Eleanor McEvoy, Ailie, Paula Meehan, Moyra Barry : Ceiliúradh Mhna Na h-Eireann (Celebrating the Women of Ireland 5)

A little over ambitious with my scheduling!

I forgot that not only did I have a duty to celebrate the season of St Patrick here on The Jukebox I also had to celebrate in person and recover from those celebrations!

So, a little delayed, but I trust well worth the wait, the Official Immortal Jukebox St Patrick’s Day Post!

Now read on ….

All Hail St Patrick!

All Hail the Women of Ireland

Today we conclude our tribute to the intelligence, wisdom and beauty the Women of Ireland have brought to the arts of Song, Poetry and Painting.

Songs by Eleanor McEvoy (At the Mid Hour of Night & A Woman’s Heart) & AIlie (The Rocky Road to Dublin).

A Poetry Reading by Paula Meehan  – ‘The Pattern’.

A Painting by Moyra Barry (1886-1960) : ‘Cinerria’

More years ago than I care to count seeking sanctuary from the crazed cacophony of life in London I frequented an out of the way social club whose clientele was largely comprised of Irish men and women who had emigrated to England in the late 40s/early 50s.

For an hour or two I would savour a pint or two of plain and drink in the rich accents and the rich conversation.

One of the habitues of the club, a whiskery Corkman, let’s call him Seamus, always greeted me by announcing, ‘You buy me a pint of porter and I’ll sing you one of Moore’s Melodies’.

My reply was always, ‘Done – let’s start with, ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ and if the thirst is on you and the humour on me we won’t stop until we’ve sung, ‘Oft in the Stilly Night’, ‘The Harp’ and, ‘The Minstrel Boy’ before we leave.

I usually emerged spiritually refreshed if somewhat intoxicated from the porter and the romanticism of the melodies.

Thomas Moore was something of a 19th Century superstar in English and Irish society.

His, ‘Melodies’ lyrics set to established Irish tunes and melodies were much admired by Lord Byron and became songs that entered deep into the consciousness of generations.

As such, in modern Ireland, they came to be regarded, in certain chilly circles, as period pieces from the parlour best left to the tourists to enjoy.

A view I never had any time for.

So, I was delighted to learn that Eleanor McEvoy had recorded an album entirely devoted to Thomas Moore Songs, ‘The Thomas Moore Project’.

The distinguishing mark of Eleanor’s career, for me, was a wholly admirable creative restlessness which led her never to attempt to simply repeat earlier successes but rather to challenge herself to open up new artistic territory with every new record.

It seemed to me that her background; incorporating a music degree, a spell in the RTE Symphony Orchestra and a string of imaginative singer/songwriter albums made her an ideal candidate to present refreshed versions of songs from Moore’s great canon illuminating them brightly for new generations to enjoy.

And, praise be!, the, ‘Thomas Moore Project’ turned out to be an absolute triumph due to the endless care and consideration with which the songs were approached.

Original, imaginative arrangements combined with superb instrumental playing and heart-piercingly intimate vocals shook the dust off and revealed the ravishing beauty and sophisticated emotional acuity of Moore’s works.

Eleanor McEvoy’s take on, ‘At the Mid Hour of Night’ reanimates those, ‘past scenes of delight’ and is indeed rapture to hear.

‘At the mid hour of night when stars are weeping, I fly
To the lonely vale we lov’d when life shone warm in thine eye;
And I think that if spirits can steal from the region of air,
To revisit past scenes of delight; thou wilt come to me there,
And tell me our love is remember’d even in the sky.
*
Then I’ll sing the wild song, which once ’twas rapture to hear,
When our voices, both mingling, breathed like one on the ear,
And, as Echo far off thro’ the vale my sad orison rolls,
I think, oh my love! ’tis thy voice from the kingdom of souls
Faintly answering still the notes which once were so dear!’
*
*

Our Poetry Reading today comes from a former Ireland Professor of Poetry, Paula Meehan.

She has a plenitude of poetic powers at her command.

Reading through her works it seems that no aspect of the struggle to live a human life in our times has escaped her poetic eye and ear.

