‘Stormriver’ and other poems by Myra Vennard

NIGHT TREE

 
Along the river bank
street lights are lighting
 
the darkening waters glow
the sun is low
 
the mountain crouches low
in shadow
 
light drops from light
dark creeps back to night …
 
my mind struggles with a paradox –
gleams from a self-source
 
and light
falling from a star
 
love is racked – there
is no owning in the soul
 
the void is an agitation
fixed habit of a consciousness
 
unwilling to go into the terror
of going into light of naked night
 
my tree reaches up winter bare
its star is not yet born.
 

GOING OUT

 
Sea fog curls
around the cliff face
 
the island has no contour
still – and I
 
I am weeping
amid a conflict
 
the wish for forgetfulness
yet fear of clinging sorrow
 
intangible dreams are real
a beatitude in the memory
 
at dawn – an echo
unfathomable – secret
 
I dream of the dead
as having no subjectivity
 
all are one – knowing
no aims nor necessities
 
their focus is on One
sublime infinity
 
if imperfect love must die
for perfect love to live
 
when he opens up his eye
will my eye have distance?

*
he waits outside my door
to share my cup
 
behind a mask in a theatre of stone
time is instilling essence.
 

BELOVED

 
I waken before dawn
to full moonlight
 
and ships anchored in the bay
my mind still on a street
 
where he turns away – I am
afraid of thoughts multiple
 
the street lamp in cavities –
in pools of dark …
 
I will go wistful
I will go where the river whispers
 
with trees through branches
to where a moon-ring still trembles
 
*
 
in tentative morning sunlight
after night-storm
 
waves – cold – fall
and run molten gold on sand …
 
do not think to dispel love
from a turbulent heart
 
love has heat
enough for distillation.
 

STORMRIVER

 
A week of black water
out at sea
 
a month of magic almost
gone to the air
 
the river keeps away – just
stones navigate
 
the flood – when poetry
cannot speak
 
it drowns in the mind
and swoons in the flow
 

*
 
rain has fallen – I walk
against the wind
 
against a rainbow flame
kissing an ocean – against
 
a straying sun picking
defining the town …
 
he has no home here
nor there beyond the island
 
he touches dusk
his breath is in shadow
 
his voice is full of tremor
I hear
 
his aching heartbeat
shake against the wind

*
 
he lights a candle
before he puts on the mask
 
he carries a burden on his back
he lays it on the altar
 
in the oratory
he puts on a robe
 
drawing back the curtain
he sleep-walks into my mind
 
he presses my head
until it hurts – the bread
 
is in his hands
his declaration my question
 
behind the mask
has he a changing face?
 
The supremacy of a pointing spire
does not close the distance
 
to a sky-god in the brain
nor appease a hurting spirit
 
abandoned to theatres of stone
and the dark cloisters of a consciousness.
 
*
 
this morning
there is a light over the sea
 
the island appears impervious
holding close
 
to dark contours – still
there is tension
 
in the small wood
crumbs of rock
 
fall
from brooding cliffs….
 
at dusk
across the cavern floor
 
dark – splintered
with glass – nails – wood
 
the huge door
creaks and groans
 
in winter wind’s moan
rocking black
 
the memory of accident
stirring midnight dreams
 
outside – the evening star
is silence – risen
 
*
 
words mean nothing
they are not what he is
 
they are a fetish
visible – separate – fettered …
 
music is his glance
from the mountain
 
it holds harmony
in the retina
 
unable to break free
from the moment – this
 
this is
all he will say
 
*
 
suddenly a white mist
steals the island
 
cliffs rise
their juts fade in sequence

I take words
out into space
 
further on
at a bend in the road
 
Malevola grips
my senses
 
there is a sickness
in my mind
 
even the sea is quiet
no gull cries
 
there is a terrible lack
of flowering
 
here his eye is dark
its glance will tell me nothing
 
*
 
I cannot make him
what I imagine
 
the wall is high
he is not – not here
 
in this mind
in this first death – this
 
long – long standing
train of consciousness
 
he sleeps
until I have never been.
 

