“Phoenix” and other poems by Müesser Yeniay

The House of God

 
We landed
from the house of God
to the island of heart

we came into being

we are at the house of earth
bodies are celestial
 

Phoenix

Poeta pirata est

I should be a phoenix
to the peaks
of my imagination

I should see the tips of my horizon
and introduce myself to it

never I wish
anything remains hidden
from me

since I came here
to see the front and behind
both of dreams
and reality

Woman

The wind
is 
blowing
that 
sweeps 
                  the sand 
                  around 
                  words

Everybody
is 
calling 
                   God!

I am 
taking 
myself 
from 
inside
and
putting
it
out 
                   with 
                   my 
                  hands.

I am 
the place 
where 
human-being 
is 
                     less 
God 
is 
                    more.



Phoenix and other poems are © Müesser Yeniay

MÜESSER YENİAY was born in İzmir, 1984; she graduated from Ege University, with a degree in English Language and Literature. She took her M.A on Turkish Literature at Bilkent University. She has won several prizes in Turkey including Yunus Emre (2006), Homeros Attila İlhan (2007), Ali Riza Ertan (2009), Enver Gökçe (2013) poetry prizes. She was also nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Muse Pie Press in USA.
Her first book Darkness Also Falls Ground was published in 2009 and her second book I Founded My Home in the Mountains a collection of translation from world poetry. Her second poetry book I Drew the Sky Again was published in 2011. She has translated the poems of Persian poet Behruz Kia as Requiem to Tulips. She has translated the Selected Poems of Gerard Augustin together with Eray Canberk, Başak Aydınalp, Metin Cengiz (2011). She has also translated  the Personal Anthology of Michel Cassir together with Eray Canberk and Metin Cengiz (2011). Lately, she has published a Contemporary Spanish Anthology with Metin Cengiz and Jaime B. Rosa. She also translated the poetry of Israeli poet Ronny Someck (2014) and Hungarian poet Attila F. Balazs (2015). She has published a book on modern Turkish Avant-garde poetry The Other Consciousness: Surrealism and The Second New (2013). Her latest poetry book Before Me There Were Deserts was published in 2014 in İstanbul. Her poems were published in Hungarian by AB-Art Press by the name A Rozsaszedes Szertartasa (2015).
Her poems have appeared in the following magazines abroad: Actualitatea Literară (Romania), The Voices Project, The Bakery, Sentinel Poetry, Yellow Medicine Review, Shot Glass Journal, Poesy, Shampoo, Los Angeles Review of Books, Apalachee Review (USA&England); Kritya, Shaikshik Dakhal (India); Casa Della Poesia, Libere Luci, I poeti di Europe in Versi e il lago di Como (Italy); Poeticanet, Poiein (Greece); Revue Ayna, Souffle, L’oiseau de feu du Garlaban (France); Al Doha (Qatar); Tema (Croatia); Dargah (Persia).
The Anthologies her poetry appeared: With Our Eyes Wide Open; Aspiring to Inspire, 2014 Women Writers Anthology; 2014 Poetry Anthology- Words of Fire and Ice (USA) Poesia Contemporanea de la Republica de Turquie (Spain); Voix Vives de Mediterranee en Mediterranee, Anthologie Sete 2013 ve Poetique Insurrection 2015 (France); One Yet Many- The Cadence of Diversity ve ayrıca Shaikshik Dakhal (India); Come Cerchi Sull’acqua (Italy).
Her poems have been translated into Vietnamese, Hungarian, Croatian, English, Persian, French, Serbian, Arabic, Hebrew, Italian, Greek, Hindi, Spanish and Romanian. Her book in Hungarian was published in 2015 by AB-Art Publishing by the name “A Rozsaszedes Szertartasa” She has participated in the poetry festivals like Sarajevo International Poetry Festival, September 2010 (Bosnia-Herzegovina); Nisan International Poetry Festival, May 2011 (Israel); Belgrad International Poetry Festival, September 2012 (Serbia); Voix Vives International Poetry Festival (Sete), July 2013 (France); Kritya International Poetry Festival, September 2013 (India), Galati/Antares International Poetry Festival, June 2014 (Romania), Medellin International Poetry Festival, July 2014 (Colombia); 2nd Asia Pacific Poetry Festival 2015 (Vietnam).
Müesser is the editor of the literature magazine Şiirden (of Poetry). She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Turkish literature at Bilkent University, Ankara, and is also a member of PEN and the Writers Syndicate of Turkey.

