Poems by Mary Noonan

The Card

What goes by the name of love is banishment,
with now and then a postcard from the homeland.
– Samuel Beckett, First Love

I’m looking for a card,
one that holds the oriole
on the black pear tree –
will it be brazen or sweet,
junebug or whippoorwill,
Tupelo or Baton Rouge?
I drape myself in maps,
drift in colours and signs,
sleep on my seven books
of owls, frogs, alligators.
I want a card that quickens
codes, spills the secrets
of words, sends letters flying.
We used to name things,
now we travel the lines
past ghost-shack and scrub,
sun-bothered lizards skittering
under creosote and cocotillo.
This card must distil the frenzy
of the firefly as it waltzes
with its own blazing corpse.
The Card is © Mary Noonan


To clear my head of talk, I walked the beach
and found a pebble, a cuckoo’s egg,
held it and saw it was a map.
An oval stone striated with slate-grey markings,
one side bore tracings that arced and criss-crossed:
polka of narrow roads,
sandpipers darting in bleached grasses,
contours of a shoreline, the lines on my palm.
A gate opening into a small field.
The curve of the stone offered concentric swirls,
a talisman you carry to ward off the evil eye,
or the nipple of a breast.
Here it is – an amulet, runes and traces
to light and guard you, a cuckoo’s egg
in the wrong nest, a gate opening
into a small field, a circle ploughed
round a lone hawthorn tree, a map
of the way between us. I carry it.

carry is © Mary Noonan

No Direction Home

i.m. Gregory O’Donoghue 1951-2005
I wrote that the final days of August would find me
washed up, propped in a place where the light of day
is tight and mean. You approved, gently tending –
even poems lamenting summer’s end were safe with you,
lines too concerned with the small ambit of seasons
to encompass the impact of a true ending.
And so it was that August swept you off your feet,
quenched your breath with ease as she dragged
hurricanes and swollen waters in her train.
In the middle of your fifty-fourth year –
one of the bald facts mourners swapped at the grave,
suddenly aware that they did not know you.
I knew only the grace of your yellowed fingers,
that elegant pen, your hand feathering its tender script
across a page, your hooded eyes, your mug of gin,
the small room where we met once a week.
I saw you sometimes, walking lopsidedly in the street;
once, at a launch, we talked about Bob Dylan
but in the moment I heard of your death I knew
that you had guided me to a place – a room, a page –
where limping and stammering come into their own,
a vast, airy space inviting me to stand my ground,
to bellow in tantrum, to rampage, to thrive
in my brokenness.

No Direction Home is © Mary Noonan

mnMary Noonan lives in Cork. Her poems have been published in The Dark Horse, The North, Poetry Review, Poetry London, The Threepenny Review, Cyphers, The Stinging Fly, Wasafiri and Best of Irish Poetry 2010. She won the Listowel Poetry Collection Prize in 2010. Her first collection – The Fado House (Dedalus Press, 2012) – was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for a First Collection (2013) and the Strong/Shine Award (2013).

Mary Noonan at Dedalus Press


Poems from ‘Vocal Chords’ by Maeve O’Sullivan


Vocal Chords by Maeve O’Sullivan

Published, Alba Publishing 2014. 64 Pages

Sunday, Women Drying Their Hair

Bare-legged, in light, pale clothing,
three young women stand on an urban rooftop;
New York, probably, or some other big city.
They are letting the wind dry their hair
while white garments sway on a line behind them,
and the chimney beside them casts a long shadow.
It is 1912, and Sloan’s subjects could be sisters:
one redhead in a green skirt, one brunette, one blonde.
The brunette looks approvingly at the redhead,
while the blonde brushes her hair which hangs
like a curtain, her head titled to the right,
the left hand on her hip for balance.
I imagine they are chatting about the night before;
what they did, who they saw dancing, girl talk.
One of them could be softly humming
After The Ball or something jazzy;
no World War to bother them yet, and no Depression,
this year forever marked by a ship called the Titanic.
This is how I would like my three sisters to be;
close, relaxed, hanging out happily,
the brunette smiling at the redhead, the blonde
still long-haired and carefree, and me,
the youngest girl, looking on
from the gallery, taking it all in.
Sunday, Women Drying Their Hair is © Maeve O’Sullivan.