There is tenderness and rage, grief and joy and empathy embedded in her poetry.

She is a Poet who believes in the enduring power of Poetry to affect the human heart.

Her Poems exemplify the truth that there is a never to be sounded mysterious energy and power in Poetry.

She has said that, ‘ …Poems tell stories but there are also poems that just give you a moment of vision or transcendence .. two lines, two lines can save a life, I believe it.’

In, ‘The Pattern’ Paula Meehan captures with truth and tenderness the gravitational power of the Mother/Daughter relationship.

Today’s painting is by Moyra Barry.

Her special gift was for flower paintings.

These works have a quality of engaged observation and radiance which forces the viewer to take a breath and really Look!

Image result for moyra barry images

Now to a new star from Ireland.

Ailie (Blunnie) from County Leitrim.

Image result for ailie blunnie images

Her debut album. ‘West to the Evening Sun’ was a confident and mature work showcasing a talent that was wholly of the Now while being in no way cut off from the rich and diverse heritage of Irish music.

Highly atmospheric production added to the poetic imagination of her songs ensured the album packed a real punch.

Here she gifts us an unforgettable and invigorating version of the Rocky Road to Dublin.

Ailie plays Piano, Bass and Electric Guitar as well as all the singing here.

Daragh Dukes’ production  makes the whole thing gleam.

My, ‘Brand new pair of brogues’ did some high stepping to this one I can tell you!

I am going to conclude this tribute to Irish Women with a song by Eleanor McEvoy which has rightly become a modern standard, ‘A Woman’s Heart’.

I hope this series has made plain that there are some things only a Woman’s heart can know and that we should be grateful for that knowledge being passed on to us in Songs, Poems and Paintings.

There will never come a time when Eleanor will not be asked to sing this song and there will never come a time when it fails to move all the hearts of those who hear it.

All hail the Women of Ireland!

For Peg, Marguerite, Ann, Roisin, Hannah and Martha Brosnan, Irene, Geraldine and Nina Fitzpatrick, Maura Dee, Deirdre and Sinead Trant, Niamh & Aisling Blackburn and Patricia & Grace O’Sullivan.

 

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Sinead Lohan, Catherine Ann Cullen, Letitia Hamilton, Ceiliúradh Mhna Na h-Eireann (celebrating the Women of Ireland 4)

The Jukebox continues the celebration of the glories of Irish Women with :

Songs from Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (An Mhaigdean Mhara) & Sinead Lohan (Sailing By).

A Painting by Letitia Hamilton (1878-1964)  – ‘A Rest from Hunting’.

A Poetry Reading by Catherine Ann Cullen (Meeting at the Chester Beatty).

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, a Donegal native, is a wonderful fiddler and a spellbinding singer.
*
With the traditional music group Altan she has honoured that tradition and shown that there is a considerable global audience for the music when it is performed with heart and drive.
*
And, when Mairéad sings the song below there is something more than heart and drive; there is the shiver of an encounter with the numinous.
*
Her singing here dives to the deep core of the song and to hidden truths swaying in the subconscious.
*
This is a lament and all of our lives will have cause at some point to call out for a lament.
*
No life escapes loss and exile. All time is borrowed.
*
Is cosúil gur mheath tú nó gur thréig tú an greann

Tá an sneachta go freasach fá bhéal na mbeann’

Do chúl buí daite is do bhéilín sámh
Siúd chugaibh Mary Chinidh ‘s í ‘ndiaidh an Éirne ‘shnámh
A mháithrín mhilis duirt Máire Bhán
Fá bhruach an chladaigh ‘s fá bhéal na trá
Maighdean mhara mo mhaithrín ard
Siúd chugaibh Mary Chinidh ‘s í ‘ndiaidh an Éirne ‘shnámh
Tá mise tuirseach agus beidh go lá
Mo Mháire bhroinngheal ‘s mo Phádraig bán
Ar bharr na dtonna ‘s fá bhéal na trá
Siúd chugaibh Mary Chinidh ‘s í ‘ndiaidh an Éirne ‘shnámh

 

 

You seem to be pining and forsaking the fun
The snowdrifts are heavy by the fords in the burn
Your bright golden tresses and smile gentle and mild
I give you Mary Kinney who has swum the ocean wide
“Darling mother, ” cries Máire Bhán
From the banks of the ocean and down by the tide
“Mermaid, my mother, my pride”
I give you Mary Kinney who has swum the ocean wide
I’m tired and weary and will be ’til dawn
For my darling Mary and my Pádraid bán
As I ride on the billows and drift with the tide
I give you Mary Kinney who has swum the ocean wide.

