Elizabeth Bishop in Ireland

Kevin Graham

I love the thought of you in early 20th century 
Éire, driving around on your own looking 
for directions to Gort or Killalea. 
You must have been young and quite pretty, gay 
in a country that made it illegal to openly love 
despite our misty-eyed sentimentality. 
Did hugging the coast remind you of growing up 
in Nova Scotia? The Irish Sea, St. George’s 

Channel, the vast Atlantic leading you back 
to your beloved New York. How colonies 
of birds must have hung beneath your stare, 
the choppy blue putting you in mind 
of your mother, maybe, her various breakdowns 
and subsequent insanity. Poor girl, 
with your chronic shyness and fixed self-doubt, 
the white sands of Rio and palm trees 

of Key West await. So does love, that brightly 
coloured bird that flits beneath the breastbone. 
But for now there are the Cliffs of Moher 
and Giant’s Causeway, your giant mind already 
heir to a loose control that will win you many 
prizes and admirers, although no doubt 
you’ll always think of yourself as a failed doctor, 
painter, architect, composer. Are you driving 

to the interior out here, seeking refuge 
in the bittersweet north-westerlies? Is this becoming 
dream-material? I’m naturally curious. 
You cut a gloomy figure standing there 
at the edge of existence but I’d say 
you were a riot. I love that all of this means less 
than nothing to you, that you will always 
be at home in another country.

Page 75, Poetry Ireland Review Issue 127
Issue 127

Poetry Ireland Review Issue 127:

Edited by Eavan Boland

Eavan Boland's Poetry Ireland Review 127 features new poems from such eminent practitioners as Harry Clifton and Vona Groarke, along with the emerging voices of Manuela Moser, Emma Must, and Seán Hewitt, and a first published poem from Sarah O'Neill. Maureen Boyle's poem 'The Nunwell Letter' – written as a commission from the Ireland Chair of Poetry Travel Bursary – is another highlight of the issue, a long poem which gives a compelling voice to Ann Donne, wife of John, the metaphysical poet. Books reviewed include new titles from Nick Laird, Jean Bleakney, Ailbhe Darcy, Damian Smyth, Ciaran Carson, Anne Haverty, and Anamaría Crowe Serrano, along with a comprehensive review by Máirín Nic Eoin of Calling Cards: Ten Younger Irish Poets. This issue also contains eight measured responses in prose to a typically disputatious statement from Patrick Kavanagh as to the regard (or lack thereof) in which poetry is held by the Irish public, in his time and in ours.
There is a special episode of the Words Lightly Spoken podcast to accompany this issue of PIR, presented by Paul Perry, featuring readings and discussion with Seán Hewitt, Jean O'Brien, and Freddie Trevaskis Hoskin: Words Lightly Spoken.