The Power of Poetry ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 253

Newtown Wood, Tramore, C. Waterford.
Newtown Wood, Tramore, C. Waterford.

Poetry is one of my burning passions in life and today marks the second anniversary of a Poetry Thread which I started on the Linkedin Group: TED, Ideas Worth Spreading.

The poetry thread is all about sharing published poems or lines of poetry which have special significance and it has woven a wonderful tapestry of connections all around the world.  People come and go; there are regulars and there are visitors but the Poetry Thread is an oasis of peace and catharsis.

One of the many things that draws me closer and closer to poetry is the extent to which it serves up helping after helping on every conceivable topic, thing, event, emotion …

I would go as far as to say that I live my life through poetry and even as I write this I find poems and  lines floating in and out of my head.  I’m sure poetry lovers will have thought of a few possibilities already like  W.B. Yeats’ The Lake Isle of Innisfree and Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott.

It gives me immense pleasure when newcomers to the Poetry Thread say that they see now how much poetry has to offer and that they feel the day isn’t complete unless they have read at least one poem.

Today, one poem by Seamus Heaney dominated my mind after seeing the berries on the rowan trees here in Newtown Wood in Tramore:


A rowan like a lipsticked girl.
Between the by-road and the main road
Alder trees at a wet and dripping distance
Stand off among the rushes.

There are the mud-flowers of dialect
And the immortelles of perfect pitch
And that moment when the bird sings very close
To the music of what happens.

(From Seamus Heaney: Opened Ground ~ Poems 1966-1996)

Happy Birthday Maya Angelou ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 114

Maya Angelou
Photo from Official Website of Maya Angelou

I have become increasingly aware of the poetry of Maya Angelou over the last 18 months or so when I initiated a poetry thread on the Linkedin Group ~ TED: Ideas Worth Spreading from my home here in Ireland.

The poem from Maya Angelou that has been posted over and over as the poem that is most profound for contributors is this one from this amazing woman who was born on April 4th, 1928:

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.


Poetry in Motion ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 67

Spring Buds on Rose ‘Poetry in Motion’

I remember talking to someone years ago about ‘Love’s young dream’  and being caught on the hop with her response, ‘Oh, you mean Love’s old hat …..’   I certainly realised then that  Love has different guises and I’ve been keeping an eye out for them ever since as well as being rocked all over the place by many of them as I’ve travelled through life.

So, that’s the background to the theme of a Poetry Gathering which I was initiated on my poetry thread on the Linkedin Group: TED ~ Ideas Worth Spreading. The thread has been weaving since September 2011 and I’ve written about it here before:

This Love Gathering ran from midnight on Valentine’s Day to midnight last night.

I wondered was I kinda stretching it by extending it beyond the confines of Valentine’s Day and running it beyond rather than before the day that is so associated with Love.

Well, let me tell you, it was quite an experience with love of all descriptions being raised by people from all round the world through the works of published poets who have been writing about love forever, it seems.

This morning, though, there a sense of being totally buoyed up by the power and passion of the whole thing but also severe withdrawals.  So, let me bring you one of the poems that  emerged in the course of the few days. It’s by the wonderfully talented Michael Donaghy (1954-2004), who was born into an Irish family in New York and later moved to Britain where he was a key part of the poetry scene and of a number of Irish music groups:

 The Present 


Michael Donaghy 

For the present there is just one moon, 
though every level pond gives back another. 

But the bright disc shining in the black lagoon 
perceived by astrophysicist and lover, 

is milliseconds old. And even that light’s 
seven minutes older than its source. 

And the stars we think we see on moonless nights 
are long extinguished. And, of course, 

this very moment, as you read this line, 
is literally gone before you know it. 

Forget the here-and-now. We have no time 
but this device of wantonness and wit. 

Make me this present then: your hand in mine, 
and we’ll live out our lives in it.

William Butler Yeats’ Anniversary ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 46

W.B. Yeats

William Butler Yeats, my favourite Irish poet of all time, died on this day in 1939. I’ve no doubt that tributes to him will be pouring in from all around the world but I want to write my few words about how he has touched my life.

Back in my school days, I fell in love with his poems ‘The Wild Swans at Coole’ and ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree.’ I can remember so well happily learning these poems by heart and realising that ‘by heart’ meant something very different to ‘rote learning’ when it came to Yeats’ poetry.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself having to dig very deep and both these poems sustained me through some of the darkest days of my life ~ the dying and death of the love of my life when I was 23. He and I shared a few short last months, when we went walking  practically everyday around the Boyne Estuary  near Drogheda.   Swans were everywhere and tended to congregate around a lake near Beaulieu House that we loved. After he died, it seemed that Yeats’ swans were there to sustain me by day as I would see them flying  overhead at the most amazing times and I found ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ was like a lullaby.

It should come as no surprise that I read Yeats’ poetry to my son who was born in 1995.  I had a small book of Yeats’ love poetry that he adored when he was about five. The poem that stands out from that time is this one and it makes me think of a sleepy little boy with burnished gold curls drifting off to sleep once he had heard the wonderful last two lines:



W.B. Yeats

I went out to the hazel wood,

Because a fire was in my head,

And cut and peeled a hazel wand,

And hooked a berry to a thread;


And when white moths were on the wing,

And moth-like stars were flickering out,

I dropped the berry in a stream

And caught a little silver trout.


When I had laid it on the floor

I went to blow the fire a-flame,

But something rustled on the floor,

And some one called me by my name:

It had become a glimmering girl

With apple blossom in her hair

Who called me by my name and ran

And faded through the brightening air.


Though I am old with wandering

Through hollow lands and hilly lands,

I will find out where she has gone,

And kiss her lips and take her hands;

And walk among long dappled grass,

And pluck till time and times are done

The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun.

And then almost a year and a half ago, I decided to try and set up a poetry thread on Linkedin’s TED: Ideas Worth Spreading. I had grown up in a house where poetry was fundamental and I wanted to share this magic with other poetry lovers. The line that immediately came to me to draw people together was, of course, from W.B. Yeats: ‘ Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.’  That poetry thread continues to bring  great joy, inspiration and friendship to my life and I always feel that Yeats is smiling down upon us we connect through a love of profound poetry from all around the world.