Wednesday, April 20, 2016

My new poetry website

I have begun to add my published poems to a website  of their own at

Only 15 up at the moment but another 35 or so on the way. My aim is only to put up poems that have been published by someone else so this will incentivise me to get on with sending my stuff out!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The hairdresser pauses

The hairdresser stands behind me,
her hands flowing over my hair.
We could be under water
in a glass tank, an exhibition
of absorption or of peace,
like the breathing of an accordion
before the first note is played.
On the worktop creams, scissors,
the steriliser hums  to itself.
The hairdresser pauses, comb poised.
What are you thinking? I inquire.
She stands in stillness for a time,
then: At the moment I am thinking
of going out for a cigarette
when I am done with yourself.
She makes a last pass with the scissors
and I picture smoke wandering
from her lips up to heaven.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The uselessness of poetry

Here is a bridge across a river. Here is a poem on a sheet of paper. Which is useful and which is useless?

Actually, neither is inherently useful or useless. The bridge is useful to me if I want to cross it. The poem is useful to me if I want the experience of reading it.

I have arrived at this conclusion because I have been thinking about the uselessness of poetry. I am among the millions who write poetry and my poems are among the hundreds of millions that will never be read by anybody other than the author and perhaps one or two other people.

This is the case even if poems have been published in a book or in literary journals, as mine have. Some of my poems were broadcast on the radio, too, so I suppose for half a minute or so they had a wider audience. I suppose that a few  listeners must have found the experience rewarding.

I am not sure that this provides a sufficient reason for writing poetry, any more than one could make a strong case for building a bridge that is crossed, perhaps, by one person every two years.

Still, if the bridge builder derives satisfaction from the work itself and if whoever crosses the bridge on rare occasions derives satisfaction from that, I suppose the isolated bridge has a usefulness to builder and user. 

For the writer of poetry it is the experience of writing and crafting that has to be enough. If that is not enough, then give it up. That's my conclusion so far anyway. More on this at a later time, maybe

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Slipping In - Poem on Audioboo

To hear my poem Slipping In (published in Poetry Ireland Review No. 101) on Audioboo, click here. Text:

Slipping in

Dayroom. I watch them meet again in the middle.
'I don't like small apples,' he says. 'I likes them big and round.'
'Daddy is waiting at the boathouse,' she says. 'We must go down.'

A woman I used to know squints at me from her chair.
She blinks with her usual just-discovered concern.
'Have you been looked after?' she asks again.

In the photo I hold up in front of her face
she raises a glass of champagne and laughs.
Hoping for a different answer, 'Is that you?' I ask.

'It must be,' she says. 'Have you been looked after?'
'I don't like small apples. I likes them big and round.''
'Daddy is at the boathouse. We really must go down.'

I'd like to go down to the boathouse,
float by water past ancient beech, a girl
sipping champagne and laughing on my knee.

Daddy stops rowing and turns to us
'I'm glad you two finally came down.'
He grins: 'Try the apples. They're rotten but they're big and round.'

It is getting dark in the house of repetitions.
'Have you been looked after?' she asks with a sudden frown.
Visiting time is over. Too late to get out now.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Poets I go back to

Naas public library in the Town Hall, Naas

The poem that shocked me into an appreciation of the power of poetry is lost to me. I encountered it when I was in my teens and had edged surreptitiously across an invisible line into the grown-up section of our public library in Naas in County Kildare. 

This was a serious frontier to cross: you could borrow most books if you were over 18 but some had dark red labels and you had to be over 21 to borrow those - and I was under 18. 

Extract from my article in the "Poets I go back to" series in The North, No.47. Read the full article here ...
Poets in medicine
New Zealand poet and doctor Glenn Colquhoun.

Examination of the mental condition of a person who seems to have dementia might seem like an unpromising subject, but I think there's something beautiful in Glenn Colquhoun's poem A mini mental status examination. Here's the first verse:

She told me that it was summer and that we were in the south of France.
The night before we had heard a man sing beautifully on the street 
Her father was important and young men had always sought her.
I was no exception.
She complained of the heat. 

Extract from my article on Poets in Medicine, originally published in the Irish Medical News, 2009. Read the full article here....