A celebration of Irish Women Poets on Bloomsday 2019

“Yes” by Afric McGlinchey

(after Molly Bloom in James Joyce’s Ulysses)

…yes and then
I touched my finger to his lips
to stroke away the cider,
and put it to mine
and our tongues went plunging
– such a lush sweetness –
the grass so springy-soft on the cliff
and the waves crashing below
and I had to catch my breath
and the night’s perfume drowned
that tang of lamb
and I thought of my first kiss
– what was his name? Johnny? – yes,
his tongue so unexpected,
wriggling like an eel,
but this time it felt different,
and even his silence didn’t matter
when he stared, stared at my breasts
and I let my hair slip loose
like that Cape Town girl,
and you have moonlight in your eyes, he said
so I took him in my hand
and he whispered, would I,
ma petite phalène, he said
and I thought I may as well,
as well him as another,
and the sea was swirling below us in a froth
the sky gorgeous with stars
and I suggested with my eyes
that he ask again
and I knew he would
and I wondered if I’d say yes
and then I urged him down
and he found his way
through all my layers
and I might, I thought, yes
I think I will
say yes.

“Yes” is © Afric McGlinchey.
First appeared in The Lucky Star Of Hidden Things, published by Salmon Poetry (2012)

Afric McGlinchey is a multi-award winning West Cork poet, freelance book editor, reviewer and workshop facilitator. She has published two collections, The lucky star of hidden things (Salmon, 2012) and Ghost of the Fisher Cat (Salmon, 2016), the former of which was also translated into Italian by Lorenzo Mari and published by L’Arcolaio. McGlinchey’s work has been widely anthologized and translated, and recent poems have been published in The Stinging Fly, Otra Iglesia Es Imposible, The Same, New Contrast, Numéro Cinq, Poetry Ireland Review, Incroci, The Rochford Street Journal and Prelude. In 2016 McGlinchey was commissioned to write a poem for the Breast Check Clinic in Cork and also for the Irish Composers Collective, whose interpretations were performed at the Architectural Archive in Dublin. Her work has been broadcast on RTE’s Poetry Programme, Arena, Live FM and on The Poetry Jukebox in Belfast. McGlinchey has been awarded an Arts Council bursary to research her next project, a prose-poetry auto-fictional account of a peripatetic upbringing.


“Beochaoineadh Máthar Maoise” by Ellen Nic Thomás

A dhílleachta linbh gan ainm, gan athair,
Do chraiceann ar aondath le humha an nathair,
A lúbann timpeall do thaobhán uiríseal,
Mar bhata ceannródaí is sníomhanna sisil.

Is trua liom ciseán do dhóchas a fhíochán,
Do dhán a chaitheamh i bpoll an duibheagáin,
D’eiseadh a chruthú ar bhunús baill séire,
‘Nois tá tú chomh cotúil leis an gCailleach Bhéarra.

A iníon, a mhiceo, a ógfhlaith bocht,
A leanbh truaillithe, maith dom mo locht,
Imigh anois leat, ná bí do mo chrá,
Le smaointe ciúinchiontacha ó mhaidin go lá.

“Beochaoineadh Máthar Maoise” is © Ellen Nic Thomás

Ellen Nic Thomás is a bilingual poet from Dublin. She graduated from Trinity College with a BA in English and Irish. Her work has been published by headstuff.org, Tales From the Forest and The Attic.


“Homage to Kinsale” by Linda Ibbotson

As nights obsidian curtain lifted,
the skylark heralds the dawn chorus
in my demesne of duck egg blue.
From my balcony,
a mirage of matchstick masts
navigate the thirsty mouth of the harbour,
and my skin drinks it all in.
Sometimes, when I bury myself, in myself.
never quite reaching the point when thinking stops,
I unlatch the door, drink tea, and savour wild berry tart
at Poets Corner,
or stroll to the Spaniard
where the swans dance to Francesca’s mandolin,
and in my solitude I feel quietly content.
I look at life in black and white at The Gallery,
buy a chiffon scarf from Stone Mad,
peacock feathers with hand stitched beads
and fly it like a kite on the beach.
After sundown you’ll find me in The Black Pig
sipping a glass of red,
satisfied with the feeling that finally,
I have arrived.