  1. Three Poems by Müesser Yeniay
  2. An Index of Women Poets
“Phoenix” and other poems by Müesser Yeniay

A Celebration of Irish Women Poets on Bloomsday 2015

PEARLS AT BLACKFRIARS
 
For his Winter’s Tale,
Master Shakespeare calls
for a covered stage
with the scent of candle-grease
and orange-peel heavy on the air.
 
There must be torches
to give movement to shadows
and life to the statue;
and for Hermione’s face –
tincture of pearl, crushed.
 
With this bowl of dust
we’ll lacquer her age,
encase her in memory
so only a movement of the mind
might release her,
 
might absolve
her husband’s transgression,
as the jealous moon
flings her light
against Blackfriars slates.
 
Pearls At Blackfriars is © Jessica Traynor
Jessica TraynorJessica Traynor is from Dublin. Her first collection, Liffey Swim, was published by Dedalus Press in 2014. Poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry Ireland Review, The Raving Beauties Anthology (Bloodaxe), Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History, If Ever You Go (2014 Dublin One City One Book), The Irish Times, Peloton (Templar Poetry), New Planet Cabaret (New Island Books), The Pickled Body, Burning Bush II, Southword, The SHOp, Wordlegs, The Moth, Poetry 24, The Stinging Fly, and New Irish Writing among others. She is the 2014 recipient of the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary. She was named Hennessy New Irish Writer of the Year in 2013 and was highly commended at the 2013 Patrick Kavanagh Award. She won the 2011 Single Poem Competition at Listowel Writer’s Week. She received a Literature Bursary from Dublin City Council in 2010 and in was part of the 2009 Poetry Ireland Introduction Series.
 
Jessica works as Literary Reader for the Abbey Theatre and teaches creative writing courses through Big Smoke Writing Factory and the Irish Writers Centre. She also works as a freelance dramaturg.
Ode

‘More happy love! more happy, happy love!
Forever warm and still to be enjoy’d…’
—JOHN KEATS, Ode on a Grecian Urn

 
You lie across my thighs as I write,
my bone-warming hot water bottle,
pure latex, guaranteed to delight the most
discriminating women, mottle their thighs
as they lie deep in their beds, pretending
this rubber sack of warm water
could never replace their lover.
 
The women of Ireland drive with you
across their laps, hand-knit covers
helping to keep you warm. More love,
the patterns passed down from
mothers and grandmothers, still enjoyed.
They knit covers for each new bottle,
battle the cold, inside and out.
 
Every woman remembers her first.
I was twelve, three hours after landing
in Ireland, in Granny’s front bedroom.
You are the best invention after
hot water on tap, and when old age hits
and you warm through rheumatism—
not period pains—I hope to bits
I will have more to hug than my hottle
(Granny’s word for hot water bottle).
 
Ode is © Celeste Augé

skylight launch kevinosheaCeleste Augé is the author of Skip Diving (Salmon Poetry, 2014), The Essential Guide to Flight (Salmon Poetry, 2009) and the collection of short stories Fireproof and Other Stories (Doire Press, 2012).
 
The World Literature Review said that “Celeste Augé’s poems are commendable for their care, deep thought, and intellectual ambition”, while the Anna Livia Review said that “Fireproof” is a remarkably strong debut into the world of short stories and will begin to build what is undoubtedly going to be a strong readership for the author”.
 
Celeste’s poetry has been shortlisted for a Hennessy Award and she received a Literature Bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland to write Skip Diving. In 2011, she won the Cúirt New Writing Prize for fiction. She lives in Connemara, in the West of Ireland.
BOG FAIRIES
 
The heather like
Pork belly cracked
Underneath my feet-
 
The horizon like
Nougat, melted
Its pastel line at the heath edge
Blue fading to white light.
 
We stacked rows of little
Houses for bog fairies –
Wet mulchy sods
Evaporating under our small palms.
 
Crucifixions of dry brittle crosses
Forming the skeleton-
My narrow ankles parallel to them.
 
Coarse and tough like the marrow of the soul,
Like the skeletons crucified under the peat.
 
The turf will come good
My father said
When the wind blows to dry it.
 
We dragged ten-ten-twenty bags
With the sulphury waft of cat piss,
Along a track dotted with deep black bogholes,
Then over a silver door, like a snail’s
Oily trail leaving a map for the moon,
And for bog fairies to dance in the mushy earth-
For us all to glisten in this late summer.
 
And behind the door
Once upon some time
Old women sat in black shawls
Bedding down Irregulars and putting kettles
On to boil for the labouring girls.
 
But I was gone.
 
