Poet Laureate: Orla Fay

Orla Fay is the Poet Laureate for Dunshaughlin, Co Meath. A poet and editor, Orla is from Meath and lives in a village close to nearby Navan.

“I am delighted, and honoured, to take on the Poet Laureate role for Dunshaughlin in this 2021 Poetry Town Project,” she says. “I look forward to composing a poem that will embody the intrinsic nature of the town and its hinterland of Tara, Bective, Navan, Trim, Fairyhouse and Ratoath.

“The plains of Meath are full of history, myth and legend, the rivers brim with wisdom and knowledge. From this geography, I will draw words. I look forward to working with Poetry Ireland, Meath County Council Arts Office, and the many folk I will meet on the journey.”

Orla’s bio

Orla Fay is the editor of Drawn to the Light Press and the former editor of Boyne Berries. Her work has appeared in The Irish Times, Poetry Ireland Review, Crannóg, Abridged, The Honest Ulsterman, Cyphers, The SHOp, The Lake and is forthcoming in Southword.

Her poem ‘What Became of the Horses’ was included in The Ireland Chair of Poetry Commemorative Anthology. She was previously selected for Henessy New Irish Writing, and her poetry was shortlisted for The Red Line Book Festival Poetry Competition, The Dermot Healy Poetry Prize, The Goldsmith Poetry Award and The Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Award.

For an MA in Digital Arts and Humanities at UCC, she wrote a dissertation on Poetry in the Digital Age. Recently she was awarded a professional artists development bursary from Meath County Council Arts Office and Creative Ireland. She blogs at http://orlafay.blogspot.com/ and is on Twitter @FayOrla

Orla presented Dunshaughlin’s Town Poem at a special event on 17 September 2021. You can find the full text of the poem below.

Dunshaughlin, Now and Again

On Main Street, wide and welcoming, we walk,
engaged in daily routine, the buying of groceries,
a coffee-shop-stop, a commute to work on the 109,
M3 connecting once sleeping satellite to Dublin’s star.

These are the fine school days of Indian Summer
of the child’s treasure-trove leaves and blackberries,
of the teenager returned to uniform, a gangly swan
barely plumed learning to fly above shedding earth.

Queen Maeve of Tara arrives at harvest,
her skirt a moon-gown, from Kilmessan to Ratoath wide,
bodice cut of Slane, Navan and Trim,
a seasoned silk, a matrimony of now and then.

Peggy Murphy writes here of Derrickstown Hill,
while Tom Englishby crosses the Irish Sea in ballad,
the passage a lamentation for his Dunshaughlin,
a rowing back of black waters, a honeyed vision.

The bell of Patrick and Seachnall rings the Angelus,
day ending with clanging heard on the breeze
by Kings of Lagore tending crannóg stone, and wood
of home, Domhnach Seachlainn, a settled and holy place.

Foley’s Forge relays this din of heartbeats, anvil struck,
shoed horse clip-clopping from faded farms to mart,
and colourful years, green and gold banners,
Sam Maguire a boat on the crest of a wave.

Time ebbs and flows, ripples veined in villages and lore,
exhumed in the shadow of the famine land,
footstones raised like shields across the Boyne Valley
past Norman castles, Celtic Tiger, lingering pandemic.