West African proverb:’When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.’
Book by book, a library burns down
when someone dies in Africa; the fire
consumes the memory, the sensorium.
And when he lights his robes of orange-brown,
the monk rejects the puja, picks the pyre
as, book by book, his library burns down.
Three hundred people in a Midwest town
were burnt alive like blossoms on a briar,
with loss of all those memories,sensoriums.
Before he left,prognosis barely known,
my father trudged his way through the quagmire;
then, book by book, his library burned down.
The seeds of our dejectedness were sown
when that disease took hold and made a liar
of her clouding memory, her sensorium.
And when at last I’m put into the ground,
or else cremated, ashes back to Gaia,
book by book, my library will burn down,
consuming, then, my memory, my sensorium.
Heartwood is © Maeve O’Sullivan

White Star

the majestic steamer
slips into the sea-
first voyage

spinning his top…
the child who survived
to die three years later
she goes back in
for the hat from her mother-
makes the lifeboat
the pills in her pocket
eventually identifying
the lost Irishwoman
anchor, propeller
these rusticles
a hundred years
in the making

White Star is © Maeve O’Sullivan

vcMaeve O’Sullivan works as a media lecturer in the further education sector in Dublin. Her poems and haiku have been widely published and anthologised since the mid-1990s, and she is a former poetry winner at Listowel Writer’s Week. Initial Response, her debut collection of haiku poetry, also from Alba Publishing, was launched in 2011, and was well-received by readers and critics alike. Maeve is a founder member of Haiku Ireland (www.haiku-ireland.com) and the Hibernian Poetry Workshop. She also performs at festivals and literary events with the spoken word group The Poetry Divas. Her poem Leaving Vigo was recently nominated for a Forward Prize for a Single Poem by the Limerick-based journal Revival (http://poetry-24.blogspot.ie/2013/08/leaving-vigo.html).

Vocal Chords


by Maeve O’Sullivan

ISBN 9780957526587

Paperback. 64pp
Published: February 2014

£10 / €12 / $16

To order, email: info@albapublishing.com

The Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell to the Harlan County Miner’s Grandson

screenshot201310aThe Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell to the Harlan County Miner’s Grandson by Kit Fryatt


Published 2013 Knives Forks and Spoons Press
Pages 61

New Words to the Tailor’s Air

Rome, you barely inveigh
when governments settle
traders’ gaming debts
with money stolen
from the sick and children.
Instead you spew sermons
on the evils of condoms
to AIDS victims:
better die holy, Joe Slim
than fill a rubber
with a drachm of sperm.

Rome, your hypocrites
cant their pro-life spiel
(what touching pride
in avoiding homicide!)
but they’ll skewer
any born soul ever.
Life is a fig-leaf
Rome, for your kink:
convincing people
their desires & bodies stink
as bad as your shit


Rome, if I thought
you’d got a tithe
of your due, I’d lay off
you poison pit, werewolf
in faux-lambskin
black widow of a viper
I’d not take your pardon
if it came baked in
all your dough. Go home,
Rome, seek consolation
where the devil knows his own.

Excerpt from New Words to the Tailor’s Air © Kit Fryatt

A loose adaptation of Guilhem Figuera’s ‘D’un sirventes far composed in 1229, during the siege of Toulouse by papal crusaders. Guilhem’s original attacks not just the recent crusade but clerical corruption and the avaricious imperialism of the papacy.


In The Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell & Kit Fryatt is a musical Ariadne who weaves her learning into her coat. She jauntily engages her reader with her major themes of exile, loss, camaraderie, and she throws in some linguistic cardiovascular workouts for good measure too. The basic structure of The Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell & is conveniently bipartite. The poems are read aloud for the most part, and you can hear some of them performed here.


Here or there in Section I glints a word originating in the Anglo-Saxon. Fryatt eventually and wholeheartedly gives way and devotes the entire of Section II to an exploration of her themes through adaptations of medieval, Early Irish, and Anglo-Saxon poetic forms. Fryatt uses lament, polemic, and subtly provocative pieces on contemporaneous corruption remodelled on 13th century texts, as in New Words to the Tailor’s Air adapted from Guilhem Figuera’sD’un sirventes far‘. I suppose that corrupt practice and its effect has  an unchanging quality.