Homage to Kinsale published in Irish Examiner 27/10/2015, Iodine Spring/Summer Issue XVI 2015 Editor- Jonathan K. Rice, Eastern World– Editor Asror Allayarov, Douglas Post Issue 1216 w/e 30/04/2016, Live Encounters December 2016 Editor- Mark Ulyseas

Linda Ibbotson was born in Sheffield, England, lived in Switzerland and Germany and travelled extensively before finally settling in County Cork, S. Ireland in 1995. A poet, artist and photographer her work has been published in various international journals including Levure Litteraire, The Enchanting Verses Literary Review, Iodine, Irish Examiner, Asian Signature, Live Encounters, Fekt and California Quarterly. Linda was also invited to read at the Abroad Writers Conference, Lismore Castle, Co. Waterford, Butlers Townhouse, Dublin, and Kinsale, Ireland. One of her poems ‘A Celtic Legacy’ was performed in France at Theatre des Marronniers, Lyon, the village of Saint Pierre de Chartreuse and 59 Rivoli, Paris by Irish actor and musician Davog Rynne. Her painting Cascade has been featured as a CD cover.


“Symphony of Skin” by Audrey Molloy

i. Tuning up

They are there if you listen.
On the train, in the Laundromat—
the instruments, I mean;
bells, stirring in two-way stretch cotton,
(their owner slumped in the window seat,
his work boots tapping a secret rhythm);
timpani buttoned under a cashier’s blouse,
a cello bound by polyester pinafore
in salmon pink. She thinks
the air is flecked with soap dust,
doesn’t realise it’s rosin from her bow.
Air flows through apertures
where, later, fingers will flutter,
strings blur under the rub of horsehair;
their discordant mewl barely heard
above the swish of the train,
the hum of machine,
louder in the darkness of tunnel
or the lull of rinse cycle, then soft again.
Tuning up, they’re getting ready
for this evening’s symphony of skin
to begin at precisely 10.15.

ii. Skin music

And you can never explain it in physical terms—
what happens between two people
on an ordinary bed, in an ordinary room.
Let me ask you, could you school the cuttlefish
in Ludwig’s Emperor (second movement)
in terms of anvil, hammer and stirrup?
Paint the hues of daybreak for the mole?
There is only air, compressed and stretched.
There is always space between skins,
no matter how closely they press.

No touch, only the music of skin;
an oboe sings, a cello answers.
Locked within the strands of collagen,
atoms built of smaller blocks,
each one a capsule packed with strings,
each string a note that’s yet to play.

iii. Reverberation

Afterwards, they lie curled,
two bass clefs facing this way, that.
They talk of anything, of childhood;
croak the lyrics to every Paul Simon song
they can recall; this, the highlight,
now the players have left the stage.
They will meet people
who promise them more than this,
more than you could write about this.
Sleep will come later, a raft
pushed out on a starred sea.
What oak bed? Which room?
There is nothing here
but phosphorescence
undulating along their border.
Only this tiny stage
drifting on the night swell,
a single baton on its floor.

Symphony of Skin, first published in Meanjin Volume 76, ed. Bronwyn Lea

Audrey Molloy was born in Dublin and grew up in rural Wexford. She now lives in Sydney, where she works as an optometrist and medical writer. Her poetry has recently appeared in The Moth, Crannog, The Irish Times, Orbis, Meanjin and Cordite. Audrey’s work has been nominated for the Forward Prize and she is one of Eyewear Publishing’s Best New British and Irish Poets 2018. She was runner up for the 2017 Moth Poetry Prize and has been shortlisted for several other poetry awards.

Website: www.audreymolloy.com


“Sanctus” by Kimberly Campanello

And what is death, he asked, your mother’s or yours or my own? – James Joyce

I.

