straight
into oblivion, left no rumour,
clue, no fingerprint, not smallest
faintest trace of her departure.

Unremarkable that day
that dawned like any other but
a mainstay in its superstructure
didn't hold -- a bolt came loose,
a strut, a fret inched out of place

or if it be that happenings
are mapped out for the best beforehand,
something evil intervened
to turn her step out of the path
ordained to guide her safely to us.

Hard the waiting year on year
the doorbell, phone bell, feel the sorrow
welling in the throat until
we come to hope to hear the words
we never thought we'd hope to hear.

And darker still than deed itself
the heart that hides it, will not tell
the how, the where, the when. The where
is all that matters now. What bog?
What brambled mountain side? What fen?

                                                 Eamonn Lynskey

This poem, published by North West Words online in 2017, was written shortly after I read Alan Bailey’s book, ‘Missing, Presumed’ (Liberties Press 2014). Bailey is the now- retired Garda Detective-Sergeant who for thirteen years as national co-ordinator of Operation TRACE (set up in 1998) doggedly pursued enquiries into the disappearance of young women in Ireland in the Leinster area during the 1990s. Cogently written, his book makes for grim reading. It includes a diagram of that fateful area, which has become known as ‘The Vanishing Triangle’, bounded by imaginary lines linking Carrickmacross-Dublin-Wexford-Tullamore. New investigations are now underway (October 2020) by the Garda Serious Crimes Review Team.

Bailey’s book is cogently written and centres the cases of six young women who ‘vanished without a trace’ in the course of their daily lives. However, numerous other cases of young women, who suffered a similar fate at other times, are recounted. That he can list so many cases is a shock. And almost as shocking as the disappearances themselves is the thought that someone (and more than one someone) could live day-to-day having information about any of these disappearances and still not come forward to Garda authorities with that information.

My poem was published in 2017 when there was some talk of a breakthrough in one of these cases. But there was no breakthrough. Since then, now and then, hopes have been raised about the fate of one or other of these women but again and again these hopes have been dashed. And the hope that any of them might still be alive has by now almost completely vanished. In fact, it is the recent determination by An Garda that the case of Jojo Dollard be upgraded from that of ‘missing person’ to that of murder enquiry that has led to renewed investigations.

So it is that there is again hope that there might be some developments about Jojo, who disappeared in 1995 on her way home. There is a detailed treatment of her disappearance, and the disappearances of the other women, in an article by Catherine Fegan in this week’s Review section of the Irish Independent (Saturday 24/10/2020). Sad reading it is, with just a tincture of hope that some new information might at last emerge.

Every time there appears the possibility of new information about these cases, this poem floods my mind again. The absolute horror (and I mean absolute) of this kind of happening defies accurate description, even in poetry. The effect on the families must have been truly awful — and endless. And it must take a lot of courage to face up to the realisation that it is now very improbable that their beloved daughter could still be alive, perhaps one day to return. Worse again is the knowledge that this terrible treatment of women is so well-established in Ireland and worldwide.

It is only right to leave the last word to the late Bernadette Breen, who is quoted in the Independent’s article, and whose daughter Ciara disappeared in 1997: Somebody could be getting up every morning, knowing the truth, knowing that they could end the nightmare of being stuck in limbo, but instead choosing to protect the perpetrator by keeping their silence.’

Who can read these words and not be affected?

Mary Phelan, who died in 2018,
holds a poster of her sister Jo Jo Dollard

at a demonstration in 1997.





Regal on its clouded heights …
The Liberation of Tibet

On the streets of Lhasa's New Town,
noisy traffic, glassy shops
and neon signs and all the best
of brands: Bugatti, KFC.
And smiling, helpful people wanting
to speak English. Muffled shouts
of soldiers marching in the barracks
left and right and left and right.

And many more of welcoming Han
than grave Tibetans until New Town
fades to narrow lanes and stalls
and coloured flags that wave above
the Jokhang Temple where the Monks
chant loud above the megaphones
of earnest tourist guides who try
to summarise the Pratimoksha.

Regal on its clouded heights
the white Potola Palace, splendid 
as the days Younghusband pillaged --
as when revolutionary zealots
vandalized its sacred treasures.
Pilgrims in the street below
prostrate themselves, fulfil the Kora,
hand-boards rasping on the pavements.

Minimarkets all agree
that visitors must have Cornflakes,
the bookshops offer histories
of subjugations past. A sculpture
in the central square proclaims
the socioeconomic gains
since first the People's Army wrought
the Liberation of Tibet.

