Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The Penguin Book of Irish Poetry
Across the sea will come Adze-head,
crazed in the head,
his cloak with hole for the head,
his stick bent in the head...
Here’s a song –
stags give tongue
High cold blow
sun is low
brief his day
seas give spray...
Had the multitudinous leaves been gold
the autumn forests let fall,
and the waves been silver coins –
still Fionn would have given them all.
Stop, stop and listen for the bough top
Is whistling and the sun is brighter
Than God’s own shadow in the cup now!
Forget the hour-bell. Mournful matins
Will sounds, Patrick, as well at nightfall...
Monk, back off. Move
away from Niall’s grave.
You heap earth on his head;
I shared his bed.
Long time you’ve piled clods,
monk, on the royal corpse.
Too long already Niall’s lain still,
the pit unfilled...
Two quick observations from dipping into Patrick Crotty’s new Penguin Book of Irish Poetry. First, by far the greatest Irish poet remains ‘Anonymous’. And second, the single most important thing about the Irish tradition, let me suggest, and which the practicalities of book-binding alone didn’t stretch to including in this book beyond a few phrases here and there, remains the Irish language, a language in which less than, what, one per cent of contemporary Irish poetry is now conducted. What timely reminders, though, to set beside the PR bollocks of Dublin being designated a UNESCO city of literature or whatever it is the press release today says.
I would hope to have more to say on this book soon.