Woodstown Beach, Co. Waterford on National Poetry Day in Ireland, 2012

National Poetry Day, October 4th, dawned to perfection here in Co. Waterford. High tide was at 8.30am and Woodstown Beach sent out its whispering call. I arrived there shortly after 9.00 with my swimming gear and was greeted by the the most welcoming sea imaginable.

Tropical blue with sweet little waves embroidering the shell-strewn sand. While I had been thinking of John Masefield’s Sea Fever, on my way there, the moment I ran onto the beach John Keats’ On the Sea immediately took over:

On the Sea


John Keats

It keeps eternal whisperings around
Desolate shores, and with its mighty swell
Gluts twice ten thousand Caverns, till the spell
Of Hecate leaves them their old shadowy sound.
Often ’tis in such gentle temper found,
That scarcely will the very smallest shell
Be moved for days from where it sometime fell.
When last the winds of Heaven were unbound.
Oh, ye! who have your eyeballs vexed and tired,
Feast them upon the wideness of the Sea;
Oh ye! whose ears are dinned with uproar rude,
Or fed too much with cloying melody—
Sit ye near some old Cavern’s Mouth and brood,
Until ye start, as if the sea nymphs quired!

As I floated in the sea, it was as if I could see poetry being written by nature. The moon had decided to stay up for the occasion and was gleaming across the water at the rising sun.

A woman, who was walking her dogs, called out to me, with a smile: You’re crazy.

As I smiled back, saying,  Oh, it’s bliss, lines from Brendan Kennelly’s poem Hope came flashing into my happy and connected mind:

Our skies are brightening up today.
I love your company, dear friend,
and always will, come what may.

I dream of being the living song
everyone would love to sing.
Impossible? No. That’s me. Let’s keep walking

until both our hearts are singing.

Brendan Kennelly – A Social Bridge

In the week that  Brendan Kennelly, one of Ireland’s leading poets, celebrated his 75th birthday, I write of how he has been a significant social bridge in my life since I attended one of his poetry readings in my first term at Trinity College in 1975. This article is in Section Two of  Social Bridges.