SEPTEMBER

 
The dawn is cold
the road is empty
 
the lamp
is not yet extinguished
 
grass has light
grounded white dusk
 
not wintered – drowsed
taking colour
 
re-making colour
pushing back
 
shadows onto a white wall
something transposed
 
shifted – doubled
unedged – out
 
beyond
the lamp’s intensity …
 
*
 
a fuchsia morning warms the road
for the white moth
 
for the rabbit
watching my movement
 
creatures mistrust my step
even a breakfast of berries has its price …
 
the man behind me says he has peace
his eye is full of April
 
a low sun shows something double –
shadows – by a wall defined.
 

FALLING

 
Look up – treetops
are meeting in the morning sky
 
there is a terrible sad
beat in the sea
 
love has no mind
only this –
 
light will own the waters
it will rise
 
before the overhang
darkens the surface
 
light will bend down
under the bridge
 
taking the river-rush
running crystal
 
down – down
over rock and stone
 
to own the sea
and meet the incoming flux.
 

Stormriver and other poems are © Myra Vennard, thanks to Moyra Donaldson for sending them to Poethead.

Myra Vennard was born in Belfast and is now retired to Ballycastle, Co Antrim, where she has ancestral roots. Widowed in 1979, she worked in Belfast for several years as a secretary before returning to higher education in the 1990’s as a mature student, graduating at the University of Ulster with Honours BA in English and an MA in Anglo-Irish Literature with a dissertation on the poetic vision of Samuel Beckett. As a postgraduate she attended the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin, gaining a diploma in Ecumenics.
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Myra Vennard’s two previous poetry books are Easter Saturday (2009) and Blind Angel (2013), both published by Lagan Press. In 2010 she won the Belfast Telegraph’s Woman of the Year in the Arts Award.

“The Bellmouth” and other poems by Gráinne Tobin

Internal Exile

 
It was all too much. He took to his bed,
and stayed there for ten years,
begetting, however, several more children.
She carried trays up and down the stairs
and he lay hidden, staring out to sea.
At night he watched the lighthouse
winking through his shuttered window.
All the money was gone. It didn’t matter.
They picked a living from their children’s labour
at this salty edge of earth, where
there was always fishing, chickens,
a smallholding of sorts, some barter.
 
What got him up and dressed at last was this.
One afternoon from under his eiderdown
he gazed beyond the glass panes, as the waves
framed by floral curtains, silently rose,
and gulped his two sons in their boat –
corpses never found, skiff washed ashore in pieces,
the coastal searches just as futile
as that warm sanctuary where the need
to witness woke him in the end.
 
From The Nervous Flyer’s Companion
 

Happy Days in Sunny Newcastle

 
The air’s washed now,
last night’s sad leavings
swept up and away.
Van drivers park outside the bakery
with fried eggs held in breakfast soda farls.
 
Arcades of slot machines
lie berthed between streams
that slip downhill to a tideline flagged with pebbles,
faded wood, wrecked loot, rubber gloves, broken glass
abraded to droplets by the tumbling waves.
 
The daily walker on his coatless course
between youth and age,
observing wading birds and children’s games.
 
Up for a trip, out for a drive,
dandering down the promenade.
 
Loudhailer hymns, crusaders’ tracts
warn of strange temptations
offered to ice-cream lickers, candy-floss lovers.
 
In the chip-shops’ wake the street
opens to the sea
which is the reason for everything,
shingle bank,
shops and houses,
foundations sunk in marsh,
confined by a shadowed arm
where mountains lift out of the water,
growing darkness like moss
over the forest where the young
roost with beer and campfires.
 
Heron pacing the harbour at twilight
stiff-collared in clerical grey,
squinting at coloured lights
edging the bay.
 
Far out, the lighthouse signalling,
Good – night
chil – dren.
 
From The Nervous Flyer’s Companion
 

What Did You Say?

 
Asda, Downpatrick
 
While the till extrudes my coiled receipt
I’m making small talk for the checkout man
penned in his hatch by the conveyor belt.
 