I was gone at ten in my mind’s eye.
I was dragging Comrades from the Somme
I was pulling Concords in line with Swedish giants
I was skating on the lake in Central Park
I was crouched in the green at Sam’s Cross
I was touring Rubber-Soul at Hollywood Bowl
I was marching on Washington with John Lewis
I was in the Chelsea Hotel with Robert Mapplethorpe,
He was squatting on my lap with his lens,
Swearing to Janis Joplin I could find her a shift,
Nothing is impossible when you blow like that girlfriend.
I sang Come As You are in Aberdeen with union converse,
Blue eye liner and mouse holes in my Connemara jumper.
 
I was anyone but me
I was anywhere but here
I was gone
 
We rushed to hurry before the summer light would fade
Because animals needed to be washed and fed
 
And turf needed to be stacked
And all the talk of our youth
Would be said
In whispers and secrets, or written on postage stamps
 
Because light was the ruler as it was closing in around us,
Beating us, like the dark on the workmen
Deep in the channel tunnel that night.

The black light killed the purple heather
Yet I danced on the crackle in the dust
I crackled on the dust in the heather
My dance on the heather turned to dust.
 
Bog Fairies is © Elaine Feeney.

 
photoElaine Feeney is considered a leading part of political contemporary Irish writers. She was educated in University College Galway, University College Cork and University of Limerick. Feeney has published three collections of poetry Indiscipline (2007), Where’s Katie? (2010, Salmon) and The Radio was Gospel (2013, Salmon) Her work has been published widely in literary magazines and anthologies. She is currently working on a novel.
 
“Elaine Feeney is the freshest, most engaging and certainly the most provocative female poet to come out of Ireland in the last decade. Her poem ” Mass”, is both gloriously funny, bitter-sweet in the astuteness of its observations and a brilliant, sly window into the Irish female Catholic experience. Her use of irony is delicious. Her comments on the human condition, which run throughout her lines, are in the tradition of Dean Swift and she rightfully takes her place alongside Eavan Boland and Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill as a very, very important Irish voice.” Fionnuala Flanagan, California 2013 (Praise for The Radio was Gospel, 2013, Salmon)The Radio was Gospel, 2013, Salmon)
 
“A choice collection of poetry, one not to be overlooked, 5 Stars” Midwest Book Review, USA, (Praise for Where’s Katie? 2010, Salmon Poetry).
 
Elaine Feeney saying Mass
THE MISSION
 
I think of the last time we met
on the prom in Galway.
A sunny day in May
you looked cool in those shades.
You looked taller somehow.
We talked for ages.
You told me about plans
for your mother’s sixtieth.
I felt lucky to have such a nephew.
Shades or no shades.
 
You hid your distress well, John.
None of it was evident that sunny day.
The day of good nephews.
A month later you went to Beachy Head.
WTF John.
 
I think of you
leaving your bundle
on top of Beachy Head.
Your belt coiled around your watch
your wallet with a photo of your daughter
your fire fighter’s ID card
your blood donor card
your bus ticket from Brighton.
Losers weepers.
 
Margaret, your Irish twin,
was on a holiday she didn’t want to go on.
She had been worried sick,
she had us all demented
saying you were going to do it.
Twins know things, Irish twins know more.
I was at a wedding in June
when some friends of yours called me outside.
‘It’s about John Diviney,’
and something about Beachy Head.
 
Later we went to the priest
he came down to Castle Park
to tell your mother.
She thought we were there to show her the wedding style.
I wouldn’t mind, John
but I had hired a dress for the wedding.
It was a deep blue.
It sailed when I walked.
Your mother was in a daze.
‘I dreamed of him on Thursday night,’ she said.
‘He went in and out of every room.
Himself and Shannon were laughing.’
 
We went to Eastbourne to bring you home.
Your mother to collect a son,
Margaret to collect a brother,
Caroline and Majella to collect a cousin.
Me to collect a nephew.
Five women on a mission.
 
Your mother couldn’t sleep,
she was smoking out the hotel window.
She saw the undertaker
collect your best suit from reception at six am.
 
Despite all the sadness
we had laughed a lot on the way over.
The girls nearly missing the flight
because they had to get food.
We laughed too at nothing at all.
Declan, another cousin of yours turned up
and chauffeured us around Eastbourne
and later to Heathrow.
Losers weepers.
 
You had a photo in your wallet
of your daughter Katie.
I have a photo in my study
of the day we bumped into you
in King’s Cross, you and Katie.
Ye were going to some match or other.
What are the chances?
We were over to surprise Heather
on her thirtieth.
 
