Monday, June 1, 2020

Irish Eyes

and No Writers’ Week

I recently came across this poem by Martin I ‘Hare. And for anyone my age it would bring them back several decades (provided they weren’t too far gone!)

Auld Jimmy he stood,
Just inside the forge door.
For a while, gazing out at the rain.
He was taking a break,
From the work of the day.
Before he would start
Up again.
He was getting too old,
If the truth it were told.
And no one, his place,
They would take.
And the factory now,
They were making somehow.
All the stuff, that he
Once used to make.
He finished in school,
At fourteen years old.
With his father, he
Started away.
And the blacksmiths back then
They were popular men.
With the work, that they
Did in the day.
If the forge it could talk,
What tales it could tell.
Of the people, who came
Through that door.
But the times have moved on
And the old ways are gone.
So few of them left
There was so much to do,
There were horses to shoe.
No tractors much, back
In those days.
And horsepower then, meant
Horses and men.
For they worked in,
Traditional ways.
With the work done
By hand,
There was always demand.
For the tools, that the
Blacksmith he made.
And he still could recall,
The favourite of all,
For the bog, when they
Made the turf spade.
He once made a gate, for
The Robert's estate.
For his work he was praised,
Far and wide.
A nice job it was, and he
Did it because.
It gave him a feeling,
Of pride.
It made him a name, and
The people they came, with
Work that they wanted to do.
And his father would smile,
Every once in a while.
And he knew, he was proud
Of him too.
Now most of their time, they
Spent in the forge,
And for farming, they had
A desire.
On the bog for a while, they
Would work in great style.
To be sure of a nice warm
Well he turned and came in,
And he started again.
And more coal on the fire he
Gave the bellows a blow, and
Off it did go.
And the sparks, up the chimney
They raced.
Now Jim was content with
The life he had spent,
But the work wasn't there
He was pension age now, and
Not worried somehow,
Very soon he'd be closing
The door.
And of course he was sad,
For the trade that he had.
Would seldom be seen
Except for young Joe whom
He trained years ago.
They call him a farrier now.
His day it was gone, and life
Had moved on,
To accept it, he had to at last.
The work long ago, that he
Once used to know.
Resigned to the times of
The past.
Martin O'Hara (C). 4/5/2020

* * * * *

Lockdown or no lockdown poets are still busy.

      Poet Anne Mulcahy wrote the poem Sister in 2014. I have her permission to publish it. The story behind it is as follows;
Her friend had a brother, David, with Down Syndrome. He was also mute. David spent 55 of his 57 years in an institution until his death in 2014. When he reached the terminal stage of his life that same institution clearly did not wish to have him remain in their care but rather wished him to enter an acute hospital setting. This issue needed to be robustly fought with the members of the institution to allow David to remain in his ' Home'. His sister, who had been his Guardian Angel for decades, was an able and willing advocate to defend his rights. Sister was written from David's perspective from beyond the grave. Dear Sister, thank your noble heart, that fought my need to sleep,
In sheets that smelt and felt so familiar to me,
You spoke my words when my voice could not be found,
Through divided chaos you firmly stomped the ground,
Chin firm, teeth clinched, and no budge to make-
Steering the ship to higher ground!
Now, here, in this realm my tongue is loose and free,
And sings songs like Jingle Bells and happy melodies.
I cannot keep a pair of shoes, so worn are they from dancing.
And I laugh so much, I cry big tears, till my shirt oft needs changing.
Cold nights I read before I sleep, warm tales of hope and peace,
And all the while, I lay entwined, in my own familiar sheets!
Everything here is wonderful, both the company and the food,
And I’ve met many here that I once knew.
Pain does not exist here-only a great peace of vast magnitude.
Dear Sister, hold fast the times we had,
We both know the efforts you made, the gifts you brought, the prayers you said,
And when we meet, as sure we will, I’ll have a bed ready and made!
©Anne Mulcahy

* * * * *

And still on Poetry

Imelda May releases her first poetry album this month – using the spoken word to explore issues such as obsession, heartache and abuse in the bare-all offering.
Due to be released on June12th, Slip of the Tongue is May’s first album since 2017’s Life Love Flesh Blood, which hit number five in the UK album chart.

Imelda May's New Album

This Liberties girl is known for her unique singing style but her move towards poetry has been a natural one, she admits.
“I constantly write,” May says.
“Writing pads are filled, backs of envelopes, scraps of paper are scribbled on and scattered around me in between books, trinkets and photos.”
“Melodies swirl in my head,” she adds, “footsteps become the rhythm to a song.
“But often words don’t feel like they need anything more than to be spoken aloud or read alone. They just feel good as they are.
“But I still hear music,” she confirms, “it evokes such strong emotion. So I decided to combine my two loves. I think they dance beautifully.”

* * * * *

Prose writers haven’t been idle either.

Joe Mugan, a man of my own age, sent me this:

    As I've aged, I've become kinder to, and less critical of, myself. I've become my own friend.

    I have seen too many dear friends leave this world, too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.

    Whose business is it if I choose to read, or play on the computer until 4am? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60s, 70s & 80s, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love, I will.

    I will walk the beach, in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, or deemed inappropriate for my age and will dive into the waves, with abandon, if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set. They, too, will get old. I know I am sometimes forgetful. But then again, some of life is just as well forgotten and, eventually, we remember the important things. Sure, over the years, my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break, when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody's beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength, and understanding, and compassion. A heart never broken, is pristine, and sterile, and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

    I am so Blessed to have lived enough to have my hair turning grey, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and too many have died before their hair could turn silver. As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore. I've even earned the right to be wrong.

    So, to answer your question, I like being older. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day (if, I feel like it).

* * * * *

Under normal circumstances I would be writing this from the culture capital of Ireland. Listowel Writers’ Week 2020 should have been extra special , the 50th festival . Instead Covid-19 put a stop to that. Wednesday should have been opening but rather than throngs there was an almost deserted square

Billy Keane says, "It's the boost to morale, it's the talking, it's the communication of ideas without any pecking order. You could have a Nobel Prize winner walk in the door here and no one takes any notice. "Visitors arrive in Listowel as guests, they might leave as friends, or even lovers!"
"Fifty years ago, a group of people got together to celebrate local literary talent, and also to create an audience for emerging writers.
"It's going to come back. "You would get down, but I know we'll be singing and laughing and carousing again. It's just a matter of time. "When you lose something for a year, it's then you will appreciate it more. Maybe we took ourselves for granted.
Writers' Week makes us proud of ourselves, it gives us a focus for our very being and it's what we are really as a town. Absence really will make the heart grow fonder.”

Billy Keane during Lockdown

While there is no festival happening on the ground on Wednesday night, Listowel Writers' Week competitions went ahead and the winners were announced. There were five nominees for the prestigious Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award which carries a prize of €17,000. The winner was Girl by Edna O’Brien (Faber) The othe short listed novels were:
The River Capture by Mary Costello (Cannongate)
Leonard & Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession (Bluemoose Books)
Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry (Cannongate)
Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor (Harvill Secker Random House)

Edna O’Brien (Faber).

* * * * *

Singer/songwriter Mickey MacConnell has been a stalwart of Writers’ Week for decades. This is a link to a video which was recorded in John B. Keane’s for Mickey’s 70th birthday. It is a wonderful hour and a half of Mickey singing his own composition.

Video Link: Mickey singing his own composition.
See you in July.

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

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