Fryatt weaves the universal themes of camaraderie and exile into Sections I and II of The Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell &. Exile is written as a full and complete isolation from a former life, a season in hell. Be the protagonist the wife of The Wife’s Lament (here written as a youth), or even The Wanderer. To lose one’s thane (or lord) who functioned as the hierarchical leader of a group, is to lose one’s very life and the meaning derived therefrom. These themes are borne lightly into our modern consciousness by Fryatt’s subtle approach to her writing, and no academic sense of the era is necessary to the understanding of the general reader.

The Wife’s Lament is a well know text from The Exeter Book. Its author is unidentified , but the exile is likely written from the perspective of the sinning woman. She may or not be speaking from the realms of death, lamenting her earthly loss and her exile. 

from The Wife’s Lament 

While at dawn, alone, I crawl miserably down
Under the oak growing out of my cave.
There I must squat the summer-long day,
There I can water the earth with weeping
For exile and sorrow, for sadness that can never
Find rest from grief nor from the famished
Desires that leap at unquenched life.

by Unidentified

Three From The Exeter Book

(ii) Coneycote

As I was told I stay in this brakebrush holt
bunkered beneath an oak
old earthwork. I am taken up with longing.
Shadow valley unswept moor
bitter pale of briars my houseless home.’

Coneycote is © Kit Fryatt

Fryatt writes coneycote as a boy or youth who is honouring the wishes of his thane. There is a type of equality inherent in Fryatts treatment of the theme which she achieves by reducing the high-tone of the language in the original (Exeter Book) to a more robust vernacular. This poem is a jewel in the book.  It sits well in Section II,  whilst picking up and re-threading the theme of exile  inherent in the language of Section I.

I have excerpted a small section of Three From The Exeter book above, and I  refer the  interested reader to Burton Raffel’s Poems And Prose From The Old English.

Fryatt well knows how to use her symbols,  Vis her reference  to the use of the oak  as symbol of a place of exile or punishment. The tree was associated with death, in the very least it was associated with societal disgrace, and a rabbit hole image refers to the disgrace of adultery. Interestingly the symbol play also ties in with the story of the women in the wall , or to the burial of women alive in regeneration myths such as in Sophocles Antigone or the story of Demeter. One supposes the pain of exile, or indeed the death of the individual to be necessary to their symbolic rejuvenation.

The voice of  lamenting is present in this book , yet one feels a powerful energy in Fryatt’s use  of  words that belie any sense of weakness. The preview section of KFS Press includes an excerpt of the first section of the book.

The eponymous title-poem of The Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell & sets the tone for the entire text, which is playfully vicious. Fryatt doesn’t seem interested in the issue of gendering,  she inhabits a poetic world of boyish and delighted charm along with a unique acerbically infused sweetness.

from, The Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell to the Harlan County Miner’s Grandson

Swiftly, my chancer, to the temple they danced you

dead leaves in your pocket and a mouthful of vine.

I thought I should slight you, but go where you might you

will come back to green grass, air and sunshine.


Darling, my hazard boy, I thought to have you

your body as straight and keen as a blade,

your mouth soft as eiderdown, stay you or hie you,

you’re bloodsworn to Fortune’s helpless parade.

Poems by Mary Guckian

Sandymount Strand

In the furrowed sand
puddles fill the hollow spaces.
the tide slowly overtakes the strollers,
wandering out into the vast expanse
of Sandymount Strand.
I recall the time we sat in the car
near Sligo –
tossing Atlantic waves bamboozling us,
the sea circling our space,
the car sinking in the sliding sand.
Working at out art, we take risks,
move out into wider horizons
and flourish,
but the surrounding tide is waiting
and swallows our masterpieces.

Furry Bees Swarming

Cracked by winter frost
the old sealed chimney
tempts swarming bees
out of the wild flowers
to locate in the tight space.
Flying in with massive loads
of pollen over several months
they keep the Queen Bee happy.
As the narrow chimney swells
with honeycombs and time
comes for the colony to escape,
moving down the chimney, they
fill the kitchen, paper the walls,
carpet the floor, seal the windows
and cover the back of the door
with a warm brown fur.
The local beekeeper visits
wearing protective clothing.
He coaxes the Queen Bee
to enter the nucleus he takes along,
the swarm follows, allowing
light enter the cottage again,
he removes two buckets of honey
from a packed chimney, and feeds
it back to the bees busy in his hives.

