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Preview: Poems by Padraig O'Morain

Padraig O'Morain's Poetry Blog



My collection The Blue Guitar is published by Salmon Poetry.



Updated: 2017-07-29T10:02:56.177+01:00

 



My new poetry website

2016-04-20T11:50:10.251+01:00

I have begun to add my published poems to a website  of their own at www.theblueguitar.net

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!



The hairdresser pauses

2016-03-24T13:24:51.582+00:00

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.


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My first magnetic poem

2013-07-31T16:11:16.168+01:00





The uselessness of poetry

2013-06-29T10:38:37.198+01:00

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



Slipping In - Poem on Audioboo

2013-01-16T07:38:40.131+00:00

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.



Poets I go back to

2012-02-04T14:51:43.022+00:00

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 ...



0 Comments

2012-02-04T14:23:34.523+00:00

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....



Poets in the parlour or on the barricades?

2011-08-14T11:53:29.716+01:00




Reading Carol Ann Duffy's poem on the murder of three men in riots in England, I began to wonder about politics and poetry and especially about the political or polemical poem. Yes, we write about our lives, our memories, the contents of our subconscious and so on and it could be argued that to do so with an absolute respect for the meaning of words is a political act in itself in a world in which meanings are routinely twisted to conceal the truth. On the other hand, we are in danger of becoming parlour poets - maybe this has already happened - with little relevance to anything or anybody outside our precious selves. Carol Ann Duffy uses imagery, alliteration, rhyme and near-rhyme in her poem and I think this matters. In an article on Poetry International Web in 2002, Ko Kooman wrote of political poetry that "that which makes it poetry is always some intrinsic poetic quality which has no relation to any purpose or goal."

I am not advocating here that we give up writing our personal poetry in favour of political poetry. I am not advocating anything at all. I would suggest though that the political or polemical poem deserves a place in the repertoire. Might current references shorten the shelf life of a poem? In my opinion, no - because poetry doesn't actually have a shelf life. For 99.9 per cent of us, the people who hear or read our poems during our own lifetimes are the only ones who are ever going to hear or read our poems - and that still applies whether we are published in books or win prestigious prizes. So poetry is for today, not tomorrow.

I have only written one deliberately political/polemical poem, about trafficking of young girls in the sex industry but I mean to write more and the composition of a polemical poem will be one of the options for participants in my Write One Poem workshop in October.

You can read Traffik by clicking here. It's the final poem on the page.



Ted Kooser's tips for poets

2011-08-07T20:45:34.901+01:00


If you write poetry, Ted Kooser's book The Poetry Home Repair Manual is a delight. Kooser (pictured above) is a former US Poet Laureate who edits the syndicated column American Life in Poetry. His column usually features poets who are alive and kicking - unlike those written by his Irish counterparts (insofar as they also have newspaper columns on poetry) Ulick O'Connor and Anthony Cronin who favour long-dead poets and often long-dead poetry and who thereby do incalculable harm to public perceptions of poetry in my opinion.
OK, rant over. Where was I? Oh, yes, The Poetry Home Repair Manual. I'll be recommending to participants in my Write One Poem Workshop that they treat themselves to reading it at some stage.To see why, check out these points from the book (the points are mostly my paraphrases):
 - "...express strong feelings without expressly stating those feelings...letting the behaviour of the participants show us how they feel."
 - Test opening lines as if approaching a stranger on the street at a crossing: would they frighten her away or would they draw her in?

 - You almost always hurt a poem if you choose its structure before you concentrate on giving shape to an experience or emotion.

 - ...you can think of writing your poem as a means of persuasion because a poem can be looked at as something to bring about an action. That action need not be more than a momentary change of mood, or a realisation.

 - Try shifting parts of the poem around. Try swapping the end and the beginning.

 - Put the exposition information into the title and not into the poem itself.

 - Try writing out your poem as prose to spot simple errors.

 - Consider using names, brand names, people, plants.

 - There is little need to tell the reader of the speaker is happy or sad if you have carefully described the associations the character is drawing through senses.

 - You can begin a poem with a comparison and then expand on that comparison tomake a whole poem.

 - Consider using natural units of conversational speech.

(Kooser, Ted, The Poetry Home Repair Manual, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 2007).






The cinquain - made in New York

2011-08-07T18:44:33.077+01:00



How would you do if I asked you to define a cinquain without looking it up? Me neither.

I've heard of it of course but I just didn't know what it was. It's all explained in Philip Hobsbaum's book Metre, Rhythm and Verse Form.

The cinquain is a descendant of the quintain, a form from the Middle Ages, comprised of a five-line stanza.

The variation by Adelaide Crapsey (above), born in 1878 in Brooklyn Heights, New York, became known as a cinquain and is very much identified with her to this day. It's still a five line poem but  based on syllable count as follows:

2 syllables with one stress
4 syllables with two stresses
6 syllables with three stresses
8 syllables with four stresses
2 syllables with one stress

Here's her cinquain November Night:

Listen…
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.

And another, Triad:

These be
Three silent things:
The falling snow…the hour
Before the dawn…the mouth of one
Just dead.