 

The Poet showcase today is Catherine Ann Cullen.

She has written a wonderful lyrical and informative essay (in essence an introduction to her PhD) which references the ‘Singing Without Ceasing’ and the ‘Murmur of Voices’ which formed the musical and cultural landscape of her childhood.

This is perhaps the source of the poise and intense musicality gold-threaded through all her writing.

I highly recommend her collections, ‘A Bone in My Throat’ and, ‘Strange Familiar’.

She has also written a book, nominally for 6-8 year olds, ‘The Magical, Mystical, Marvelous Coat’ which is truly enchanting whatever age your birth certificate might say you are!

All Poetry is a kind of cartography – a description and revelation of the Poet’s territory and the developing outline of a personal, emotional, cultural and literary landscape.

The poem below shows Catherine Ann Cullen weaving a brilliantly coloured and textured tapestry of recollected feeling. .

 

The Painting today is by Letitia Marion Hamilton.

Her paintings of the Irish landscape and rural life have the quality of intoxicatingly hazy summer dreams that linger in the imagination.

Artwork by Letitia Marion Hamilton, A REST FROM HUNTING, Made of oil on board

 

It is very rare for an artist enjoying critical and commercial success and with the promise of greater success in store to decide to simply walk away to pursue another life away from the stage.

Yet, that is exactly what Sinead Lohan has done.

In the mid/late 1990s she released two highly prized records, ‘Who Do You Think I Am’ and, ‘No Mermaid’ which still get selected from the Jukebox’s extensive library on a frequent basis.

Two of her songs were covered by Folk Icon Joan Baez and all seemed set fair for a stellar career as she was capable of writing distinctive hypnotic songs and of performing them with beguiling charm.

No new material has emerged since 1998 so we will have to treasure what we have.

Thanks for the songs and the singing Sinead.

If you enjoyed this post and know anyone who is Irish or of Irish heritage (and you do!) share it with them and ask them to share it further.

Next Post tomorrow Sunday 17th March, St Patrick’s Day – don’t miss it!

Eleanor Shanley, Inni-K, Rita Ann Higgins, Estella Solomons : Ceiliúradh Mhna Na h-Eireann (Celebrating the Women of Ireland 3)

Our celebrations today continue with:

Songs by Eleanor Shanley ( Come Back Paddy Reilly) & Inni-K (Teardrop).

A Painting by Estella Solomons (1882-1968) ‘Moppie Morrow’.

A Poetry Reading by Rita Ann Higgins : ‘The Hedger’.

The Irish temperament is formed out of the knowledge that, in the end, no one survives this world without a broken heart.

Irish singers, painters and poets have for millennia embodied this truth in their works.

Tragedy abides but the true artist, not ignoring the darkness, finds within themselves sparks of joy to light up the glowering sky.

In the voice of Leitrrim’s Eleanor Shanley we find a tenderness and sustaining sweetness that glows in the heart.

The song she sings here Percy French’s, ‘Come Back Paddy Reilly’, has a special poignancy for me as it was my late mother’s favourite song and its haunting air accompanied her coffin as we carried her out of the church at her funeral.

It was also sung as a lullaby to my wife by her late father.

We think of them both with love and gratitude and with smiles and tears whenever we hear this song.

