The last few days have been all about being with nature for me and I have spent hours just watching birds, waves, flowers, trees …
I’m told by a watching farmer that the cygnets are due this coming Thursday so it’s all very exciting.
The experience of being out and about in lovely natural places made me think very much of the following poem:
THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS
When despair grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting for their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free
Tomorrow (April 17) marks the 85th birthday of treasured Irish poet, Brendan Kennelly, and I can’t let the occasion go by without remembering his wonderful smile as we passed each other on a regular basis during my years at Trinity College, Dublin. He was always a joy to encounter and his poetry is always a joy to read:
Begin again to the summoning birds to the sight of the light at the window, begin to the roar of morning traffic all along Pembroke Road. Every beginning is a promise born in light and dying in dark determination and exaltation of springtime flowering the way to work. Begin to the pageant of queuing girls the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal bridges linking the past and future old friends passing though with us still. Begin to the loneliness that cannot end since it perhaps is what makes us begin, begin to wonder at unknown faces at crying birds in the sudden rain at branches stark in the willing sunlight at seagulls foraging for bread at couples sharing a sunny secret alone together while making good. Though we live in a world that dreams of ending that always seems about to give in something that will not acknowledge conclusion insists that we forever begin.
Today’s date, January 28th, always makes me think of W.B. Yeats (1865-1939), who is among my very favourite poets. He died on this day in 1939 having left a wonderful legacy of poetry.
Here is one of his most famous:
Should you be interested in learning about the life and works of arguably Ireland’s most famous poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923, here is a link to an online exhibition about him from the National Library of Ireland:
The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, is a sociologist and a poet as well as a former politician. He is greatly loved in this country and we are immensely proud of him.
A while back, I was chatting to a friend and Michael D. came up in conversation. He told me of a time when he and a friend were students and hitching around Co. Galway. A car pulled up and it turned out that it was Michael D. out for a Sunday drive to take in the delights of Co. Galway. He chatted away to the lads, insisted on standing them lunch and showing them some of the more hidden gems of the countryside which he was so familiar with. Later he dropped them back at the station to catch their train to Dublin. It was an afternoon that my friend remembered as being fun, educational and and one of the reasons why he had absolutely no hesitation in voting for Michael D. for President when the time came. He is now in his second term.
Recently, our President wrote a poem to inspire the people of Ireland and beyond. Here it is and I hope you like it as much as I do:
In the journey to the light, the dark moments should not threaten. Belief requires that you hold steady. Bend, if you will, with the wind. The tree is your teacher, roots at once more firm from experience in the soil made fragile.
Your gentle dew will come and a stirring of power to go on towards the space of sharing.
In the misery of the I, in rage, it is easy to cry out against all others but to weaken is to die in the misery of knowing the journey abandoned towards the sharing of all human hope and cries is the loss of all we know of the divine reclaimed for our shared humanity. Hold firm. Take care. Come home together.
Ireland’s Covid cases have skyrocketed in the last few days and we are headed for a heavy lockdown – due to be announced in a few minutes.
The world feels shaky and fragile in so many ways but today I glimpsed hope under the bare Hydrangea by our garden gate. A clump of darling snowdrops smiled up at me with their fresh green leaves and tiny buds showing white. If ever there was a brave, resilient flower, the snowdrop has to be the winner. Just seeing this beauty emerging from the sodden ground made everything seem so much brighter and it was as if hope had come to rescue a bad situation. Nature has such a precious heart.
Do you know what I was, how I lived? You know what despair is; then winter should have meaning for you.
I did not expect to survive, earth suppressing me. I didn’t expect to waken again, to feel in damp earth my body able to respond again, remembering after so long how to open again in the cold light of earliest spring–
afraid, yes, but among you again crying yes risk joy
I was rummaging around in a few boxes today and came across a notebook from eight years ago. I was surprised to find a poem in it that I can’t remember writing. Here it is:
Live in the past
Isn't that what old men do?
And old women leaning
backwards as youth moves on?
The past is certain.
It has happened either
within or beyond our
dreams, control, constraints.
We can visit the past
like an old sloppy jumper
and wrap ourselves in
its fading colours and familiarity.
The past links our present
with tugging arms, pulling
in all directions ~ fleeting
smiles, sodden tears, banalities
that ebb and flow soaking
our memories, watering our
imaginations, flooding it with
lessons, regrets, voices.
And where is the future?
Can we live in a land
of hope or is this a
tapestry yet to be woven?
Tenses are just that-
tense - passive, active,
I was, I am, I will be,
or maybe, I didn't when
I should have; I might
have but I stood in
the moment for too long.
I'm in the moment now
gazing at the moon and stars.
This is my present and where
I want to be; but am I
suspended here as the
world drives on ~ not
in a white Volkswagon Beetle
but in a tiny stream
drifting down from the
mountains to meet the
ever waiting sea.
I have a thing about love poems and spend quite a bit of time perusing collections in the hope of finding even more gems than I have already encountered.
E.E. Cummings is one of my all time favourite poets and I delight in the way he plays around with grammatical conventions. This poem caught my eye today and really lifted my heart. I wondered how a conventional English teacher would react if a pupil submitted a poem like this on a Monday morning as an an assignment on the topic of love.
[love is more thicker than forget]
love is more thicker than forget more thinner than recall more seldom than a wave is wet more frequent than to fail
it is most mad and moonly and less it shall unbe than all the sea which only is deeper than the sea
love is less always than to win less never than alive less bigger than the least begin less littler than forgive
it is most sane and sunly and more it cannot die than all the sky which only is higher than the sky
Derek Mahon, who has been one of my favourite poets over the years died this week, aged 78. He was born in Belfast and spent time at my alma mater, Trinity College, Dublin.
His poetry has depth and beauty as well as hope. This is among his most well-known. I hope you enjoy it:
Everything is Going to be All Right
How should I not be glad to contemplate the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window and a high tide reflected on the ceiling? There will be dying, there will be dying, but there is no need to go into that. The poems flow from the hand unbidden and the hidden source is the watchful heart. The sun rises in spite of everything and the far cities are beautiful and bright. I lie here in a riot of sunlight watching the day break and the clouds flying. Everything is going to be all right.