Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An Irish poem for the day

In honor of St. Patrick's day, here is a selection from a fantastic collection I have called 1000 Years of Irish Poetry: The Gaelic and Anglo-Irish Poets from Pagan Times to the Present.  

This one is by a poet named Valentin Iremonger (1918-1991).  His poetry has a decidedly different feel from the ballad-type poems so often associated with Irish poetry.   His profession was official that of a diplomat, though his life as a poet was significant.  One source I found credited him (along with Samuel Beckett) with introducing modernism to Irish poetry.  I am so taken with this poem, and with several others of his in this anthology, that I am going to be on the search for his collection, Horan's Field, and Other Reservations, which is out of print.  

Here is his poem, "Spring Stops Me Suddenly," a poem full of sound, light, and layers.  I was so taken with the melancholy playing behind it, like a lilting Irish voice over the mournful pipes.    

Spring Stops Me Suddenly

Spring stops me suddenly like ground
Glass under a door, squeaking and gibbering,
I put my hand to my cheek and the tips 
Of my fingers feel blood pulsing and quivering.

A bud on a branch brushes the back
Of my hand and I look, without moving, down.
Summer is there, screwed and fused, compressed,
Neat as a bomb, its casing a dull brown.

From the window of a farther tree I hear
A chirp and a twitter; I blink.
A tow-headed vamp of a finch on a branch
Cocks a roving eye, tips me the wink

And, instantly, the whole great hot-lipped ensemble
Of buds and birds, of clay and glass doors,
Reels in with its ragtime chorus, staggering
The theme of the time, a jam-session's rattle and roar

With drums of summer jittering in the background
Dully, and deeper down and more human, the sobbing
Oboes of autumn falling across the track of the tune, 
Winter's furtive bassoon like a sea-lion snorting and bobbing.

There is something here I do not get,
Some menace that I do not comprehend,
Yet, so intoxicating is the song,
I cannot follow its thought right to the end.

So up the garden path I go with Spring
Promising sacks and robes to rig my years
And a young girl to gladden my heart in a tartan
Scarf and freedom from my facile fears.

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Hilary said...

Hi Kirie. I had to read this one a few times to catch the nuances of the seasons as he played them out in different ways. Winter as a bassoon struck me. Made me think how other instruments strike a season. Flutes and zithers and dulcimers and mandolins say summer to me, as they're the sound of the Renaissance Faire, of which we partake every summer :-). Clarinets and oboes say rain to me. Interestingly, the rich and warm sounds of brass instruments say autumn. Maybe cuz I love those sounds together, and fall is my favorite season? Dunno. But this poem made me think :-)

The Seeker said...

Such a strong poem, darling.

Have a great day


La Belette Rouge said...

You add so much richness to this and so many days by creating the time and space by giving us a poem that allows one to stop and reflect on the power of words. Lovely. I can feel the halting of Spring in the poem and in myself. Happy St.Patricks day to you!

Irene Latham said...

Oh you had me at "ground glass under the door."
Thanks for this!

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