What are the chances of bumping into you now, John?
We weren’t laughing when we saw you in that coffin.
Your Irish twin ran outside and puked.
Your mother whispered things in your ear.
We started the prayers
it was a mumbo jumbo litany
We couldn’t remember how anything finished.
Hail Mary full of grace the lord is with thee…
 
On the way back
there was a bad storm.
We were at the airport for five hours.
Your mother kept going back out for a smoke.
Each time she went out we worried
that she’d never get back in.
 
You were in the hold,
in your new suit
your designer shirt
your best shoes.
We forgot your socks.
Losers weepers.
 
We arrived at Shannon
in the early hours.
The Divineys were there en masse.
So was Keith and Aidan.
We followed the hearse,
a night cortège.
‘At least we have him back,’
your mother said,
more than once.
 
After the funeral mass
your friends from the fire station
hoisted your coffin onto the fire brigade.
The army were there too.
It was a show stopper.
I never told you this, John
but I love a man in uniform.
 
I think of you
leaving your bundle
on top of Beachy Head.
Your belt coiled
around your watch
your wallet with a photo of Katie
your fire fighter’s ID card
your blood donor card
your bus ticket from Brighton.
Losers weepers.
 
‘It’s about John Diviney,’
the coroner’s office said.
‘Some young people found his things.
His belt a loop around them.’
He flew without wings
off Beachy Head.
He landed at the bottom
his back against the wall
his eyes looking out to sea.
 
The Mission is © Rita Ann Higgins

Poet Rita Ann Higgins(1)Rita Ann Higgins was born in Galway. She has published ten collections of poetry, her most recent being Ireland is Changing Mother, (Bloodaxe 2011), a memoir in prose and poetry Hurting God (Salmon 2010). She is the author of six stage plays and one screen play. She has been awarded numerous prizes and awards, among others an honorary professorship. She is a member of Aosdána.

Rita Ann Higgins’s readings are legendary. Raucous, anarchic, witty and sympathetic, her poems chronicle the lives of the Irish dispossessed in ways that are both provocative and heart-warming. Her next collection Tongulish is due out in April 2016 from Bloodaxe.

Mastectomy

You get given
certain things in twos -

                                love-birds, book-ends,
                                matching china tea mugs -

and even though 
on any given morning

                                it is all you even think of
                                to hook one fine china

top designer
duck-blue tea-mug

                                from your dry beech
                                draining rack

to boil and pour and stir
and watch Darjeeling towers spiral;

                                there are still the days
                                when there is company for breakfast,

and on these fine mornings
let me tell you

                                 it is good to know
                                 that there are two

extra special, same but different
unchipped breakfast blue mugs

                                made to grace
your table.




From Who's Counting?

© Shirley McClure
Living in Bray, Co. Wicklow, Shirley McClure won Cork Literary Review’s Manuscript Competition 2009 and Listowel Writers’ Week Originals Poetry Competition 2014. Her collection, Who’s Counting? is available from Bradshaw Books or via http://www.thepoetryvein.com/. She facilitates creative writing courses and workshops.
(from Céide Fields)



Becoming the Ancestor at Downpatrick Head


As in prehistory a woman
            climbed down these wave-fretted
                        cliffs and stretched to rest
                                    on this shore,

so lay your cheek
            on this time-worn stone
                        and, looking north
                                    along longitude 9

to where the blue wind’s knife
            splits sea from sky,
                        follow its trajectory
                                    from that birthing point

to your curious eye;
            so learn, as she may have done,
                        how this earth curves,
                                    and time.

© Breda Wall Ryan
Breda-852 (Colour) (1)Breda Wall Ryan grew up on a farm in Co Waterford and now lives in Co. Wicklow. She has a B.A. in English and Spanish from UCC; a Post-graduate Diploma in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and an M.Phil. in Creative Writing (Distinction) from Trinity College, Dublin. Her awarded fiction has appeared in The Stinging Fly, The Faber Book of Best New Irish Short Stories 2006-7 and The New Hennessy Book of Irish Fiction. Her poems have been published widely in journals in Ireland and internationally, including Skylight 47, Ink Sweat and Tears, Deep Water Literary Journal, And Other Poems, Fish Anthology, Mslexia, The Ofi Press, Orbis, Magma and The Rialto. Her first collection, In a Hare’s Eye, was published by Doire Press in 2015. A Pushcart and Forward nominee, she has won several prizes, most recently the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize, 2015.
 
A Celebration of Irish Women Poets on Bloomsday 2015

Poems from ‘Her Father’s Daughter’ by Nessa O’Mahony

Waiting Room

 
The rules for survival:
don’t catch an eye
on the first day,
look away
if their blank grief
grazes over you.
 