The garden of Eden has vanished they say
But I know the lie of it still
Just turn to the left at the bridge of Finea
And stop when half way to Coote Hill

Tis there I will find it I know sure enough
When fortune has come to my call
Oh, the grass it is green
Around Ballyjamesduff
And the blue sky is over it all

And tones that are tender and tones that are gruff
Are whispering over the sea
“Come back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff
Come home Paddy Reilly to me”

My mother once told me that when I was born
The day that I first saw the light
I looked down the street on that very first morn
And gave a great crow of delight

Now most newborn babies appear in a huff
And start with a sorrowful squall
But I knew I was born in Ballyjamesduff
And that’s why I smile on them all

The baby’s a man now, he’s toil-worn and tough
Still whispers come over the sea

“Come back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff
Come home Paddy Reilly to me”

The featured Painter today is Estella Solomons who was a Dubliner.

She was a member of a distinguished Jewish family with both her father and brother being mentioned by he great chronicler of Dublin life – James Joyce.

Her mother was a Poet and her Sister an opera singer.

She was deeply involved in the Irish Republican movement as a member of Cumann na mBan and in the cultural life of post revolutionary Ireland through her own work and that of her Poet and publisher husband, Seamus O’Sullivan.

The humble steady gaze of her paintings and prints have a meditative stillness which can be intensely moving.

Image result for estella solomons images

Rita Ann Higgins is a Poet whose work has fierce feminine energy and lacerating emotional force.

As a Galway Woman from a large working class family she has broadened the canvas of Irish Poetry through an alert, inventive voice charged with righteous anger and absurdity.

This is a Poetry responding to and teeming with life in all its maddening plenitude.

Every now and again you hear a record that startles you by the freshness of its imagination.

‘The King has Two Horse’s Ears’ by Inni-K (Eithne Ni Chathain) from 2015 was one such record for me.

Irish Folk? Certainly.

But experimentally infused with Pop, Jazz and World Music accents.

All carried off with tremendous confidence and élan.

A record that repaid repeated listening.

Her new album, ‘The Hare & The Line’ has much to live up to!

In memory of Sheila Doyle and Joan Hickey.

Notes :

Eleanor Shanley recorded three highly recommended albums with the legendary group De Danann : ‘Jacket of Batteries’, Half Set in Harlem’ & ‘Wonderwaltz’.

I particularly prize her Solo albums – ‘Desert Heart’, and ‘A Place of My Own’ .

The two records she made with Ronnie Drew – ‘A Couple More Years’ & ‘El Amor De Mi Vida’ have a wonderful warmth.

If you enjoyed this post and know anyone who is Irish or of Irish heritage (and you do!) share it with them and ask them to share it further.

Next Post on Saturday 16th March – don’t miss it!

Into The Mystic : Michael Hartnett, The Gloaming – A Necklace of Wrens

 

Loyal readers of The Jukebox will know that as St Patrick’s Day approaches each March, honouring my heritage, I tip my hat to Irish Writers, Painters and Poets especially dear to my heart.

I had thought to include the Poet Michael Hartnett and Master Musicians The Gloaming in my St Patrick’s Parade 2019.

But, last week, I found the line, ‘Their talons left on me scars not healed yet.’ echoing through my night and daytime dreaming mind.

Scanning the Poetry section of my bookshelves I lighted upon Michael Hartnett’s Collected Poems and soon found his revelatory, ‘A Necklace of Wrens’ in both the English and Irish Language versions.

As the poem tells us Hartnett accepted a Mystic invitation into the Poet’s life

Initiation would bring both wound and blessing and gathering understanding that the craft demanded lifelong fidelity.

A necklet of feathers is yet a collar.

It is the Poet who, through the craft, makes us see the wet meadow, the otherness of the realighting birds and the sharpness of their talons.

Michael Hartnett had the precious gift of revealing to us the sharp wonder of the world all around us.

Now, let’s hear him read the Poem and tell the story of its genesis including his poignant relationship with his Grandmother.

 

 

A Necklace of Wrens
For Mícheál Ó Ciarmhaic, file

When I was very young
I found a nest
Its chirping young
were fully fledged.

They rose and re-alighted
around my neck,
Made in the wet meadow
a feather necklet.

To them I was not human
but a stone or tree:
I felt a sharp wonder
they could not feel.

