Poet Laureate: Vincent Woods

Vincent Woods is the Poet Laureate for Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim. He has strong and evocative memories from times gone by in the town.

“I saw my first films in the old Gaiety Cinema in Carrick-on-Shannon, Leitrim’s capital town, part of which stretches into - or out of – Roscommon,” he says. “The market yard was a ruin then, as was the old courthouse that is now the Dock Arts Centre.

“I remember weddings in the County Hotel and the Bush, great nights dancing and carousing at carnivals and the regatta, Calypso hitting sweet notes in the music pubs – and early poems printed in The Leitrim Observer. Now the challenge to make a poem: I’ll delve at it.”

Vincent’s bio

Vincent Woods is a writer and broadcaster whose plays include At the Black Pig’s Dyke and A Cry from Heaven; and several plays for radio. Poetry collections are The Colour of Language and Lives and Miracles. He co-edited The Turning Wave: Poems and Songs of Irish Australia, and Fermata: Writings Inspired by Music (with Eva Bourke).

Other publications are Leaves of Hungry Grass: Poetry and Ireland’s Great Hunger and Borderlines (with Henry Glassie). With Edwina Guckian, he co-directed and produced the film Bealach an Fhéir Ghortaigh/Hunger’s Way for Strokestown International Poetry Festival. He has been Writer in Residence at NUI Galway where he taught drama and creative writing.

He has scripted and presented many arts programmes and documentaries on RTÉ Radio 1 and is a regular contributor to Sunday Miscellany. Vincent directs the Iron Mountain Literature Festival in Leitrim and is a member of Aosdána.

Vincent presented Carrick-on-Shannon’s Town Poem at a special event on 17 September. You can find the full text of his poem below.

Colouring the Darkness of Truth

Between a marsh and the hard lines of history
A town breeches its shadows and builds again.
Out of the ceaseless flow of darkblack river,
The past spews up its ghosts and worlds float in:

O’Carolan, Cornwallis, Catherine Foley, Captain Wynne,
French soldiers ferried out to freedom,
The local rebels hanged - a bitter gallows lottery 
That makes clear the granite grip of power,
And clear again the families evicted from their homes at Usna,
The men who walk the treadmill hour on hour,
The ranks of starving women who break down the workhouse gate:
More than a thousand steps between the courthouse and their fate.

This town was always weighted, rich and poor,
A bench of rushes by a Georgian door;
Stand at midnight on the cold stone bridge
A stench of rot still hovers from a Hillstreet ridge.   

No wonder ‘Boycott Woodbrook’ chalked at the edge of town
Or cheers raised up when the barracks is pulled down;
The Telford organ cannot drown the din
Of voices calling out to be let in.  

Recall the pitmen marching from Arigna to these streets
In search of better pay and small respect
Hardship and beauty frame the edges here:
From the famine graveyard Sliabh an Iarainn’s clear.

Today a white stretch limo idles past,
With Eve and Adam bright, champagne aloft
Bless every stumbling lover in their bliss: 
The tiny chapel’s an eternal kiss.

Carrick, town of water, anchored to the sky,
A lock of music opens -                                and the heart lets fly