Getting busy now? is all I’m asking,
but he responds The building is sinking
into the marshes
as if the two of us

 
are conspirators with codes and passwords,
exchanging news of dangers met or planned.
He smiles, he nods, he shrugs, he sweeps
 
a hand towards the dipping car-park
in a gesture from an opera’s revelation,
to the orange barriers and repair signs
 
shoring up the ground of all our commerce
against stirrings of the earth in peaty reed-beds.
Under the paving, the beach. Under the tarmac, the bog.
 

Counting Children

 
The little boy is counting in clear-voiced German
eucalyptus cones that drop, pock pock,
on the café tables by the coach trip basilica,
as up and down the half-mile staircase
to the hilltop chapel with its cold-drink stall and cats,
every child that passed was counting,
in the languages of Europe,
how many steps.
 
An idle afternoon is stored, recessive,
a hundred aromatic seed-bells saved in a bag.
Picking the crayfish off his plate for a puppet,
speaking its words, snapping its claws for his dad,
he lays down love in his bones like calcium.
 
From Banjaxed
 

The Bellmouth

 
Silent Valley Reservoir, Kilkeel
 
Come on, we’ll take a spin up to the valley,
cross the sentry’s palm with silver
at red gates in Water Commission walls,
admire mown lawns and plaques on benches,
tread new tarmac to the bellmouth –
time a spillaway that swallows all.
 
Here, around the whirlpool of partition,
when engineering was godliness,
and the doctrine of the city was the purity of its water,
they walled the heather slopes with granite blocks,
trimmed the plughole of the reservoir
in Protestant-looking burnt-blue brick,
smoothed to the curve of a brass-band horn,
a vortex fed by reeling mountain streams.
 
Granite, laid on puddled clay
by giants whose folk-tale graves lie deep
in stony fields, who drank their tea
from sooty cans, ate their cold hard porridge sliced,
worked the hills for a boss with a voice like rifle fire.
I smell blood, one said, stopped halfway
in the overflow tunnel when the hooter
sounded a fatal fall. Stone men
who wore starched shirts to dances
in the recreation hall, watched Chaplin
at the valley picture house, grown men
who’d give a push-up to schoolgirls
climbing the Mourne Wall in polished shoes,
dropping down to leave the mountain roughness
to walk the road to Mass in Attical –
 
girls of twelve who fastened wood-shavings
as ringlets in their hair,
whose uncle, one quiet Sunday,
lowered them from the derrick
down the hole half-dug for the dam,
standing in a metal bucket, up to their necks,
to look out on a hundred feet of dark,
at grit and water leaking between cast-iron plates
that lined the trench and held the walls apart –
 
living with Bignian in front of them and Pov-rty behind,
spelt out in scree on the slope of Pig Mountain.
 

 

A Deconsecrated Furniture Showroom

 
Fultons Fine Furnishings

The glass hall’s empty except for a sellotaped notice
to show the pilgrim to the upstairs cafe,
where a waitress tells me
the place was shut down months ago,
and we say the words to each other –
receivership, jobs, recession,
antiphon, call and response.

The restaurant will continue to trade
in spite of the recklessness of their banking partners
and their agents.

The Private Dining Room’s a locked royal chapel,
and the nave a funnel of celestial light
within the shadowy void
as the escalator carries you upwards,
a ladder of souls,
to vacant room-sets, side-chapels,
frescoes, marble and parquet altars
sealed off with swags of tape.
Shaded lanterns burn on their chains
as in Toledo of the captives

and the faithful still meet for conversation,
broccoli bake and apple tart,
in their breaks from the industrial estate,
retail park, car dealership, warehouses,
hospital wards across the roundabout.