That was when the craft came
which demands respect.
Their talons left on me
scars not healed yet.

Michael was a Poet in both Irish and English.

It seems to me that this Poem, deeply etches itself into the imagination with the simplicity and unsounded depths of an ancient fable.

This surely takes it’s inspiration from the Irish Bardic tradition.

There is a haunting yet spare music in his reading of the Poem in it’s native Irish form that will not leave you.

An Muince Dreoilíní
Do Mhícheál Ó Ciarmhaic, file

I mo bhuachaill óg, fadó fadó,
d’aimsíos nead.
Bhí na gearrcaigh clúmhtha, fásta,
is iad ag scread.

D’éirigh siad – is thuirling
arís ar m’ucht
Ormsa bhí muince clúimh
sa mhóinéar fliuch.

Níor dhuine mé ach géag crainn
nó carn cloch
ach bhí iontas crua nár bhraith said
ag bualadh faoi m’ucht.

B’in an lá ar thuirling ceird
a éilíonn ómós:
is d’fhág a n-ingne forba orm
nár leigheasadh fós.

The Irish musicians of The Gloaming also specialise in bringing us home to our sense of wonder.

Martin Hayes from County Clare plays the Fiddle, Dennis Cahill Chicago born with Kerry lineage plays the Guitar, Iarla O Lionáird from West Cork provides the Vocals, Dubliner Caoimhin O Raghallaigh plays the Fiddle and Thomas Bartlett from Vermont plays the Piano.

Together they open up the music of the heart’s core.

Sometimes, in the darkest hours of the night when dawn is not yet even promised I like to climb to the top of the ridge and shed the distractions of the electronic buzz and the timetable of planned activities.

At first it is hard to simply stand still and still the whirling mind.

Persevere and breathe.

Persevere and breathe.

At first the senses search for what’s not there – the bright light, the sounds of cars and conversation before adjusting to what is there – the hoot owl singing, the glimmer of the constellations, the beating of your own heart.

And then, only then, a vacancy waiting to be filled, can you hear the music of the night.

That’s what the music of The Gloaming sounds like to me.

 

Notes :

Michael Hartnett’s Collected Poems published by Gallery is one of the greatest achievements of modern Irish literature.

The Gloaming have released three CDs, ‘The Gloaming’, ‘Gloaming 2’ and ‘Live at the NCH (National Concert Hall’. I can not recommend them highly enough.

Mary Black : She Moves Through The Fair

A Parade of Posts for St Patrick 4

A Song by Mary Black

A Poem by Eavan Boland

A Painting by Peter Dee

Today one of the definitive Irish Traditional Songs sung by the regal Mary Black and an extraordinarily powerful Poem by an Irish Poet of world stature, Eavan Boland.

The Painting today is by a contemporary Irish Artist, Peter Dee, whose arresting and highly covetable Still Life works are the fruit of deep contemplation and confident technical accomplishment.

More examples of his work can be seen at http://www.peterdee.ie

She Moves Through The Fair is a Song that we will never get to the bottom of.

It contains details of everyday life and a mysterious, swirling, intermingling of the known and supernatural Worlds we all move within.

There are some sorrows, some griefs, that can only be borne through Song being too deep for common speech.

The common speech of hand clapping dealers striking bargains at the fair.

While we move, half-blind, through our lives the stars look down and the swans fly over the lake.

All the while the soft fluttering of moths fill the night and dew will glisten on the meadow.

While we bear our burden of loss and longing the wide world turns and turns oblivious.

All as we move through the fair.

Through the fair.

Mary Black’s singing embodies the humanity and the other worldliness of the song with glowing assurance.

Mary Black can flat out sing!

