An article appeared today in the Los Angelus Tribune perhaps as a tribute to the Irish for St Patrick’s weekend, recommending five Irish poems.  While only a few lines of each poem are quoted, the article encouraged me to root out the poems in their entirety.

  1. Becoming Anne Bradstreet,” Eavan Boland

Irish poet and Stanford University professor Boland has won a prestigious Lannan Foundation Award in Poetry, and is one of her home country’s most recognized poets. In this poem, she describes reading the work of Anne Bradsteet, a 17th century English poet who lived in North America:

“At the source, at the end and whenever

The book lies open and I am again

An Irish poet watching an English woman

Become an American poet.”

Heaney, one of Ireland’s most loved poets, died in 2013; two years later, a poll conducted by Irish broadcaster RTÉ found this to be the country’s favorite poem.

Part of a sonnet cycle called “Clearances,” the poem is a reminiscence of a boy helping his mother in the kitchen:

“I remembered her head bent towards my head,

Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives—

Never closer the whole rest of our lives.”

The Northern Irish poet and playwright MacNeice grew up in Ireland and England, but the Irish capital city always held a special place in his heart. His poem “Dublin” is a nod to the city that “never was my town”:

“I was not born or bred

Nor schooled here and she will not

Have me alive or dead

But yet she holds my mind

With her seedy elegance,

With her gentle veils of rain…”

The Belfast-born, Dublin-educated Mahon is known for his structured, sometimes witty poems about life in Ireland. “Dawn at St. Patrick’s” deals with serious subject matter — the narrator is describing the week between Christmas and New Year’s in the mental hospital where he’s a patient:

“Light and sane

I shall walk down to the train,

into that world whose sanity we know,

like Swift to be a fiction and a show.

The clouds part, the rain ceases, the sun

casts now upon everyone

its ancient shadow.”

One of Ireland’s most enduring and beloved verses, Yeats’ poem was inspired by a small lake island in County Sligo that he visited as a child. The poem showcases Yeats’ desire for a simpler life, far from the cities where he spent much of his adulthood:

“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.”

Author: Breda Fay

I'm retired since end August 2016 and loving the new life! More time now for family and friends and to explore craft, history, travel and certainly more of a chance for, me-time. To paraphrase Seuss: I've no tears that (teaching) is over; but many smiles that it happened!

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