If still here the next,
permit a faint smile,
a nod to a fellow traveller.
But keep your space,
don’t approach
unless invited
and only then
with care.
 
Avoid those
with a story to tell,
a need to eat you alive
as they rave
about hands squeezed,
the twitch of a closed eye.
 
You can’t spare
a shred, a prayer;
it’s dog eat dog here.
The odds are too high,
if somebody has to die,
let the noose swing
elsewhere.
 

Deserted Village, Achill Island

 
in memory of my father
 
A gap between showers,
blue filtering half-light,
so we take our chances
on the slopes of Slievemore.
 
Those who’d called it home
knew about impermanence,
the reach of bog,
the gaping sockets of roofs.
 
Hap-hazarding lazy beds,
slip-slides of water
pouring down
the side of the mountain,
we settle for the track,
the safety of shale and quartz.
 
Sun wets white shards,
crystal lures us
as the track forks
to where a burnt-out digger
acts sentinel over oil slicks;
wind chimes music:
a plastic bottle
trapped by bog-lethe.
 
The quarry opens out,
slag-heaps improbably white,
as if someone had cleared snow
into neat piles,
or had scattered detergent
like there was no need tomorrow,
no white sheets to be spread out,
no single rose bud to be left
beside a hospital bed.
 

Notes for an exhibit

 
Spotfin Porcupine Fish, Cuba 1991,
D.J. O’Mahony, MI31.1992
 
It catches the eye:
half globe, half water-mine,
outrage suspended
in display case 781 Vertebrata Pisces
on the first floor landing.
 
When threatened, it doubles in size,
swallows air and water, bristles spines,
sends neurotoxins till each tip sizzles
with venom more potent than cyanide.
 
Still netted all the same,
(there is no armour against fate)
transformed to artefact,
presented in great state
to one who’d done some service.
 
What else need we know?
That it spent a year
atop a china cabinet,
caught dust, snagged cloth?
That it was the extra guest
at many a family party?
That, seeing it encased,
a grandson made an excited phone-call?
 
A six-inch black-type card
acknowledges the donor
of whom little is known;
his dates are found elsewhere.
 

Madam Butterfly at Beaumaris

 
Tonight I observe the old rituals,
run a warm bath, descend,
soak, sponge, massage each limb,
let the heat enter me.
After, I’m gentle when I rub myself down,
anoint with oil of cocoa butter,
finger-tip smooth cream in elbow folds,
around each breast, caress
the waist sloping to buttock rise.
I go to the window seat,
kimono loose-wrapped, hair unpinned.
All is readiness; Callas sings,
a red buoy light flashes my intentions to the Straits.
I wait for tomorrow
when you said you’d come.
 

Doorways

 
Your first shot,
me framed in the door
of my grandmother’s house
in Garbally.
 
Our first stay,
and it feels strange when
I’m trusted with the key,
with instructions
on how to keep the fire lit.
 
You mention
Granny’s house
and it sounds alien
on your lips;
she was dead years
before I met you.
 
But she always predicted
the old sock would find
the old shoe
 
eventually.
 

Role reversal

 
after Eavan Boland
 
There will come a time, mother,
when the transformed spring opens up
and the charioteer holds out a hand;
he might have my father’s face, might not;
his gestures might be gentle or rough
as he eases you into a space made ready
and shows you the pomegranate.
And you will take the seed and eat,
willingly perhaps, not caring
that every bargain has its cost,
or will your hand be stayed
by the sun’s ray on your face?
I will not have time to catch up,
to forestall the nine long days,
the nine long nights of wandering.
And I’ll have no deal to strike;
no backward glance, no waiting
for the seasons to turn back to me.
 
These poems are © Nessa O’Mahony from Her Father’s Daughter  (Salmon Poetry)
 
untitled

NessaNessa O’Mahony was born in Dublin and lives in Rathfarnham where she works as a freelance teacher and writer. She won the National Women’s Poetry Competition in 1997 and was shortlisted for the Patrick Kavanagh Prize and Hennessy Literature Awards. She was awarded an Arts Council of Ireland literature bursary in 2004 and 2011. She has published four books of poetry – Bar Talk, appeared (1999), Trapping a Ghost (2005) and In Sight of Home (2009). Her Father’s Daughter was published by Salmon in September 2014. She completed a PhD in Creative Writing in 2006 and teaches creative writing for the Open University. She is a regular course facilitator at the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin.
Poems from ‘Her Father’s Daughter’ by Nessa O’Mahony

There will always be singing; an appreciation of Doris Lessing

Fable

When I look back I seem to remember singing.
Yet it was always silent in that long warm room.

