July 21st 2010

 Walking on Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland, June 2010
by Sarah Merck Having now walked with The Wayfarers on both of their walking vacations in Ireland and Northern Ireland, I appreciate even more the power and beauty of the words of the Irish poets.  I am particularly moved by the poems of the contemporary poets.  Ireland is a land of a tortured history, incredible legends, and amazing natural beauty.  In many ways, it is still a rural world of small villages and farms.  One of my favorite contemporary Irish poets is Seamus Heaney, a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature.  One night The Wayfarers had an Irishman speak to us about Irish history.  He was very interesting, but, I must admit, I was most impressed by the fact that he is a personal friend of Seamus Heaney who grew up in a small village in Northern Ireland and now lives in Dublin. Mr. Heaney’s poem Postscript captures the wild beauty of Ireland from its first lines:     And some time make the time to drive out west     Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore, In September or October, when the wind And the light are working off each other to the last lines:    As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways And catch the heart off guard and blow it open. After visiting the neighborhoods of 'The Troubles' in Belfast and seeing the powerful political murals, I thought of the poem  Desertmartin by the Northern Irish poet Tom Paulin.  One stanza shouts his message:       It’s a limited nest, this place.  I see a plain Presbyterian grace sour, then harden, As a free strenuous spirit changes To a servile defiance that whines and shrieks For the bondage of the letter:  it shouts For the Big Man to lead his wee people To a clean white prison, their scorched tomorrow. The melancholy, the story-telling spirit of the Irish is captured succinctly by the poet Patrick Kavanagh in Wet Evening in April:        The birds sang in the wet trees And as I listened to them it was a hundred years from now And I was dead and someone else was listening to them. But I was glad I had recorded for him The melancholy. I love Ireland.  I loved the Irish walks.  My advice to you is read Irish poets, before and after your walks.  Their words will surround you and enhance your time in Ireland and be with you when you are home dreaming of Ireland. Sarah's Recommended Reading: Staying Alive and Being Alive edited by Neil Astley, published by Bloodaxe Both anthologies which have selections by poets from all over the U.K., Ireland, and Europe with many Irish poets represented.   I really like contemporary poets and most of the poets are contemporary with the exception of W.B. Yeats who cannot be ignored.

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