 

She Moves Through The Fair

I once had a sweetheart, I loved her right well
I loved her far better than my tongue can tell
Her parents did slight me for the want of guile
Adieu to all pleasure since I lost my dear

She went away from me and moved through the fair
Where hand-clapping dealers’ loud shouts rent the air
The sunlight around her did sparkle and play
Saying, “It will not be long, love, ’til our wedding day”

When dew falls on meadows and moths fill the night
When glow from the greesach on half-froze, half-light
I’ll slip from my casement and I’ll run away
Then it will not be long, love, ’til our wedding day

I dreamed last night that my love came in
She came in so easy, her feet made no din
She came stepping up to me and this she did say
“It will not be long, love, ’til our wedding day”

Eavan Boland’s Poetry is characterised by fierce intelligence and a determination to fearlessly examine the toxins of Ireland’s history as understood and experienced by a modern Irish Woman.

So, it is a Poetry which utters outrage, anger and bewildered frustration as well as ease and joy.

I sometimes feel as if her work has served to redraw the map of Irish Poetry – significantly expanding the imaginative territory and cutting a path for others to follow.

The Poem I have selected today is the work of a Major Poet.

Eavan Boland : Quarantine

In the worst hour of the worst season
of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking — they were both walking — north
.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

 

Vintage Enamelware with Fruit Still Life

 

 

Recommended Websites :

Poetry And Environment (https://helkc4.wordpress.com)

Helen Harrison is an Irish Poet whose work I admire for its lovely evocations of the dignity and Wonder present in, ‘Everyday Life’.

I recommend her  collection, ‘The Last Fire’  published by Lapwing.

I chanced upon a copy of Ron Carey’s debut Poetry Collection, ‘Distance’ when it was published by Revival Press in 2015.

I must have nearly read the whole marvellous collection in one gulp!

These are Poems that will stay with you.

Ron’s site can be found at roncareypoetry.com.

Twitter : @RonCarey49

Ger Wolfe : The Curra Road

A Parade of Posts for St Patrick 3

A Song by Ger Wolfe

A Poem written and read by Richard Murphy (1927 – 2018)

A Painting by Paul Kelly

Today a farewell homage to one of Ireland’s most treasured Poets – Richard Murphy and what I am sure for many of you will be an introduction to a singer/songwriter particularly close to my own heart, Ger Wolfe, whose stature as an artist has not yet been properly reflected in popular awareness.

The painting today is by a contemporary Irish Artist, Paul Kelly, whose landscapes of County Dublin cast a spell.

You can explore his work further at http://www.paulkellyart.ie

 

Ger Wolfe in ‘The Curra Road’ has written a song that beautifully captures the sense of being at home and at peace in the physical, emotional and spiritual landscape of Home.

The hallowed Home we always want to carry within us as we walk down other roads on our pilgrimage through Life..

The Curra Road is undoubtedly a classic Irish Song and its luminous lyricism is entirely characteristic of Ger Wolfe’s catalogue.

I heard a story the other day that Bob Dylan would test out the compatibility of prospective musicians by asking, sotto voce, do you know, ‘Pretty Peggy-O’?

If the answer was Yes and they could follow and augment Bob’s version they were hired!

I have the same sort of test for anyone who considers themselves well informed on Irish Music – Do you know, ‘The Curra Road’?

If the answer is Yes I’m up to the Bar to buy them a pint – content there will lots to talk about that evening!

 

The Curra Road

In the summer we’ll go walking
Way down to the river down the Curra road
There’s a blue sky we’ll walk under
Listen to the humming bees and on we’ll go
We won’t worry about the Winter
Worry ‘bout it raining , 
worry about the snow
In the summer we’ll go walking
Way down to the river down the Curra road

Past the cattle at their grazing
Through the woods of hazel, holly, birch and oak
Past the robin on the gatepost
Singing to the bluebells, sunlight is their host
We won’t worry about the radio
Worry about the traffic, worry about the phone
In the summer we’ll go laughing
Way down to the river down the dusty road

There is music in the river
Listen to it dancing underneath the bridge
And the wind is hardly breathing
Words onto the willow branches overhead
We won’t worry about the government
Worry about the video, worry about the day
In the summer we’ll go waltzing
Hand in hand together down the dusty way

Ger Wolfe has an informative website : https://gerwolfe.com

You can’t go wrong with any of his CDs – my favourites are, ‘I Have Been Loved’, ‘No Bird Sang’ and, ‘The Ragged Ground’.