Impenetrable, those walls , we thought,
Dark with ancient shields. The light
Shone on the head of a girl or young limbs
Spread carelessly. And the low voices
Rose in the silence and were lost as in water.

Fable is © Doris Lessing (1919-2013)

Author and Poet Doris Lessing
Author and Poet Doris Lessing (1919-2013)

Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing (1919-2013) was  a novelist, poet, and sci-fi writer. This appreciation of Doris Lessing was first published on the Women Writers, Women’s Books Site  in 2013 with thanks to Anora McGaha, and to Barbara Bos who live edited the piece at the time of writing. Thanks to Olivia Guest at Jonathan Clowes Ltd who has allowed me carry Poems by Doris Lessing here at Poethead.

When a person of great age dies, there are many responses about the richness of their life and how we have been blessed by their presence for so long in our world. Yet for me there was and is profound sorrow at the loss to us of Doris Lessing Nobel Laureate, author, philosopher and poet. I do not delude myself that my sorrow is one of intimate connection to her, a whole generation of women writers have that connection to her voice.

My connection to Doris Lessing’s writing began in my twenties when I first read The Golden Notebook, I read almost all her work after that. I am unsure of where the gut tear occurred with my reaction to her work, but here was a writer who did things that I admired. It was difficult to locate her effect on me, but I knew it and recognised it as important to my writing.

Living in Dublin city, I often retreat to a small house in Mayo, where my now deceased friend, Michael McMullin, a philosopher and jungian, had retained a library. His Doris Lessings were collected on the top shelf of his library, alongside some images of Chartres Cathedral, and his Yeats collection. Like Lessing he had attained a great age and had a voracious thirst for knowledge, he was born in Ceylon in 1916.

Michael’s assidious collecting of Doris Lessing was winsome, and he often referred to her. His nomadism had taken him from Ceylon, to Cambridge, to escape from Hitler’s invasion of Paris, to Finland, to Canada, and at the end his life, a hillside In the North-West of Ireland. I did not meet Doris Lessing, but I had met in Michael that intellectual and questing spirit that seems to inflame the diasporist writer. It can only be described as a great and humble presence, their being present to everyone who he/she encounters all the time.

Doris Lessing’s death brought back my own recent loss with a punch. I saw the rumours of her death emerging from early Sunday morning and waited to hear if it were true. My decision to go ahead and link the Lessing poems was an urgent need to show people that there was more to her output, although it is sadly unavailable.

Two years ago while re-reading Lessing in the Mayo library awaiting a death, the Lessing poetry began to make me a bit more than curious. On returning to the city, I thought to do some searches of her writing, as I was aware that she like Ted Hughes, had elements of Sufism in her writing. I was aware that she had written poetry but couldn’t find much. The place to look for the mythological, esoteric, and philosophical mind of the writer is in their poetic output. Poetry is the revelatory act of participation in the world.

Doris Lessing had written a small collection Fourteen Poems in 1959, published by The Scorpion Press, and she had contributed to the Inpopa Anthology (2002). Her poetry isn’t available online. The Scorpion Press Archive is housed at the McFarlin Library (Special Collections) at the University of Tulsa.

Alison Greenlee, Librarian at the McFarlin Special Collections Library located for me a copy of the book in my Alma Mater, University College Dublin. I made an appointment to go in as soon as I could and transcribed a selection of the poems for myself. The next step was to contact Jonathan Clowes Ltd, who are Doris Lessing’s agents.

Olivia Guest at Jonathan Clowes Ltd, Doris Lessing’s Literary Agents, worked on my behalf to bring Doris Lessing’s poetry back online. We corresponded initially by letter and I procured a temporary 12 month licence to add Lessing to my index of women poets. I wanted her to be recognised for her entire body of work and not alone the novels. After the initial permissions to carry the Lessing poetry were given, the first letter went awol and had to be re-issued, I put them up and shared them regularly across multiple social media platforms including FB, Twitter, Salon.

I wrote about the poems on Open Salon. There were 3,000 hits on the poetry over the two blogs. People contacted me to say that they wanted to read the books, that they had no idea that she was a poet, and that they were heartened to see a woman poet of great age appearing on their computer screens, as there is often a problem with having older women visible in the media.

The following year, I sent Olivia Guest a synopsis of the reaction to Doris Lessing’s poetry and we agreed to extend the licence for another 12 months. She was surprised that the reaction to lessing’s poetry had been so widespread and curious. I sent her screenshots of the data and emails regarding the works.