My thanks to Eamon Mag Uidhir, editor of the Dublin narrowsheet FLARE, for including this poem in the no. 15 issue. For full details of how to obtain the magazine, and to see videos of me and other contributors reading their work, please go to the Sunflower Sessions facebook site at http://www.facebook.com/TheSunflowerSessions and remember there are no monthly gatherings at the Lord Edward pub in Dublin at the moment due to the pandemic restrictions. We all hope it will resume its ‘last-Wednesday-of-the Month’ open-mic readings as soon as possible. Sorely missed.

I was all the more pleased that the poem was published because seeing it in print reassured me that the balance that I worked for between appreciation and criticism was successful. Appreciation of a wonderful place side-by-side with a dubious view of what the Chinese are doing there. There are a very few of my ‘political’ pieces about which I can say I got things right. It is so very easy to veer into the denunciatory, thereby forcing the poem to become overly polemical, which in turn tends to obscure its other content. viz., the magic of the experience. There definitely ARE aspects of Chinese government policy towards its ethnic minorities which deserve denunciation, such as its detention of people in high security camps (‘re-education camps’). But there is a time and a place for denunciation and anyway it is a task better suited to prose. This is not to argue that it is a ‘great poem’, just to say that it’s good to be contented that it approaches near to what still I feel about a wonder-full holiday I spent in an extraordinary place: Lhasa, in Tibet, and even with all my reservations about what is happening there. Writing is like that. You have to be content to get as near as possible to what you want to say and not be side-tracked into what you might think you ought to say.

My visit to Tibet (accompanied by wife Kathy) lasted 10 days, In our capacity as ‘Western tourists’, we stayed at a western-style hotel. Shortly after I arrived I was taken ill for a day or two because of the high altitude (Tibet is the highest region on Earth with an elevation of 16,000 ft) but a member of the hotel staff furnished an address in town where I could get oxygen treatment. Thank God (once again) for the kindness of strangers.

China has had an enormous influence of Tobet’s history and culture, and the not just in recent times. The country’s gigantic neighbour has long claimed it as part of its territory (as it does also with regard to Taiwan) . China regards western and central Tibet as an ‘Autonomous Region’ of the Chinese State, while the eastern parts are mostly ‘ethnic autonomous prefectures’ within other Chinese provinces. I am not sure what exactly China means by these these descriptions. Most probably whatever China wants them to mean. My short visit gave me the impression that The People’s Republic is very much in control of everything in Tibet and the history books (published by the People’s Republic of China) on sale in Lhasa’s bookshops underline all the good things that have been done for Tibet since the takeover in 1951

Naturally, more than a pinch of salt is necessary when dealing with communist literature extolling the virtues of its actions (or capitalist literature for that matter) but there’s no doubt that the ordinary peasant-farmers had a hard time of it in past ages. Any changes in the previous feudal life of Tibet’s ordinary people in times past cannot but be welcomed. There is also the Chinese State’s desire to repair the damage done by the so-called ‘Cultural Revolution’ under Chairman Mao (1966-1976), which might be better described as’ The Cultural Vandalism’. Repairs were still ongoing at the Potola Palace in Lhasa when I visited, such was the enormous damage done to its treasures by the revolutionary zealots of The Great Leader.

The new Lhasa

A cynical view would be that the Chinese are attending to Lhasa so assiduously because they intend to turn it into a valuable tourist destination, a project that will become more a reality when the high-speed train link from Beijing to Lhasa is completed. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on this tourist-industry strategy since the idea of making money by getting people to come to an area of interest is not neglected by our own government. Think of the bus-loads arriving in the car-park for the Cliffs of Moher ‘experience’. My poem tries to convey how the ‘modern’ Lhasa has been appended onto the old in such a way as to provide visitors with all the necessary mod-cons in one area while at the same time allowing them to immerse themselves in ancient culture in the ‘old’ town.

The Old Town

So it is that I am, as our American cousins say, ‘conflicted’. I have read many articles written about how ancient cultures are diluted — even destroyed — by the ravages of tourism. These articles are written by, well, tourists like myself, often masquerading under other titles (explorers, travellers, news correspondents, writers) but all contributing to the levelling effect of globalisation. Perhaps will come the day (soon?) that there will be little to distinguish any one culture from another on our entire planet. The process that television started, and that the internet and mobile phone continus, is gathering pace. And the getting placed on UNESCO’s ‘World Heritage’ list has already proved the ruin of some places, formerly unique but not unique any more. ‘Invasive tourism’ is a serious problem for the local people. Anytime I see an advert for ‘a beautiful, unspoiled, out-of -the-way’ venue, I know that it won’t be unspoiled and out-of-the-way for very much longer.