The Bell Mouth & other poems are © Grainne Tobin
 

Gráinne Tobin grew up in Armagh and lives in Newcastle, Co Down with her husband. She taught for many years, in further and adult education and in Shimna Integrated College. She is interested in keeping poetry open to its audience, including people without long years of schooling.
Her books are Banjaxed and The Nervous Flyer’s Companion (Summer Palace Press) and a third collection is due soon from Arlen House. She was a founder-member of the Word of Mouth Poetry Collective, which met monthly for 25 years in the Linen Hall Library in Belfast, and she contributed to Word of Mouth (Blackstaff Press) which was translated into Russian, and to the Russian-English parallel text anthology of members’ translations from five St Petersburg women poets, When the Neva Rushes Backwards (Lagan Press).
Some of her poems are available in online archives, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Troubles Archive and the Poetry Ireland archive. Some have been exhibited in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, the Old Museum Arts Centre, Belfast and Derry’s Central Library. One was made into a sculpture and is on permanent display in Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick.
She has had poems in anthologies – The Stony Thursday Book, Aesthetica Creative Writing, Washing Windows, On the Grass When I Arrive, Something About Home – in magazines such as Abridged, Poetry Ireland, The Dickens, Mslexia, Irish Feminist Review, Boyne Berries, Skylight 47, Crannog, Banshee, Acumen, North West Words, Ulla’s Nib, Fortnight, the South Bank Magazine, and also online, in Four X Four and on a website for psychotherapists. She has won the Down Arts, Mourne Observer and Segora poetry prizes and has been listed in competitions.

“Market Prayer” and other poems by Annemarie Ní Churreáin

Laundry

 
Here in the Indian foothills,
I share a house with a man from Greece
 
who speaks no English perfectly,
disappears for days on a motorbike,
 
leaves his laundry on the low make-shift line,
grieving an absent sun.
 
Side by side they hang: his shirt, my summer dress
as if they know each other well
 
and when he returns, smelling of engine oil,
monsoon, rolled brown cigarettes,
 
we have no formal language,
to share our separate joy.
 
Drip-drip on the balcony,
a queer, white pool gathers below.
 
He holds at a sleeve, looks to sky.
I open my palm for signs of rain.
 

Market Prayer

 
It is the scent of hanging fruit
more than roots pulled
from lines of parallel dirt
that lingers
after all that has happened.
I touch a pyramid of lemons
and everything is new again.
I pick one, and close my hand around it
as if to test these immutable seeds
glowing in my darkness.
For what, I do not know.
Pomona of Orchards, please:
like the finder of a planet
seeing for the first time
an otherness, I am afraid
the life I dream exists.
 

Protest

 
One cut and the hair worn since childhood
fell upon the floor
dead soft.
 
A spear-thistle;
her new, bald skull
refused order.
 
She belonged to heather
and in tail-streams
cupping frogs,
 
delighting
in the small, green pulse of life
between palms,
 
not here:
at the dark centre of reunions, separations,
starved of air.
 
This was a protest of love, against love
demanding
sun, rain, wilderness.
 
From a finger, she slid a band
placed it underfoot,
pressed down
 
until the stone
made the sound of a gold chestnut
cracking open.
 

The Scandal

 
The villagers did not unite
in outrage
but instead, they set about their days as usual,
posting letters, buying fruit, forming queues in the bank after lunchtime.
 
They said little
but within that little lay much;
little was a gated field in which something extraordinary was buried.
 
They held to their inner selves
resilient
in emergencies of projected light.
 
And yet,
over time, there happened a slow retreat from joyousness;
a packing away of the Emperor’s new clothes, for good.
 
Only the giant oaks
would live to remember imagination.
 

End of Girlhood

 
The first time
a tree called me by name,
I was thirteen and only spoke a weave of ordinary tongues.
 
It started with a leaf and next,
a mist came down from the hills, beating a lone skin drum,
looking for me.
 
Scarlet pimpernels dropped hints
that could not be ignored:
no red is innocent.
 
Badger trails called me aside for a word.
Come underground, they said,
see what we are made of.
 
Market Prayer and other poems are © Annemarie Ni Churreáin

Annemarie Ní Churreáin is a poet and writer from Donegal, Ireland. She has been awarded literary fellowships from Akademie Schloss Solitude (Germany), Jack Kerouac House (Orlando) and Hawthornden Castle (Scotland). In 2016, Annemarie was the recipient of a Next Generation Artists Award from the Arts Council of Ireland. In Autumn 2017, Annemarie’s debut collection ‘BLOODROOT’ is being launched by Doire Press, Galway. For more information, click here.

