Presidential Poetry

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:

Take Care

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.

-Michael D. Higgins-

Showing White

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.

Hope

SNOWDROPS

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

in the raw wind of the new world.

Louise Gluck

Tense

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:

TENSE
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,
imperfect, pluperfect.
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.

Jean Tubridy


Love Poetry

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

E.E. Cummings

Ireland: Lockdown 2, Day 1

Ireland began a new country-wide Level 5 lockdown for 6 weeks at midnight as Covid cases have been spiralling upwards.

The sun is blazing outside and thankfully we can exercise within 5km of home.

It’s desperately tough on many people and my thoughts are very much with those who are feeling bereft, anxious, lonely and vulnerable.

Right now, I feel like one of the lucky ones but know there will be moments of darkness lurking in the weeks ahead.

I feel that nature and the arts are going to be vital and was thrilled when a parcel of books arrived in the post yesterday from my big brother who knows way better than most how to keep me buoyant.

So, I leave you with a few lines from Sheenagh Pugh’s poem, ‘Sometimes’:

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you.

Derek Mahon ~ A Beloved Poet

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.

Derek Mahon, from Selected Poems

The Book Table on the Path

There’s a convent round the block  from our place and the nuns were kindly leaving books out on a table in the early days of ‘the lockdown’ for people to take.

I did my best to resist them lest they could by some chance pose dangers as virus carriers. Anyway, I looked from a distance and couldn’t resist taking a book of poetry which I put away for weeks before touching it again.

It is a real gem and here’s one of the poems that I found in it today. I hope you enjoy it.

When the heart

When the heart 
is cut or cracked or broken
Do not clutch it
Let the wound lie open

Let the wind
From the good old sea blow in
To bathe the wound with salt
And let it sting

Let a stray dog lick it
Let a bird lean on the hole and sing
A simple song like a tiny bell
And let it ring.

(Michael Leunig)

 

 

 

 

Robin Time

I seemed to spend a lot of time in the woods during my blogging break and every single time I went out there, I found that there was a robin waiting for me ~ perched on a branch overlooking the little wooden bridge and full of welcome.

Robin
Feathered Friend

Robins never fail to stop me in my tracks. I can’t just walk passed them and go about my business.

They take me to all sorts of places and this is just a tiny part of  a long list:

#1.Emily Dickinson’s lines:

“If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.”
― Emily Dickinson

#2. Robin Williams and, especially Dead Poets Society which speaks volumes about what education should really be about and the role that an inspirational and creative teacher can have.

#3. Robin Hood and long hours playing ‘Maid Marian’ to my big Bro’s Robin Hood when we were kids. There are many lessons to be learned from Robin Hood about equality and what it means.

#4. Reading poetry with my father in the last months of his life through the Spring of 2010 and especially this stanza from Thomas Hood’s, I Remember, I Remember:

I remember, I remember,
The roses, red and white,
The vi’lets, and the lily-cups,
Those flowers made of light!
The lilacs where the robin built,
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birthday,—
The tree is living yet!

Dad and I shared a love of robins and some of my happiest memories are watching him from the kitchen window while he was doing the garden but being distracted by a ‘pet’ robin who used to come and eat out of his hand or perch on his shoulder.

***

I’ve been doing a bit of reading about robins and it seems like they are quite solitary in their own way, especially when it comes to other birds, but just look at how sociable they are when it comes to humans. Maybe I see a touch of the robin in myself (inherited from Dad) ~ leaning into nature and feeling incredibly at peace with a tiny bird and not so much the ‘madding’ crowd.

I’d love to hear where robins bring you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mother …

January 29th, 2017

Dear Mother,

January 29th will never mean anything else to me except your birthday. It’s far more significant than May 31st ~ the day you died in 2009.

It felt ‘your birthdayish’ from the minute I opened the front door early this morning to bring Stan for a walk. The birds were chirping in the Monkey Puzzle and the snowdrops in the garden seemed to have multiplied a hundred-fold since yesterday.

It was Men’s Final Day at the Australian Open so I planked myself down in front of the fire and the television from 8.30am until around 12.30 and savoured every single rally in a brilliant match between Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. Federer won in five sets and  would you believe Rod Laver presented him with the cup.

I was thinking that you’d have been listening to it on the Radio if you were here  and  got to thinking then how it was you who got me into tennis in the first place and how it was your father who got you into it. I wonder who introduced him to it?

The game was played in the best possible spirit and Kipling’s If kept coming to mind. Roger even said in his speech that he would have been quite happy to share the tournament with Rafa. You don’t hear that very often and needless to say it had me balling, probably like half the people watching. So much for Dad’s ‘killer instinct,’ for today anyway.

I can’t imagine what on earth it would have been like to grow up in a house where sport wasn’t on the agenda or dogs,  gardening,  your trifle, poetry, the sea,  rules about ‘no sweets before lunch,’  diaries, crosswords, slogans,  horses, everyday phonecalls when we never ran out of stuff to say … never, ever, ever …

Harry and I went out to the beach in the afternoon with the dogs and we drew a huge heart in the sand and wrote in it with an old stick – the kind you always managed to find when the situation demanded. We agreed that writing in the sand is much nicer than going to a grave. I’d never given the’no grave’  bit any thought when you were adamant about cremation. It’s not an issue, you’ll be glad to hear, because we always seem to go to places you loved ~ or should I say ‘beaches you loved’ on special days like your birthday. Must be that every day is special cos we’re at the beach every day!

I came across a poem the other day that I thought you’d like and then I wondered if you knew it as it was written by a woman who lived from 1918-2001, not too different from your 1921-2009.  Anyway here it is:

Peace
At the ship’s bow. It was my eye that drew
the perfect circle of blue meeting blue.
No land was visible. There was no sail,
no cloud to show the mighty world in scale,
no sky and ocean, by my gaze defined,
were drawn within the compass of my mind
under a temperate sun. The engine’s sound
sank to a heartbeat. Stillness all around.
Only the perfect circle and the mast.
That moment knew no future and no past.

(Amy Witting)

It’s strange not getting you a present or even picking your little bouquet of snowdrops. Remember that year we were in Tenerife for your birthday and I got you the post card with the flamenco dancer with the real skirt and wrote it in terrible Spanish from our phrase book?

Well, there’s a touch of that today. I have a photo of a robin that seems to have been waiting for today. I hope you like him. Imagine him singing Happy Birthday; much more melodious than me ~ that’s for sure.

robin

Lots of love,

Jean xxx

 

Poetry Prism

George Gordon, Lord Byron was born on this day ~ January 22, 1788 ~ and he has been very much on my mind since early morning.

He was a poet who was much loved by my late mother who often quoted lines from his work. She had been introduced to him early in her life and it always gives me great pleasure to read an English composition which she wrote in 1934, when she was 13, comparing his life with that of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Here is a short extract:

Both were wonderful poets, both hated tyranny and wrote of freedom. But with such a difference! A comparison of portraits emphasises it more even that a comparison of poems.  Shelley, mournful, longing for a better world, with a melancholy face and a grave outlook on life. Byron, handsome, extravagant, impulsive, thoughtless and dissipated.  Of the two, I infinitely prefer Byron, both his poems and his portrait, even taking his faults into consideration.

I often wonder how many portraits of Byron Mother ever got to see and which ones.

375px-george_gordon_byron_6th_baron_byron_by_richard_westall_2
Portrait of Lord Byron by Richard Westall

 

I’ve no doubt that she had probably read all his poetry but these are the  lines that she tended to quote the most:

There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
(George Gordon, Lord Byron 1788-1824)