At the English pub in Indianapolis, we discuss technology. He says he can already hear the robot’s footsteps on his grave. In the worst neighbourhoods, the prairie is coming back. Cattails are pushing up through old sidewalks and nearly all the important species of sparrows have returned. A Future Farmer of America—in other words, a 14-year-old white kid from the pesticide-drenched heartland—slips backwards from a mall railing and falls to his death among the Super Pretzels and Dippin’ Dots down in the food court. I get reminded of incest dreams and the two I’ve had, one for each parent. My mother calls and gives me the run-down on which of her friends is on a morphine drip and which is in remission, and she tells me that when I get back to Miami I should get a job and always keep a full tank of gas. The homilitic style of evangelical Christianity is the same in Ghana, San Diego, Little Havana, and on Ellettsville, Indiana’s Hart Strait Road where in the abortion scene of the Halloween morality play she yanks a skinned squirrel soaked in beet juice from the screaming girl’s crotch and holds it up with food-service tongs before tossing it on a cookie sheet. You’ll have a clean slate if you accept Jesus, right now. We’ll all have a clean slate, if you accept Jesus, now. The body of Christ. Amen. The body of Christ. Amen. The body of Christ. Amen. Don’t drop it. Use a metal plate with a handle that could guillotine a communicant’s neck. And on the third day, I drank poitín at an Irish pub in Bloomington, Indiana, in fulfillment of the scriptures. Take this, all of you, and drink it. This is the bloodshine of the newest and most everlasting covenant. Don’t drop it.

II.

Death is a real bummer. We live through and for our parents and still Freud was wrong. You should hurry up and put your face right in it for an hour and that is definitely a sacrament, more so than that night in Garrucha at the misa flamenca, though the music was nice. Even the Sanctus didn’t offend me. Finally, I would add that the world is falling apart, always has been, ubi sunt qui ante nos fuerent, etc., and that my favorite sounds are when you say things like, Everything is fine, or, That cunt is mine. I hear them and I clench and unclench and I. love. you.

Tell me it’s too much. Amen.
Tell me it’s too much. Amen.
Tell me it’s too much. Amen.

Let us kneel down facing each other, holding razors.
Lather up my head and I will lather yours.
I am worthy to receive you.
I am your mirror. On which a razor
lay crossed. We’ll shave it all off.
If our knees can handle it, let’s stay like this
until it grows back, softer than before.
If they can’t, let’s make love, and say,
These are our bodies,
which will not be given up
for any of you.
Let us say our own word
and we shall be healed.

Sanctus is © Kimberly Campanello, from Consent. Published Doire Press, 2013

Kimberly Campanello was born in Elkhart, Indiana. She now lives in Dublin and London. She was the featured poet in the Summer 2010 issue of The Stinging Fly, and her pamphlet Spinning Cities was published by Wurm Press in 2011. Her poems have appeared in magazines in the US, UK, and Ireland, including nthposition , Burning Bush II, Abridged, and The Irish Left Review. Her books are Consent published by Doire Press, and Strange Country Published by Penny Dreadful (2015) ZimZalla published MOTHERBABYHOME, a book of conceptual poetry in 2018.


“Being Your Mother” by Karen O’Connor

I eat the things you spit out
I bend to your will
at night when I hold you
my shoulders breaking
from the strain
of your two-year
two-stone body
like my ribs will crack
and turn to dust
deep inside a place
I never knew existed
I sing, my breath catching
in my throat
your fingers instinctively
milking mine
settling into sleep
and still I hold you
pull you close
my muscles burn
the night ploughs on
but you and I are still suspended
in my mother’s arms
her fingers curling in my hair
her breath, like mine
breathing in with yours
so close, I often think
it’s you are holding both of us.

© Karen O’Connor from her collection Between The Lines Doghouse Books

Karen O’Connor is a winner of Listowel Writers’ Week Single Poem Prize, The Allingham Poetry Award, The Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Award for Poetry and the Nora Fahy Literary Awards for Short Story. She is a poet and short story writer and her work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies. Karen’s first poetry collection, FINGERPRINTS (On Canvas) was published by Doghouse Books in 2005. Her second collection, Between The Lines, also from Doghouse Books (2011), was featured on RTE Radio 1 Arts Programme, Arena.

Website: https://www.karenoconnor.co.uk/

Poethead Indices