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“Eavan Boland: Inside History” Edited by Nessa O’Mahony and Siobhan Campbell

EAVAN BOLAND
INSIDE HISTORY

(Arlen House, 2016)
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Eavan Boland: Inside History, a new volume of essays and poems in response to the work of the internationally-renowned Irish poet, will be published by Arlen House on 1 December 2016. Edited by poets Siobhan Campbell and Nessa O’Mahony, Eavan Boland: Inside History is a reappraisal of Boland’s influence as a poet and critic in the 21st century and is the first major commissioned collection of essays to be published on Boland.

The volume includes critical essays on, and creative responses to, her work by leading writers, thinkers and scholars in Ireland, the UK, Europe and the US and reappraises Boland’s influence as a poet and critic for the 21st century. The fresh and diverse approaches provide a new frame for a critical engagement which crosses continental and aesthetic boundaries. The book therefore repositions Boland scholarship with a focus on the most important aspect: the poems themselves.

Contributions include a foreword by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, as well as essays by Jody Allen Randolph, Patricia Boyle Haberstroh, Siobhan Campbell, Lucy Collins, Gerald Dawe, Péter Dolmányos, Thomas McCarthy, Nigel McLoughlin, Christine Murray, Nessa O’Mahony, Gerard Smyth, Colm Tóibín and Eamonn Wall. There are also poems from Dermot Bolger, Moya Cannon, Katie Donovan, Thomas Kinsella, Michael Longley, Paula Meehan, John Montague, Sinead Morrissey, Paul Muldoon, Eileán Ní Chuilleanáin, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Jean O’Brien and Nessa O’Mahony. The volume concludes with A Poet’s Dublin, a reissuing of the conversation that took place between Eavan Boland and Paula Meehan on the occasion of her 70th birthday in 2014.

Eavan Boland worked as an editor with Arlen House in the 1970s and 1980s and did extraordinary work in developing new Irish writing and broadening the boundaries of Irish literature. We are pleased to publish this collection on her work,” said publisher Alan Hayes.

As editors, we’ve been delighted to be part of the conversation that this volume has begun,” said Siobhan Campbell. “It’s been a privilege and an honour to work on this collection particularly as both Nessa and I feel poetically in Eavan Boland’s debt, as do so many of our contemporaries.”

Eavan Boland: Inside History is published on 1 December 2016. It will be launched at Poetry Ireland, 11 Parnell Square, Dublin 1, on Thursday 15 December 2016 at 6.30 with special guests Eavan Boland and Mary Robinson.

978–1–85132–140–7, 368 pages, paperback, €25
978–1–85132–150–6, limited edition numbered and signed hardback, €55

ARLEN HOUSE LTD, 42 Grange Abbey Road, Baldoyle, Dublin 13.
Phone: 086 8360236: Email: arlenhouse@gmail.com

“Colour” and Other Poems by Paul Casey

Colour

for T.S.Eliot and after fourteen poets

The purple stole away from the skins of plums
Everywhere we turned became a maze of colour
I protect you with an indigo coloured whisper
You curve the ends of my black and white day
Coffee brown, is mole, dying leaves, dry earth
But smell led me here, the smell of yellow
The blue, white and red stripes of exotic confusion
Moving over the green gravel of a formal grave

I wet my lips and a blackbird flies out of my mouth
Faces in the front row, silvered in screenlight, focus
I thought everyone knew what was meant by sugar-paper blue
Tyrian dyes and flax and peacock plumes
Gold and yellow where the clouds crack and break away
Anemone-blue mountains outlined against the pearl-grey morning

Colour was first published in Live Encounters

Fishapod out of Watercolour

The Spring sea arrives
in flailing sage,
clutches lime-white soles
with the early hunger of sand.

Seeping, air-bound,
caught on the cusp
of an inner eclipse
I turn to olive water.

Nothing can be at rest
beneath this marble ichor
moon of all things opaque
and aquamarine.