Sacred Tree

I love to stand in the graveyard,
underneath the hanging branches
of the old palm tree –
its broad arms sheltering
headstones that inform us –
of lives who are now at peace
At funerals, I hide from showers
under the sprawling limbs
of this majestic icon –
where earth is dry, protected
from hailstones and hot sun : below
this sacred tree tranquility reigns.
Sandymount Strand, Furry Bees Swarming , and Sacred Tree are © Mary Guckian


maryMary Guckian was born at Kiltoghert, Co. Leitrim and has lived in Dublin since 1967 leaving to live in Sydney, Tasmania, Channel Islands and Oxford in between. Mary cut poems out of the local Leitrim Observer in her teenage years and got her first poem published in Oxford in 1983, she has gone on to publish three books of poetry, Perfume of the Soil, The Road to Gowel and Walking on Snow with Swan Press.

Her books are available in most of the public libraries. She won the Leitrim Guardian Literary Award in 2003 and 2011 for her poems and has been short-listed for the Scottish Open International Poetry Award.

She was given the Golden Pen Award for a selection of her published poetry on Art Arena website. Her poems have been widely published in literary magazines and newspapers. Mary has read her poetry in numerous places over the years, last year at the William Carlton Summer School at Clogher, Co. Tyrone and recently to celebrate 100 years of the Rathmines Public Library.


Poems by Denise Blake


A hand rests at your forehead
as if pondering a deep problem.
Your arm hides the strong heartbeat
but it is there, quietly reassuring.
A bent knee that will soon straighten
and kick out. Imaging your world,
the place of safety for ten more weeks.
Can you hear the noises, the daily rhythms
of your parents voices? Can you tell
how new they are to this whole experience?
In the distance, at a lower pitch are the elders,
and the soft echo of uncles, aunts and cousins.
This has been the strangest of summers.
You may never learn of the pressures
that buffeted your parents, or ever know
how each scan showing clenched fingers,
stretching limbs, held them both above
the rise and falling waves of anxieties.
How each image sent the frequency of hope.


The saucepan is full of leftover potatoes
and I keep cooking too much rice or pasta.
Three placemats still sit on our dining table.
Silence has become a strong presence.
Our hall light stays on all through the night
after years of not sleeping in total darkness.
I keep expecting a four o’clock return from school,
while our youngest settles into Halls in Dublin.
While our youngest settles into Halls in Dublin,
I keep expecting a four o’clock return from school.
After years of not sleeping in total darkness
our hall light stays on all through the night.
Silence has become a strong presence.
Three placemats still sit on our dining table
and I keep cooking too much rice or pasta.
The saucepan is full of leftover potatoes.

Beyond the Front Door

It happens here, in our front porch
when your Dad and I have been away.
Moving towards the door, keys in hand,
I fall into some other family dimension.
When I turn the key in the lock, press down
on the handle, the door creaking open,
I imagine things within our home will be altered.
The tidy house we had left behind will be lived-in.
Any mail will be lifted from the mat, thrown
on the stairs, clothes strewn across the banister.
The hall light that we kept on for security
will be off. The rooms will be humid warm.
Cold pizza slices in a cardboard box, an empty
coke can lying on the table. And instead of being
away at university, you’ll be laid back on a sofa
singing a head-phoned song joyously loud.
It is not that I would wish student days differently
for you, the youngest of our away-flung brood.
But after a lifetime parenting, space and time
and my maternal senses need to be re-aligned.
Our living space has been changed by your absence.
And Ian, as you stand outside your apartment door,
is there a moment that you wish; when I turn the key
I want to smell cheese melting on Mum’s lasagne.
Ultrasound , Adjusting , and Beyond The Front Door are © Denise Blake

Denise Blake

Denise Blake

Denise Blake has two collections, Take a Deep Breath (2004) How to Spin Without Getting Dizzy (2010) published by Summer Palace Press She is a regular contributor to RTE radio 1′s show, Sunday Miscellany . Denise read as part of the Poetry Ireland’s Lunchtime Series and at ÓBhéal as well as many other readings around the country. She is on the Poetry Ireland directory for Writers in Schools and has wide experience facilitating workshops for adults.