Crikey - especially when you consider that she wrote much of her poetry in a race against death, following a diagnosis of tuberculin meningitis.

I was tempted to try out this form on people doing my Write One Poem web/workshop course in October. Then I tried to write a couple of cinquains myself and found it impossible to write anything satisfying in the form - a reflection on me and not on the cinquain, I guess. So I won't be imposing it on my workshop participants.

For more on cinquains and Adelaide Crapsey, go to cinquain.org and The Cinquain Page.



Yesterday's Pinstripe Suit

2011-07-23T12:48:17.113+01:00




Who'd once happily have driven
an oil and gas pipeline through
his own granny's front room; or 
plopped a twenty storey car park
on the last sliver of green this side 
of the Mad Cow Roundabout.

So begins Kevin Higgins' poem Yesterday's Pinstripe Suit in his latest collection Frightening new furniture, pubished by Salmon Poetry. Unlike most poets, Higgins deals with the recognisable events of today and he does so with humour as well as insight. Another example, from his poem The Financial Times:

This year for their birthday, everybody gets
the blame. We find our trousers
repossessed and down around
somebody else's ankles.

Poetry can be about today's headlines - I'll be advising participants in my Write One Poem worshop to read Higgins' "pinstripe suit" poem and you can read it here on the Salmon website (scroll down the link page).



A social class in a poem - with humour

2011-07-18T08:42:02.504+01:00



Choosing poems for people on my Write One Poem workshop to read, I particularly liked This was no Ithaca from Rita Ann Higgins' book Hurting God - Part Essay Part Rhyme (scroll down the link page on Salmon Poetry to read the poem). In a poem laced with humour, compassion and anger, she encapsulates a social world, a point in history, issues of class, depression and gender. All this in a poem so easy to read you could almost say it reads itself.



Poems - for today, not tomorrow

2011-07-09T19:13:56.848+01:00


Sara Teasdale

I was struck by the temporary nature of poems when I was leafing through the "Best poems of 1927" in the Oxfam Bookshop in Dublin today. Of course, some recognisable names were there - Sara Teasdale, for instance - but many others are no longer read or heard of. We sometimes like to think of poems as timeless - but no, only a handful, maybe only a fingerful, will survive. 

Like the black butterfly that goes extinct when the coal mines close down (and there is no more coal dust on trees and shrubs for camoflauge) poems are vulnerable to changes in taste, thought and culture. The lesson? If you're a poet, seek publication, do readings, put your good stuff on the internet. In other words, get in front of today's audience because for the overwhelming majority of us, that's the only audience there is ever going to be.

So, today I did a reading for Seven Towers, along with two other Salmon Poetry writers, Seamus Cashman and Patrick Chapman. I didn't buy the 1927 book but I did buy books by three poets who are still alive - Seamus Cashman (That morning will come), Anatoly Kudryavitsky (Capering moons) and Alma Brayden (Prism).



The cool and dry alternative to Oxegen

2011-07-08T09:40:54.514+01:00



Not going to Oxegen this weekend? Then come along to an even cooler event, a reading by three Salmon Poetry wrtiers (Seamus Cashman, Patrick Chapman and mygoodself) downstairs in the Twisted Pepper in Middle Abbey Street, Dublin on Saturday 9th July at 3pm. We also guarantee no rain inside the venue, so no need to bring your flowery wellies. It's organised by Seven Towers.  Click here for the events page.



Meg Peacocke - words written in stone

2011-06-26T11:05:22.762+01:00



Poet Meg Peacocke - whom I had the pleasure of meeting this week - has literally had her words written in stone. She was chosen to write twelve poems to be cut into stone for the Poetry Path at Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria. She told me that one of the most unusual aspects of the work was proof-reading the stones - which you do by reading the words backwards, letter by letter.

She was my tutor for a one year poetry course I did at the Open College of the Arts and I was delighted to meet her at her home in Barnard Castle in County Durham. She is in her early eighties and still writing - her next collection will be out later this year.



Arena on The Blue Guitar

2011-06-17T08:57:27.764+01:00



My interview with Sean Rocks (above) on the RTÉ Radio One programme Arena about The Blue Guitar, with a reading of three poems, can be heard by clicking here and scrolling down the programme page. I recorded three other poems which will be used as fillers between items.



The writer who just didn't write

2011-06-12T14:27:47.029+01:00



"I always thought of myself as a writer who just didn't write." So said Judith Hart and many of us can identify with that. Ms Hart, who died recently, became a successful novelist when she got going but also did a great deal to promote poetry through her poetry evenings at the British Library. Some of readings were published  in the enjoyable CD "Catching life by the throat."

She was a Mullingar girl who worked in the ESB showrooms in the town and acted in a local drama group before setting sail for London.

The Guardian obituary is here.

The picture above is also from The Guardian.



Will Bahraini authorities kill Ayat al-Gormezi for reading a poem?

2011-06-09T09:24:00.961+01:00



Twenty year old poet and student Ayat al-Gormezi was forced to turn herself in to the police after they threatened the lives of family members. Her crime: reading a poem at a pro-democracy rally. She is to face a military tribunal according to this story in the Independent.