In stone-pale, heaving waves
tik-taa-lik struggle
to reach the shore
– to shift an ageing jade spell

for the sea to cast wide
her turquoise daydreams
helpless crashing raging

at the thirsty white sun,
the untempered one
as ocean sighs find all

that crawl from her murky womb
to stand and gaze uncertain
at ice slowly gleaming teal

or a fern vapour of dream.

– first published in home more or less (Salmon Poetry, 2012)

An Béal Corcra

Delightful aftertaste
this river
of kingly colour
Ocular delight
this stream
of purpoesy
vein-aortic mix
of spirit liquid

as even
evolved vampires
overdose
on blends
of rich-thick
contradiction,
of unravelled
breaths expired

even as
seasoned muses
pilgrim-seasoned muses
each leave a trail
of purple dripping
from tongue and teeth
a new harvest
of mystery

and even as
starved poets sip
the mountain manna
purple poem wine,
dream-drunk poets
pulse-deafened
descend purply
their seasoned lips

– first published in the chapbook It’s Not all Bad (Heaventree Press, 2009)

Blue Roses

for Rosie

And then there are uncertain nights
when she blushes a sudden lavender
as I first remember, or darkens to a violet sleep.
Sometimes, she shimmers from the tranquil deep
of a burgundy world, dreaming and I
witness her water to a pale coral dawn

I’ve seen her shine as light as pear
tethered still and clear by the anchors
of warm mid-morning daydreams,
turn sepal green as if petal less
or glow amber as the fallen leaves
from a bouquet of autumn operas.
And on each blue moon, without fail
fold into the calm of origami white.

Usually my rose is a full flaming-red
cardinal weekend in a time made
only of roses. Is a wild flowering
rambler, a climber, a rosebush of scarlet
matadors, urging the shy and tormented
to dance in the showers of abundant daily joy.

If on certain days I could breathe
for her, roses of only breath,
they would each live as blessed
as a momentary labour of thorn-less blood
a singly purposed mist of quartz,
two thousand tender dozens per day
all shed before her footsteps and dewed,
tinted finely, with the scent of blue roses.

– first published in The Stony Thursday Book and then in home more or less (Salmon Poetry, 2012)

In the Shade

ash green lakes
aquamarine memory
beryl tears
cambium skin
celadon mist
chartreuse touch
clover-sprung harp
copper green temper
coral turquoise tongue
emerald green heart
fern green sleep
forest green winter
grass green bed
gravel-green lullabies
grey-green wink
hawthorn essence
hazel green gaze
island green iris
jade green mouth
lime green aura
marble green poitín lips
midnight shade of green
mint green sight
moss green sex
myrtle green palms
olive green age
opal green seas
pea green ire
peacock-green visions
pine green bones
reed green waters
sage green fires
sap green toes
seaweed green thighs
spring green dawn
Tara green rain
tea green calm
teal sorrow-pools
thyme green dusk
viridian storms

– first published in home more or less (Salmon Poetry, 2012)

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Colour & other poems are © Paul Casey

Pic: Shane Vaughan
Image: Shane Vaughan (2016)

Paul Casey was born in Cork, Ireland in 1968. His poetry collections are home more or less (Cliffs of Moher, Salmon Poetry, 2012); and Virtual Tides (Salmon Poetry, 2015). His chapbook of longer poems is It’s Not all Bad (Coventry, Heaventree Press, 2009)

In October 2010 his poetry-film The Lammas Hireling, after the poem by Ian Duhig, premièred at the Zebra poetry-film festival in Berlin and has been screened at StanZa in Edinburgh and Sadho in New Delhi.

He grew up in various stages between Ireland, Zambia and South Africa, working mostly in film, multimedia and teaching. He lectured screen writing at the Nelson Mandela University, where he convened the greater Port Elizabeth Poetry Competition in three languages and four age groups.

He is the founder and organiser of the Ó Bhéal reading series in Cork, where he lives. (Source: Irish Writers Online)

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Audio and Film Poetry by Paul Casey: