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.
 

“Self Portrait as She Wolf” and other poems by Breda Wall Ryan

Self Portrait as She Wolf

 
You sheer away from the warm,
many-tailed beast,
spurn the communal dream.
 
Beyond the shelter of pine and fir
you lope across open ground
where cold scalds your lungs,
 
feel a soft-nosed bullet’s kiss,
lick the salt wound clean,
almost drown in a starry bog,
 
but break through its dark mirror,
meet your reflection
in a boutique window on a city street
 
among mannequins in ersatz furs,
the last of your kind,
or the first.
 
Only look back once,
for a silhouette, a hungry scent.
There is still time to re-trace your spoor,
 
answer the tribal howl. Your throat opens
on one long, swooped syllable,
almost a word.
 

The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife

 
(Katsushika Hokusai. The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, woodcut c.1820.)
 
In the dark my fisherman shapes
me, his girl-diver, to his wants,
tastes his dream-geisha,
inked teeth in her reddened moue,
face nightingale-shit bright,
 
hair a lacquered bowl, camellia-oiled.
I slip from his shingle-hard grip,
sink in the dark undersea with octopi.
I dream Hokusai dreaming me,
a frisson as his paper-thin blade pares
 
deep into woodblock, each of us
picturing jet hair undone,
strands fish-oil glazed root to tip,
a reef-knotted waist-long cascade.
Two days have passed since I bathed;
 
my breasts are sweat-pearled,
ripe with aromas of fruit de mer,
My tentacled one unfurls, his touch
exquisite as the brush of electric eels,
his glossy fingerings on my nape
 
supple as young pine shoots.
The artist’s chisel probes
again and again, sliver by fine sliver
till at last I am dreamed
heartwood, printed in India ink.
 
He hand-tints my skin
while I dream his mouth-filling tongue,
my dream of a thousand years
in colours fleet as this floating world
no fisherman comes near.
 

Woman of the Atlantic Seaboard

 
You might meet her anywhere on the coast:
at Moher she is Rosmari, she walks the high cliffs
away from the busses and tour guides,
her face turned towards the west, sea in her hair;
or at Renvyle where a white carved stone
remembers the unbaptised, as Maighdean Mara,
she keeps vigil where the sea stole
their bones from the shore.
 
Call her Atlantia, she who waits in the lee
of the sea wall at Vigo for the boats to come in.
She looks deep into fishermen’s eyes,
as if eyes can give back what they’ve seen,
a waterlogged husband, brother’s shin bone,
a son’s lobster-trap ribcage to carry home
in a pocket of her yellow oilskin.
Enough for a burial.
 
She is Marinella on Cabo Espichel, Morwenna
in. Among wild women who comb
blueberry barrens in she is Maris,
her fingers long as the sea’s ninth wave,
stained from plucking sharp fruit in sea fog.
Find her on shore where ponies
ride out the surf. Take her home,
give her the stranger’s place at the hearth:
 
she won’t stay. Inland, she adds salt to her bath,
boils potatoes in seawater down to a salt crust.
Feed her dilisk and Carrigeen moss; she can’t help
but return to the waves, to kelp and ozone.
She is Muirghein, born of the sea, the sea
salts her blood. Or call her Thalassa, mother
of Kelpies, Selkies, fin-flippered sea-mammals,
neoprene-skinned fish-hunters, creatures of the tide.
 
All lost to her. the seafarer’s daughter,
sister, mother, wife; on a widow’s walk in ,
scanning the horizon for a floater or a boat.
Meet her on the brink of the ocean, alone, winter
seas in her eyes. Call her by any of her names:
she will turn from you, to the blue nor’wester,
shake brined beads from her hair. She will wait
for her drownlings forever, standing in the salt rain.
 
(from Céide Fields)
 

The Inkling

To the last Neolithic farm woman of Céide Fields
 
That first time it breathed a sigh on your neck,
why did you brush it aside?
You should have taken it into your head.
 
There was still time to build it a shrine,
offer crowberry prayers and top-of-the-milk.
White breath hung over the cattle-pens.
 
You carried on felling and burning,
spread baskets of kelp and sand on the land.
The inkling shivered your spine.
 
Did it come from the ocean?
It lurked in the mizzle, blackened the haws,
wormed down to your worrybone.
 
Years have gone by. The cradles lie empty.
Summer is wetter than winter. Rain
drenches the land. It quenches the sky.
 
Your sleán breaks the earth’s skin,
you drive the blade deep with your foot.
Bogwater wells from the wound.
 
Grass lies down in the fields and drowns,
cattle bawl their hunger pains.
There is only one child in the house.
 
You can’t shake the inkling,
it niggles, raises the back of your hair,
sly and fat as a tick.
 
Barley decays in the ground.
The cow is near dry. You must choose
between calf and child.
 
It is out of your hands.
 

The Snow Woman

 
She was a blow-in then,
the snow a wordless paper sheet,
her footprints the first blunt penstrokes
with everything still to write:
spring planting, barley sheaves,
a bitter crop of stones and chaneys
at the turn of the year.
Windblown crows dropped in
through holes punched in the sky,
gossiped year after year.
She wrote children,
they built the scarecrow in the field.
 
Now she’s a native,
the graveyard peopled with some of her own:
a greyed husband planted these two years,
a girl half-grown,
the rest of her children flown
a thousand miles as the crow
flies from the snow-blind fields,
silent hills shoulder her close,
crows call her name from tall trees.
She has carried the scarecrow into the house.
 

Self Portrait as a She Wolf‘ and other poems published here are © 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.