Baby Steps

25th April 2018

Here are four of Ireland’s most celebrated writers with some of their very first poems. Can you guess who wrote what? If you’re having trouble, here are some clues to help you along the way: one of these poets won a Pulitzer, two belong to Aosdána, and one is now deceased. Still stumped? Answers are at the bottom. 

Poem 1

We have a new calf.
he is new.

We like the calf.
The calf is dead.

1 new calf dead.

Age 5


Poem 2

Leaving Station Island, Lough Derg

No moon exerts its pull.
The water level barely fluctuates.
Their hemlines rise;
I find myself at sea.

Age 16

Poem 3

His quaint-perched aerie on the crags of Time
Where the rude din of this century
Can trouble him no more.

Age 9


Poem 4

Journeys to My Sister’s Kitchen

Between the house and the river
I grow afraid.
Of the lie the old give to the young,
Of the crumbling stone,
Of strangers passing
Whose names I will never know.

A child cries from a balcony,
A cat lands.
My shadow vanishes in the dark.

Daily you do the necessary;
You give tend to things that hold
The necessary for living.

Daily, you watch the sky.
Seek sense from the rain.
You take things out of drawers
And you put them away again.

In your scullery
You wash and you rinse
Crockery, cutlery.

You stack them, you dry them.
The doors and the floors
Are scrubbed, waxed and polished —
Hearth business.

Occasionally you sit still on the kitchen chair,
An ocean between us —
You stare into the room.

Oh sister, I am afraid of my face in the mirror
Lest it stay when I have gone,
Of my small body moving through dark streets,
Through narrow alleyways,
With empty warehouses so big above me.

Oh sister, I am afraid of your silence.
It is a cry I heard once and then nothing:

Just any small dead thing
In the arms of its mother.

Age 16




Poem 1: Vona Groarke

Poem 2: Paul Muldoon

Poem 3: James Joyce

Poem 4: Paula Meehan