This year of 2013, I again contacted Olivia and reminded her that my licence to carry the poetry was about due to end and that it gave me great sorrow to take the poems off my index, people were always looking for them, they accounted for a lot of searches for women writers, alongside Dorothy L. Sayers and Nelly Sachs.

last week I received an email that made me sadder. Doris Lessing had little confidence in her poetry and her agents were happy to allow me keep them indefinitely because they did not see the possibility of a re-issue.

This is the email that Olivia Guest sent me recently,

Dear Christine

We’d be delighted for you to host the poems for longer especially if you’re getting such good reactions. Doris Lessing was never very keen on her poetry and didn’t think it was any good so I doubt we will see a re-issue but at least this way, they are available in an alternative form.

Many thanks and best wishes

Olivia

The Megaliths Series, by Ann Madden (Irish Artist)
The Megaliths Series, by Ann Madden (Irish Artist)

I wondered then if Doris Lessing knew over these years that I had the poems and that they had caused such a reaction on the Poethead ? I still do not know if she did. Last week I announced on Poethead that I would be retaining the poems for sometime, and that I had received the above letter, blogged it in absolute delight, because it is a small but profound part of her writing jigsaw and it allows us to call her a poet.

To a mind like Lessing’s, death is a transformation and not an ending. Yesterday, after I decided to honour her writing and look again at the story of the poems, I closed up my blog for the day and took a walk with my daughter. When I got home, I saw that there were upward of a thousand hits on the Lessing letters, articles, posts and poems.

Today there is a similar amount building up. People want to know that questing intellect and they are searching. If I could say one thing to Doris Lessing, it would be that her poetry is the source and cause of joy and many, many people feel her loss in this world.

RIP Doris May Lessing (1919-2013)

 

Note: November 2014: Since the time of writing this piece in 2013, the stats for the Lessings posts have changed.

  • Open Salon, An Appreciation of Doris Lessing- 2360 views
  • Poethead Posts On Doris Lessing  – 2184 Views , 1319 Views, and 4673 views

s200_christine_elizabeth.murrayChristine Murray is a City and Guilds qualified stone-cutter. Her poetry is published in a variety of print and online publications. Her poem for three voices, Lament, was performed at the Béal Festival in 2012. Her Chapbook Three Red Things was published by Smithereens Press in June 2013. A collection Cycles was published by Lapwing Press in September 2013. A dark tale The Blind (Poetry) was published by Oneiros Books in  October 2013. Since time of writing this appreciation She (Oneiros Books) and Signature (Bone Orchard Press) were published in 2014.

 

 

There will always be singing; an appreciation of Doris Lessing

‘The Corner House’ and other poems by Victoria Kennefick

(I don’t know how to spell) Meningioma

 
I float down icy corridors.
My face slips, blurs on skirting boards.
Plastic tiles suck my shoes.
 
In the GA Ward,
the flickering mouth of television
hisses at blankness.
 
An igloo of brains, snow blocks on pillows;
my eyes cast out to look for you.
The German lady asks me for water.
 
She’s never seen you here, she says.
She’s got a tumour, a hail stone in her head,
frozen on an x-ray in the hall.
 
In the waiting room, sweat sneaks out my armpits,
from behind bare knees, freezes like a smile.
Sun flaunts its limbs along the wall –
 
my body perves to lie with it, the mad yellow.
You do not come; I go out double-doors –
anti-bacterial soap melts in my hands.
 
Sun gropes my body back to skin
in the hospital garden.
You are not here but you are warm.
 
My hands are yours, palms up.
The bulbs, the bulbs are polyps too,
they have split open in the soil
 
and there are daffodils.
 

Iron Dragon

 
Mother at the ironing board, washing foams at her feet,
shirts to be steamed into submission.
She pulls one out, stretches its striped skin across the board,
licks her lips, tuts at talk-show drone.
 
A cat purrs against the glass outside, the window full of it,
beyond dark green leaves mantle my mother.
She shimmies the iron into hard to reach places.
In small gaps I think I see where sea turns into air.
 
The iron’s fat plastic body conceals its metal tongue,
pointed with holes, like buds for tasting.
It licks all the wrinkles out,
wraps its long, thin tail around us.
 
At his every-day ring she runs, the beast hot on his shirt.
I reach up; disturbed, the creature’s breath scalds.
At my scream she drops the phone,
her slap on my thigh, we both cry.
 
I touch the burn later; it’s flat, scaly,
like dragon skin.
 

The Corner House

 
Lemonade bottles tinkle in crates,
tiny glass babies kept in drawers;
skulled once by your small gullet
after a day on your uncle’s farm –
a packet of fig-rolls for lunch.
 
Now, push the cap off the bar.
Should anyone open the door,
light would land with a shock
on bouncy floors, splitting ceilings,
flight of the stairs towards sky.
 