Francis Ledwidge on poetry, war and his childhood

2011-06-07T11:55:58.450+01:00



"..... my best is not yet written. I mean to do something really great if I am spared, but out here one may at any moment be hurled beyond Life."

So wrote Francis Ledwidge in an extraordinary letter from the trenches written a month before his death in World War One.

In the letter he talks of why he, an Irish nationalist, joined the British Army: "I joined the British Army because she stood between Ireland and an enemy common to our civilization, and I would not have her say that she defended us while we did nothing at home but pass resolutions."

He writes beautifully about his early shyness: "I have always been very quiet and bashful and a great mystery in my own place. I avoided the evening play of neighbouring children to find some secret place in a wood by the Boyne and there imagine fairy dances and hunts, fires and feasts. I saw curious shapes in shadows and clouds and loved to watch the change of the leaves and the flowers, I heard voices in the rain and the wind and strange whisperings in the waters."

And he tells us something of how he writes: "Of myself. I am a fast writer and very prolific. I have long silences, often for weeks, then the mood comes over me, and I must write and write no matter where I be or what the circumstances are. I do my best work in Spring. I have had many disappointments in life and many sorrows, but in my saddest moment song came to me and 1 sang. I get more pleasure from a good line than from a big cheque."

The letter was included in Legends of the Boyne and Selected Prose of Francis Ledwidge- edited by Liam O Meara and is reproduced on the dublin.ie forum. To read it, click this link and stroll down the page, past the picture of Ledwidge.




How a poem happens: a blog for readers and writers

2011-06-04T17:08:38.729+01:00

Brian Brodeur's blog How a Poem Happens is a great read for anybody into contemporary poetry. In each posting Brodeur publishes a poem followed by the author's responses to questions about the process that brought the finished poem to the page. I especially liked this example: Camille Dungy's poem Requiem.



How it begins

2015-11-11T14:49:54.325+00:00

                                      Her breath is rank with booze,
                                      she fumbles a carnation
                                      into his hand, murmurs
                                      I've always fancied you.
                                      A flurry of too-sweet scent
                                      catches in his throat;
                                      she whirls and titters
                                      at someone else's joke.

Published, 2000, in Snakeskin, September issue



Twoems posted on Twitter March 2011

2011-05-22T13:25:35.377+01:00

Near dark, white flowers like lilies glow behind blue railings,
the field too long ungrazed, unwalked.

A quietness then
hands let go, a sigh, a click
radio streams in.

Patrolling his fields
my father counts his cattle
and gathers up rhymes.

Pale face. Deep red lips.
Black balloon skirt. Umbrella.
I stare through the rain.

If we had met then
it would never have lasted.
Timing is all, see.

In a black-walled room
listening to poets reading
I order more drink.

Cannes, diamonds, champagne
eternal youth, sweet breath, kiss.
Hey! Hands off, buster.

My kettle boiling
sounds like wind from a tunnel,
a train screeching in.

The trees hold up their arms in exultation
to the drenching rain.



Dog Latin

2011-03-17T11:35:47.580+00:00

Canis lupus familiaris. That’s dogin Latin, he’d brag. Too bloody familiar,she always threw back, resenting his mongrelswho mocked her in their dog thoughts, she suspected,trailing her as she stomped around finding fault.They see you as head bitch my darling, he sneered.Well, someone appreciates me, she’d mutter,softening for a moment. Then at it again:When we married I married your bloody dogs.The barking stopped for weeks after a black fogstole her spirit, puzzled them into silence.I have never got anything I wantedin my life, she cried then. He sniggered. They sighed.After a month she lifted up her head, smiled:Well, it should be canis lupus vulgaris.Tails began to wag. Tongues lolled. Dog breath wafted.(Published 2011 in Dogs Singing, Salmon Poetry)[...]



Ronelda Kamfer - a necessary voice from South Africa

2011-06-12T14:09:00.996+01:00

I discovered Ronelda Kamfer's work on the always excellent Poetry International Web. From the age of 10 she lived in Camp Flats, a place in which getting to school involved getting past three gangs. Camp Flats at one time had 150 gangs and perhaps still has. She saw a schoolmate shot dead in crossfire outside her school.

It's unusual to find a poetic voice coming from a background like this and I really like her poetry and recommend it to you. She writes in Afrikaans and there is just a handful of her poems available in English.

She developed her poetic style by compressing sentences into a few words to stop her little sister from reading her private stuff, according to this interview with Fred De Vries (link no longer available). I've never heard of that method before - but it worked.



Reading in the Troubadour, London next Monday 17th November

2008-11-11T21:12:59.209+00:00

I'll be reading at The Troubadour Café at 263-7 Old Brompton Road, Earls Court, London, at the launch of the latest issue of Magma Poetry in which I have a poem called Me and my shadow. The big draw isn't me but poets Blake Morrison and Vicki Feaver. The Troubadour readings fill up pretty quickly so early arrival is advisable. Cost of admission is £6 (concession £5). Judging by the last time I was there, you can expect a good buzz and a memorable night. You might even meet the partner of your dreams.