Prayer flags

But back to Lhasa. The sights, sounds and colours of the city will never leave my memory. The pilgrims prostrating themselves before the temples; the beautiful decorations of those temples; the prayer flags fluttering in the surrounding countryside; the rows and rows of monks in the Jokhang Temple sitting in the lotus position … And of course the modern hotel I stayed in and the new shops where I could buy my Cornflakes. OK, OK, yes, I know. But I don’t pretend I was anything other than just another tourist.

Pilgrims prostrating

The Pratimoksha mentioned in the poem is a list of rules governing the behaviour of Buddhist monastics. The Younghusband mentioned is the Sir Francis Younghusband who commanded a British expeditionary force which invaded Tibet in 1903-4 equipped with rifles and machine-guns and made short work of the disorganised resisting forces wielding hoes, swords and flintlocks; much like the Italians did with the Ethiopians in their invasion of 1935. Younghusband’s was only one in a long series of invasions and takeovers. Discontent and unrest continues in Tibet to this day, though much subdued under Chinese control. Every day of my visit in Lhasa I could clearly hear the soldiers drilling (very) loudly in the barracks. So could everybody else. It was very reassuring, if you were Chinese.

Below are some more photos and after that a video of me reading the poem. Don’t mind my being pictured upside down at the beginning: it’s my usual mental state. Just click and everything will be fine (would that real life were so easy to adjust!).

As they say these days … enjoy!

Stupenduous decoration
Peace be with you

Devotional items everywhere.

Tibetan pilgrims relaxing
Tibetan pilgrims seeing the sights
The ubiquitous geranium
Eamonn Lynskey reads ‘The Liberation of Tibet’

… and rainrops wink among the clothespegs …

The Director of the Italian Writers’ Federation (Federazione Unitaria Italiana Scrittori – FUIS) Antonio Natale Rossi recently compiled a series of writings on the situation in which writers found themselves during the Covid-19 pandemic. These he published weekly on the FUIS website under the heading ‘Domenica di Lettura’. I am happy that he selected some of my poetry, including this poem (below) This turning hour and every thing intent, which is followed by an Italian version, Quest’ora di svolta e ogni cosa intenta, which I wrote with the help of Roman poet Anna Maria Robustelli. The original was also published in the Irish magazine ‘Cyphers’

[Il Direttore della Federazione Unitaria Italiana Scrittori (FUIS), Antonio Natale Rossi, ha recentemente compilato una serie di scritti sulla situazione in cui gli scrittori si sono trovati durante la pandemia Covid-19. Questi ha pubblicato ogni settimana sul sito FUIS con il titolo ‘Domenica di lettura’. Sono felice che abbia selezionato alcune delle mie poesie, tra cui questa poesia (sotto) This turning hour and every thing intent che è seguita da una versione italiana, Quest’ora di svolta e ogni cosa intenta, che ho scritto con l’aiuto della poetessa Romana Anna Maria Robustelli. L’originale e’ stato anche pubblicato sulla rivista irlandese ‘Cyphers’.


This turning hour and every thing intent

on furnishing another day, I see
a flake of sunlight slant from branch to leaf,
and raindrops wink among the clothes-pegs.

On the cobwebbed grass still wet with dew
a plastic laundry basket spills its colours,
ivy writes illuminated text

that tells how night is trembling on the cusp
of morning, blade and bark awakening
and every moment dying towards the dawn.


Quest’ora di svolta e ogni cosa intenta

a provvvedere a un altro giorno, vedo
un fiocco di sole cadere da ramo
a foglia
e le gocce di pioggia scintillare tra
le molette.

Nell’erba le ragnatelle brillano di rugiada,
un cesto di bucato in plastica versa colori,
e l’edera scrive sul muro un testo illuminato

che racconta come la notte trema sulla cuspide
del mattino, filo e corteccia si risvegliano
e ogni momento muore verso l’alba.

To see the entire page of contributions to the FUIS ‘Coronavirus Diary’ of 17 May 2020 click this link below / Per vedere l’intera pagina dei contributi al ‘Diario del Coronavirus’ di FUIS 17 maggio 2020, clicca qui: http://www.fuis.it/diario-in-corona-virus-10-antologia/articoli5045

Grazie e … STAY SAFE!

The Irish Times https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/poetry

A new work by Eamonn Lynskey to mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, publ. 20 July 2019

Buzz Aldrin (L) on the moon – Reuters/Neil Armstrong/NASA/

20 July 1969 AD

“May the spirit in which we came
be reflected in the lives of all mankind

When we pressed our footprints on your crust
we trod on centuries of endless yearning,
long fragmented into silvery dust,

O Queen of Tides

remembered snatches of old songs and rhymes
addressed to you by poets who disturbed
your tranquil seas with sad, despairing lines

Nightfarers’ Guide

and when we walked the pock-marked desert plains
our mediaeval ancestors believed
were gouged to show the murderous shape of Cain

Translucent Lantern

and sank our probes into your soil to gauge
was Beatrice right to hold the dark spots equal
to the bright and not more dense or rare,

Latona’s Child

and sent back images of figures lumbering
towards a distant hill where high beyond
the outline of a dry horizon’s rim

Apollo’s Kin

we saw our troubled homeland poised above us,
viridescent oceans veiled in cloud,
and felt this day must herald Pax Lunaris.

Eamonn Lynskey’s most recent collection ’It’s Time’ was published by Salmon in 2017.

My thanks to the Irish Times for publishing this poem

My thanks to Mark Ulysses for publishing three of my poems on the websiteLE-Poetry-Writing-May-2019-1-300x248.jpg ‘Live Encounters’. The poems are ‘My father Saved Lives’, ‘Black Saturday 1941 Revisited’ and ‘Duende’. The first is a personal poem, relating to my father who spent some time on the construction of the hospital in Blanchardstown (now Connolly Hospital) where TB patients could be treated. ‘Black Saturday’ deals with the difficulty of forgiving while not forgetting, and Duende came out of an essay by Garcia Lorca in which he eloquently discusses that crucial moment of clarity in the mind that sets off creativity.

There are many other works to be enjoyed, including one from the redoubtable Kevin Higgins who gives a new (sardonic) interpretation to old catch-cries (‘The Man Who Spoke in Slogans’) ‘; and a wry look at the ever-crowded poetry scene (‘Regretfully’)  from Anne Fitzgerald, to mention only a few. Artwork is by Pawel IIgin. You can read ‘Live Encounters’  by clicking  HERE

I must also thank Eamon Mag Uidhir and his merry Sunlight crew for including my poemflare-11-2 ‘A New England Schoolroom c. 1800’ in ‘Flare’, the quarterly ‘narrowsheet’ produced by the long-running Sunflower Sessions. This open-mic event occurs every last Wednesday of the month (except December) and is now located in ‘The Lord Edward’ pub opposite Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin. Copies of Flare (€5) are available at the sessions. NB: The Sessions are always friendly, lively and full of fun. Come along, and not just because of FOMO!

For more information, join meetup.com, like The Sunflowers Sessions on Facebook, or email at: sunflower_sessions@yahoo.com 

Penne_in_Irlanda.png

20190411_122839.jpg

 

Following my exchange visit to Rome last September 2018, I have written a number of poems inspired by the experience. FUIS (Federazione Unitaria Italiana Scrittori), the Italian Federation of Writers, has kindly published some of this work on its website  http://www.Fuis.it/residenza-letteraria-penne-in-irlanda/articoli4561 You may view these poems and their translations below.

More poems are forthcoming. My thanks FUIS and the Irish Writers’ Union in Dublin for enabling this exchange to take place and to Sig. Simone di Conza for his work as facilitator.

The first poem here published concerns a visit to the Church of San Stefano Rotondo, where its ‘martyr murals’ had much the same effect on me as they had on Charles Dickens when he saw them and wrote about them in his travel essays in  ‘Pictures from Italy’ in 1846. I have allowed the torturers to speak for themselves.

The second poem was inspired by a visit to the famous ‘English Cemetery’ on the outskirts of Rome, properly known as the ‘Non-Catholic Cemetery’, which is the charming final destination of many a famous literary name who happened to be not of the Roman Catholic persuasion. The voice in the poem is that of one of the foremost English ‘Romantic’ poets.

This series of poems will be titled ‘Voices from Rome’ (‘Voci da Roma’) and, with the help of my exchange colleague Anna Maria Robustelli, I provide Italian translations.

 

The murals in the Church of Saint Stefano Rotondo, Rome

IMG_1204.jpg

This poor wretch we break with stones,
this woman we dismember live,
this one we stretch until his bones
crack open. Crowds have gathered, gape
at trees we’ve hung with chopped-up torsos,
lopped-off limbs.  No pleas, no groans

deter us, no imploring cries –
we’re limited as to instruments,
employ the means we have, devise
whatever tools we can. We’re skilled
in fire and water but the future
lies in methods more refined.

Despite our arrows, here’s a one
still prays and gazes skyward. But
it’s Jupiter and only Him
we’re told to worship now. For now.
We have our orders: ours a trade
must heed today’s doctrinal whim,

but future days may dawn the hour
these followers of the holy fish
are fated to come into power.
It’s then the rack will creak afresh
and bodies bleed. It’s then the cries
that rise to heaven will be ours.

 

I dipinti murali nella Chiesa 
di Santo Stefano Rotondo, a  Roma

Questo poveretto lo frantumiamo
con le pietre, questa donna la smembriamo
viva, questo lo allunghiamo
finché le ossa non si spezzano.
Folle con occhi spalancati guardono
i torsi e gli arti appesi agli alberi.

Nessun grido o lamento ci scoraggia –
i nostri strumenti sono limitati,
usiamo tutto ciò che abbiamo,
proviamo a concepire nuovi mezzi.
Siamo abili con il fuoco e con l’acqua –
più raffinati i metodi del futuro.

Nonostante le nostre frecce, ecco
uno che prega ancora e guarda al cielo.
Ma è Giove, solo Lui, si adora –
per ora. Abbiamo i nostri ordini:
il nostro mestiere si deve prestare
al capriccio dottrinale del momento,

ma un giorno nel futuro potrebbe vedere
i seguaci del pesce santo destinati
a venire al potere. È allora che
scricchiolerà di nuovo il cavalletto
e i corpi sanguineranno. È allora che
le grida verso il cielo saranno nostre.

Tradotto dell’autore assistito dalla dott.ssa Anna Maria Robustelli

 

In the Company of Poets at the Non-Catholic Cemetery, 
Rome

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On a beach near Viareggio,
wife and friends surround the pyre,
my boyish face defies the flames –
so tells the legend. Not my body
sea-wracked, friends departed long
before I crackled into ash.

This grave a narrow place, the spirits
spurred me into verse dispersed.
A plaque nearby commemorates
the cinders of a New World scribe,
and everywhere eroded stones
show broken lyres. Stone angels weep.

No angel weeps for me, no urns
stand draped in funeréal folds,
no elegant encomium
ignores my faults. Along the path
that skirts these vaults and monuments –
my modest tablet. Unadorned.

Beyond our strict confinements rears
a giant pyramid born of pride –
but turn, remark the simple headstone
of the one – our frail colossus –
who demanded it be chiselled
that his name was writ in water.

Water ferried me ashore,
and fire reduced my frame to dust.
I share this crowded charnel yard
with jugglers of words, with those
who found their poetry in music,
those discovered it in prose.

So far from all the hurried clamour
of our lives, this field affords
a brooding quietude is bred
of whispering trees and falling leaves.
And silence – like the silence follows
when a final line is read.

Nella compagnia dei poeti
nel cimitero acattolico di Roma

Su una spiaggia vicina a Viareggio,
moglie e amici circondano la pira,
la mia faccia da ragazzo sfida le fiamme –
ecco la leggenda. Non il corpo
sconvolto dal mare, gli amici andati via
prima che diventassi cenere.

Questa tomba è un posto stretto,
gli spiriti che mi hanno spronato a scrivere
dispersi. Una lapide vicina commemora
un poeta del Nuovo Mondo, e ovunque
steli mostrano le lire rotte.
Gli angeli di pietra piangono.

Nessun angelo piange per me
non ci sono urne in pieghe funeree,
nessun encomio elegante
ignora i miei difetti. Lungo il sentiero
che corre accanto a questi monumenti—
la mia modesta targa. Disadorna.

Oltre i nostri confini rigorosi
una piramide nata dall’orgoglio –
voltati e osserva la lapide modesta
dell’uno – il nostro fragile colosso –
che voleva fosse inciso nella pietra
ch’l suo nome era scritto nell’acqua.

L’acqua mi ha traghettato qui,
il fuoco ha ridotto il mio corpo
in polvere. Condivido quest’ossario
con giocolieri di parole, e altri
che hanno trovato la loro poesia
nella musica, o in prosa.

Lontano dal clamore frettoloso
delle nostre vite, troviamo qui
una calma pensierosa, nutrita
di alberi sussurranti e foglie cadenti.
E un silenzio – il silenzio che segue
la lettura di un verso finale

Tradotto dell’autore, assistito dalla dott.ssa Anna Maria Robustelli

 

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The Sunflower Sessions continue to flourish, consummately compered by Declan Mcloughlin, albeit with a change of venue and now reincarnated in The Lord Edward Fitzgerald (opposite Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin). And so too another incarnation of its magazine, or ‘narrowsheet’, as its editor Eamon Mag Uidhir calls it, because of its unusual shape.

There definitely is room in Dublin for a publication that brings the poetry of the NOW out into circulation immediately. The poems here in FLARE 08 have all the appearance of being as up to date as you will get, with their ink just freshly dry. There is a lot to be said for a magazine that appears several times a year and features poetry written most probably very recently.

Good quality too. Look at Claire O’Reilly’s paean to the someone (Alva) who arrived into a rather staid place and transformed it: ‘… she was as exotic as pineapple / from another parish … ‘ and who ‘ … nourished our monochrome minds / in the kaleidoscope of her existence …’.  What a phrase! ‘monochrome minds’.

And Rob Buchanan’s For You Is OK is wonderful in the full sense of the word: it is full of wonderful usage of language: ‘Away from line of sight, ascending arabesque railed basement steps / An ancient battle-scarred bare-chested aulfella, drunk and bald like myself / but black, smoke stained arthritic … ‘ I don’t usually go for OTT poems but this is irresistible! Really great stuff.

Peter O’Neill’s extensive Sonnets from The Henry Street Arcade Project brought me new discoveries of a place I see most weeks.  It evokes the famous cave, ‘which according to Vico / In Scienza nuova, Plato singles out as the origin / Of civiisation’. I hadn’t thought to find Plato’s cave round the corner from the GPO  but now I will always. Such is the power of poetry!

I liked Richard Halperin’s sombre Farewell to a Beloved Brother too, with its abrupt start (‘The heavens opened / And he went into them’) reminding me of John Donnes’ straight-to-the chase first lines and equally Henry Vaughan’s (‘They have all gone into the world of light…’). And so I have to say again how privileged I am to be published amidst such fine work. My own offering is also a ‘farewell poem’ in a way, a farewell to all the things I used to do and cannot now do. And despite Allen Ginsburg’s famous line about the dreaded DIY destroying people’s minds, I have to say I always really enjoyed putting up shelves (no, really!):

Material Support

He is come again to haunt the aisles,

so desperate his need. Come to inhale

the resin scent of deal and pine, planed

and unplaned pointing roofward, waiting

for the careful blade will recreate them

into shapes as yet still hovering ghostly

in his mind like Plato’s caverned forms.

Again he wanders down long corridors

of paints and brushes, white electricals

and dazzling displays of indoor lights

that promise to undarken any soul,

surveys unsullied pruning shears and trowels

displaying gleaming edges, circular saws

and hand-tools nestling pristine in their boxes,

sharing side-by-side a universe

where every cordless drill will guarantee

its teethed chuck to grip the bit so tightly

that no tremble of the hand, no lapse

nor weakness in the aging brain will skew

the outcome. Who will pass these choirs of angels

shining in their tiers and not allow

he feels a sorrow lifting from his heart?

Others come with measuring tape and chart

and calculating eye and tilt of head

to weigh a purchase— Motionless, he stands

in Fixings, undecided whether slot

or Philips screw or toggle-bolt or plug

would best secure a shelf to cavity wall

when suddenly the task appears before him

whole, its every separate part in place

and splendidly complete and now he knows

that he can leave, depart as empty-handed

as the hour he entered all his years ago.

FLARE 08 also features great poems from Seamus Bradley, Rob Buchanan, Natasha Helen Crudden, Kate Dempsey, Helen Harrison, Michael Farry, Eithne Lannon, Jonathan Armas McGlinn, Jen O’Shea, Adriana Ribeiro, David Richardson, Polly Richardson, Daniel Ryan, Roman Rye and Breda Wall Ryan. It is available at the Sunflower Sessions every last Wednesday (7.30pm: The Lord Edward Fitzgerald), and at Books Upstairs in D’Olier Street. €5.

Cover and illustrations are from DMC (instagram@artdmc) photographed by Declan McLoughlin.

Come along and read on the last Wednesday of every month (except December) and fulfill one of the conditions for inclusion in FLARE. The other condition is … good stuff! As they say these days in all the best poetry circles in Dublin … ‘See you at the Sessions!’