Go back, first to the special orders
of bottled stout, golf on the TV,
Paddy Daly’s three ice-cubes in a Paddy;
your father sneaking pints of lemonade,
(before diabetes)
  the colour red.
 
Go back further, your cousin’s underage den,
fairy lights, cider, Blue Jean Country Queens.
Before that? The granny flat,
the curved bridge of her back,
white hair, a surrender to black.
 
To pig’s ears wilted over the pot
overhearing your father’s stories
of shoeless feet, neighbours eating swill,
fires out early, rosaries after dances;
his father making the church gates.
 
Drink up
  (the lemonade is flat and stale).
 
Sneak out
  (this place isn’t yours anymore).
 

Ballycotton Pier

 
Bright lemon day makes our eyes water,
Dad takes us to the pier to fish.
I don’t know where he found the rods &
without really showing us how, we cast off
into silty sea where humpback rocks congregate.
 
I don’t want to catch anything,
imagine something slimy will take the bait.
A tug; Dad shouts instructions, I reel in the line.
The fish’s mouth plucked above the surface
blows desperate kisses into air.
 
Tangled, the dogfish pants, smacks
the swell, swims around itself.
Dad says it’s not worth it, so we cut &
snap – the fish escapes back into black.
We watch it go, white-bellied, bitter & hooked.
 
At dinner, I squeeze a segment over fish
I will not eat, squint my eyes at splattering juice.
The hook in my heart judders, it is all at sea,
we will both carry it, piercing,
into ever deeper water.
 

A Decade

 
Our father is dead, I don’t know where he art,
but my uncle lies in a pale coffin, across the bay window.
We decide they’re both golfing in Heaven, having pints of Murphy’s stout.
My aunt, a Daughter of Charity, leads us in the Rosary;
our lips follow, words jumble out of order, watched children, falling.
Hail Mary (my middle name) ‘Holy Mary,’ my aunt says:
once the little girl who giggled during prayers, scolded, told the ground
would swallow her up. And it will, glory be to God, while my sister’s baby son,
named after my father, is here staring with new blue eyes,
learning how to say the Rosary, so he will be prepared.
 

Afterwards

 
‘At dances they twirled her, an upside-down umbrella,
the night greased-down-shiny, couples plastered
onto the side of pint glasses multiplying at the bar.
 
She stood next to a tall boy for the National Anthem.
He had the smell of petrol, a lift home so;
headlights of his car searched ditches for a kiss.
 
At the white gate, talk of the pictures,
sound of a door closing; gravel crackling underfoot.
She sat on this step under the window, looked out to sea.
 
Black water touched the sky’s soft velveteen.
She breathed in, then out; felt all at once
all at one with the air of everything.
 
Tears pearled her face, drops on a china cup.
She was of the fine make, bone-fine.
If you asked why she was weeping, she couldn’t say.’
 
I cry when my mother tries to explain her mother,
stars spin above us, frozen bodies miles off.
This is the last night we will sit on her step.
 
Through the open window, still hanging in the wardrobe,
her dresses listen, old pennies sleeping in their pockets,
their collars starched, skirts pressed and ready for dancing.
 
A Decade, Afterwards, Ballycotton Pier, The Corner House, Iron Dragon, and (I don’t know how to spell) Meningioma are © Victoria Kennefick


Victoria Kennefick’s chapbook, White Whale, won the Munster Literature Fool for Poetry Competition 2014. It was launched as part of the Cork Spring Poetry Festival 2015. A collection of her poems was shortlisted for the prestigious Melita Hume Poetry Prize 2014 judged by Forward Prize winner, Emily Berry. She has also been shortlisted for 2014 Over The Edge New Writer of the Year Award. In 2013 she won the Red Line Book Festival Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Bridport and Gregory O’Donoghue Prizes. She was selected to read as part of the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series 2013 and at the Cork Spring Poetry Festival Emerging Writers Reading in February 2014. Her work has been published in The Stinging Fly, Southword, Abridged,The Weary Blues, Malpais Review, The Irish Examiner and Wordlegs. She was a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship in 2007 and completed her PhD in Literature at University College Cork in 2009. Originally from Shanagarry, Co. Cork, she now lives and works in Kerry. A member of the Listowel Writers’ Week committee and co-coordinator of its New Writers’ Salon, she also chairs the recently established Kerry Women Writers’ Network . She is the recipient of both a Cill Rialaig /Listowel Writers’ Week Residency Award and a Bursary from Kerry County Council this year.
‘The Corner House’ and other poems by Victoria Kennefick