Poetry Ireland Review Issue 119 Editorial

Issue 119

Poetry Ireland Review Issue 119 :

Edited by Vona Groarke

Poetry Ireland Review Issue 119 includes new poems by 48 poets including Frank Ormsby, John Kinsella, Rachel Coventry, Aifric Mac Aodha, Gerald Dawe, Alice Miller and Claire Potter. Also included are translations by Richard Begbie and Kirsten Lodge, an essay on Bishop, Lowell, Heaney and Grennan by David McLoghlin, and reviews of Paul Muldoon, Paul Durcan, Sarah Clancy, Medbh McGuckian, Kate Tempest, George the Poet, and many more. The issue also features photography by Hugh O'Conor, Dominic Turner, Sheila McSweeney, Fergus Bourke and John Minihan.   


‘Come we to the summer, to the summer we will come’, John Clare declared in ‘To Summer’. (That the poem swivels full-turn into its con- cluding lines: ‘I hunger at my meat and I daily fade away / Like the hedge rose that is broken in the heat of the day’ need not worry us overmuch: we already know there is a price to pay for these few heady months, and we pay it, bulked up with additional interest, for a long seven months and maybe eight. But right now, we have no care for money: we have enough for 99s tucked into our shoes, and tonight, we will catch mackerel off the rocks and fry them up in the last of daylight, and we won’t need dosh for that.) Though we may well be nudging towards its outside edge, (more after-sun than suncream; more crumbs than picnic; more sand in the beachbag than beachbag on sand), we still bask, we do, in the season when, according to William Blake, ‘we lack not songs, nor instruments of joy’ (‘To Summer’).

Come winter, we’ll watch shadows bloom on the wall, count daylight on one hand, and measure rainfall in fathoms. But now is high hours and, if they slip a little every day, we can try not to notice and try harder not to care. Now is the aftermath of summer but, just about, summer still: sand between our toes and pale bands on our arms and fingers when we take off watches and rings. Two months ago was giddy summer; now we may settle for languid summer and dog days, or we may imagine gather- ing berries fervently and stockpiling them in freezer drawers to see us through dark days.

Now is not October, in shoes that cover all the foot, and the timer on the heating lurching backwards, day by day. Now is yet for taking photo- graphs and not for putting them in albums set to close in on themselves in seldom-opened drawers. Still, the sea sings preppy songs and forgets all its dirges and hymns. And if it’s no longer quite the five a.m. start or relished ‘daylight in the shutter’ of Seamus Heaney’s ‘High Summer’, there’s still a deal more of the bright-faced, feckless new friend about
it than the spurned companion with a pet rat and a way with irony to whom we will apologise for our absence, sourly, next month.

So why can’t we be happier in our summer poems, why can’t we just enjoy it? The first line of John Keats’s ‘Written on a Summer Evening’ loses no time in reminding us that, ‘The church bells toll a melancholy round’. It’s not encouraging.

But Philip Larkin, with his famously sunny disposition, perhaps he can cheer things up? The title of ‘Mother, Summer, I’ sounds promising. While stanza 1 recalls his mother’s preference for well, anything but sum- mer, stanza 2 opens hopefully (especially if we overlook the ‘though’):

And I her son, though summer-born
And summer-loving, none the less
Am easier when the leaves are gone ... 

No, that’s no help, he has surrendered, thrown in the (beach) towel. Per- haps, we could turn to America, bask a little in their higher temperature? Here’s Jane Kenyon, ‘Coming Home at Twilight in Late Summer’:

And then we noticed the pear tree,
the limbs so heavy with fruit
they nearly touched the ground.
We went out to the meadow; our steps
made black holes in the grass;
and we each took a pear,
and ate, and were grateful.

And suddenly, we’re in the meadow, where we want to be. And though there may be black holes in the grass, nothing can bruise that redemptive pear; the simple, beautiful fact of it that cannot be gainsaid.

And then, with summer on our hands and in our mouths, we head to ee cummings’ beach, to lose and find ourselves.

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

It’s a poem that runs through shallow rockpools of narrative and im- agery, keeping up with itself, just about. And when it finds itself alone, it looks up at the high, blue sky and is timid. And for comfort, it picks up a satiny phrase – sea-washed and shiny words that will soon dull to grey, almost certainly, but haven’t, not just yet.

The year turns. The calendar flips over a new month, and the year must recalibrate. And so must we. Here at Poetry Ireland, we find ourselves not in the sea, but on the comparatively dry high ground of 11 Parnell Square East, our new home. Over the coming years, we plan on a major restoration of this beautiful building which will be, in time, a permanent, redoubtable home to Irish poetry. The summer may well be on the wane, but our future is, quite wonderfully, on the up.

This being Ireland, let us finish with rain; firstly, catalogued by Geoffrey Hill, (who died on 30 June), whose ‘Old Poet With Distant Admirers’ extends to us, minutely: ‘dark-blistered foxgloves, wet berries / Glinting from shadow, small ferns and stones’. And then by Yves Bonnefoy (who died on 1 July), whose ‘Summer Rain’ redeems the world (the trans- lation is Paul Weinfield’s):

And when we gathered
sticks and fallen leaves,
the smoke and then
suddenly the firelight
were gold again
in that golden night. 


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