I’m eagerly anticipating a forthcoming compilation, ‘The Lark Of Mayfield’.

 

Richard Murphy, who died at the end of January this year, had tremendous poetic gifts and a capacity for disciplined hard work at his craft over many decades.

His collection, ‘The Pleasure Ground: Poems 1952-2012’ (Lilliput Press) is a must-have for anyone interested in modern Irish Poetry.

Murphy had deep feeling for the Irish landscape and the Seas around The Island (and its offshore Islands).

There is a profound physicality present in his verse which makes responding to his work an uplifting whole-body experience..

I have always been particularly impressed by his ability to make history come alive in verse especially through long narratives allowing for exposition, diversions and deliberation.

Reading Richard Murphy will open up new imaginative territory and offer revelatory perspectives on the worlds we imagined we knew well.

Listen to him below reading one of his early triumphs – ‘Sailing To An Island’

Such sinewy, living language!

 

 

SAILING TO AN ISLAND

The boom above my knees lifts, and the boat
Drops, and the surge departs, departs, my cheek
Kissed and rejected, kissed, as the gaff sways
A tangent, cuts the infinite sky to red
Maps, and the mast draws eight and eight across
Measureless blue, the boatmen sing or sleep
.

We point all day for our chosen island,
Clare, with its crags purpled by legend:
There under castles the hot O’Malleys,
Daughters of Granuaile, the pirate queen
Who boarded a Turk with a blunderbuss,
Comb red hair and assemble cattle.
Across the shelved Atlantic groundswell
Plumbed by the sun’s kingfisher rod,
We sail to locate in sea, earth and stone
The myth of a shrewd and brutal swordswoman
Who piously endowed an abbey.
Seven hours we try against wind and tide,
Tack and return, making no headway.
The north wind sticks like a gag in our teeth.

Encased in a mirage, steam on the water,
Loosely we coast where hideous rocks jag,
An acropolis of cormorants, an extinct
Volcano where spiders spin, a purgatory
Guarded by hags and bristled with breakers.

The breeze as we plunge slowly stiffens:
There are hills of sea between us and land,
Between our hopes and the island harbour.
A child vomits. The boat veers and bucks.
There is no refuge on the gannet’s cliff.
We are far, far out: the hull is rotten,
The spars are splitting, the rigging is frayed,
And our helmsman laughs uncautiously.

What of those who must earn their living
On the ribald face of a mad mistress?
We in holiday fashion know
This is the boat that belched its crew
Dead on the shingle in the Cleggan disaster.

Now she dips, and the sail hits the water.
She luffs to a squall; is struck; and shudders.
Someone is shouting. The boom, weak as scissors,
Has snapped. The boatman is praying.
Orders thunder and canvas cannodades.
She smothers in spray. We still have a mast;
The oar makes a boom. I am told to cut
Cords out of fishing-lines, fasten the jib.
Ropes lash my cheeks. Ease! Ease at last:
She wings to leeward, we can safely run.
Washed over rails our Clare Island dreams,
With storm behind us we straddle the wakeful
Waters that draw us headfast to Inishbofin
.

The bows rock as she overtakes the surge.
We neither sleep nor sing nor talk,
But look to the land where the men are mowing.
What will the islanders think of our folly?

The whispering spontaneous reception committee
Nods and smokes by the calm jetty.
Am I jealous of these courteous fishermen
Who hand us ashore, for knowing the sea
Intimately, for respecting the storm
That took nine of their men on one bad night
And five from Rossadillisk in this very boat?
Their harbour is sheltered. They are slow to tell
The story again. There is local pride
In their home-built ships.
We are advised to return next day by the
mail.

But tonight we stay, drinking with people
Happy in the monotony of boats,
Bringing the catch to the Cleggan market,
Cultivating fields, or retiring from America
With enough to soak till morning or old age.

The bench below my knees lifts, and the floor
Drops, and words depart, depart, with faces
Blurred by the smoke. An old man grips my arm,
His shot eyes twitch, quietly dissatisfied.
Ha has lost his watch, an American gold
From Boston gas-works. He treats the company
To the secretive surge, the sea of his sadness.
I slip outside, fall among stones and nettles,
Crackling dry twigs on an elder tree,
While an accordion drones above the hill.

Later, I reach a room, where the moon stares
Through a cobwebbed window. The tide has ebbed,
Boats are careened in the harbour. Here is a bed.

© 1963, Richard Murphy

Image result for paul kelly irish artist images

 

Recommended Websites :

The Blackpool Sentinel  (https://theblackpoolsentinel.wordpress.com)

Produced by Colm O’Callaghan (@aslinndubh) and Martin O’Connor (@martinoconnor3)

Concerned mostly with alternative music from the 1980s and 1990s, much of it Irish and much of it long lost. Somewhat addictive!

Reviews, Rants And Rambles (https://vinhanley.com) (@Cnocandoire)

The site of Vincent Hanley whose love and understanding of Irish Literature makes his Blog  a delight to read.

Visiting these sites will be well worth your while and do mention The Immortal Jukebox when you do.

N.B.  Look out for the final Post in the series on the 17th – St Patrick’s Day!

 

Sinead O’ Connor : The Butcher Boy

A Parade of Posts for St Patrick 2

Today for your delight:

A Song by Sinead O’Connor

A Poem by Geraldine Plunkett Dillon

A Painting by William Orpen

The song today is featured in Neil Jordan’s wonderful Film from 1997, ‘The Butcher Boy’ adapted from Patrick McCabe’s astonishing novel.

In my view Sinead O’Connor has shamanistic gifts as a singer and performer (with all the blessings and trials imposed by such gifts).

A performer like Sinead comes along about as often as apples grow on an ivy tree.

If you want to imagine what it might be to die for Love and have a strong heart surrender to Sinead’s incandescent performance here.

In Dublin Town where I did dwell ….

 

The Butcher Boy

In Dublin town where I did dwell
A butcher boy I loved so well
He courted me, my life away
And now with me he will not stay

I wish I wish but I wish in vain
I wish I was a maid again
But a maid again I ne’er can be
Till apples grow on an ivy tree

She went upstairs to go to bed
And calling to her mother said
Bring me a chair till I sit down
And a pen and ink till I write down

I wish I wish but I wish in vain
I wish I was a maid again
But a maid again I ne’er can be
Till apples grow on an ivy tree

He went upstairs and the door he broke
And found her hanging from her rope
He took his knife
And cut her down and in her pocket
These words he found

“Oh, make my grave large, white, and deep
Put a marble stone at my head and feet
And in the middle a turtle dove
So the world may know I died of love

Geraldine Plunkett Dillon (1891 – 1986) had a fascinating life and after many decades of neglect at last her contribution to Irish culture and letters is being recognised.

’Magnificat’ her only collection of Poems was published by Candle Press of Rathgar in 1917.

It is a work of considerable luminous power.

She also wrote a fascinating memoir, ‘All In The Blood’ which was edited by her grand niece Honor O’ Brolchain.

Geraldine Plunkett Dillon : June

I fill my heart with stores of memories,
Lest I should ever leave these loved shores;
Of lime trees humming with slow drones of bees,
And honey dripping sweet from sycamores.

Of how a fir tree set upon a hill,
Lifts up its seven branches to the stars;
Of the grey summer heats when all is still,
And even grasshoppers cease their little wars.

Of how a chestnut drops its great green sleeve,
Down to the grass that nestles in the sod;
Of how a blackbird in a bush at eve,
Sings to me suddenly the praise of God.

 

William Orpen (1878 – 1931) was a highly gifted and highly successful Portrait Painter.

Image result for william orpen images

 

Recommended Websites :

Poethead ( https://poethead.wordpress.com) by Christine Murray is a revelatory Blog about Irish Women Poets.

Elliptical Movements (https://ellipticalmovements.wordpress.com) by Billy Mills is also an invaluable poetic resource for those interested in Irish Poetry.

Do visit these sites and tell them The Immortal Jukebox sent you over!

N.B. Next Post will be on March 15th. Don’t miss it!