Archive for the ‘Irish’ Category

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

September 19, 2017

Spraying the potatoes.

by Patrick Kavanagh

 

The barrels of blue potato-spray
Stood on a headland in July
Beside an orchard wall where roses
Were young girls hanging from the sky.

The flocks of green potato stalks
Were blossom spread for sudden flight,
The Kerr’s Pinks in frivelled blue,
The Arran Banners wearing white.

And over that potato-field
A lazy veil of woven sun,
Dandelions growing on headlands, showing
Their unloved hearts to everyone.

And I was there with a knapsack sprayer
On the barrel’s edge poised. A wasp was floating
Dead on a sunken briar leaf
Over a copper-poisoned ocean.

The axle-roll of a rut-locked cart
Broke the burnt stick of noon in two.
An old man came through a cornfield
Remembering his youth and some Ruth he knew.

He turned my way. ‘God further the work’.
He echoed an ancient farming prayer.
I thanked him. He eyed the potato drills.
He said: ‘You are bound to have good ones there’.

We talked and our talk was a theme of kings,
A theme for strings. He hunkered down
In the shade of the orchard wall. O roses
The old man dies in the young girl’s frown.

And poet lost to potato-fields,
Remembering the lime and copper smell
Of the spraying barrels he is not lost
Or till blossomed stalks cannot weave a spell.

 

 

Advertisements

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

September 5, 2017

Another September

by Thomas Kinsella

 

Dreams fled away, this country bedroom, raw
With the touch of dawn, wrapped in a minor peace,
Hears through an open window the garden draw
Long pitch black breaths , lay bear its apple trees,
Ripe pear trees, brambles, windfall-sweethened soil,
Exhale rough sweetness against the starry slates.
Nearer the river sleeps St.Johns, all toil
Locked fast inside a dream with iron gates.
Domestic autumn, like an animal
Long used to handling by those countrymen,
Rubs her kind hide against the bedroom wall
Sensing a fragrant child come back again
– Not this half tolerated consciousness
That plants its grammar in her unyielding weather
But that unspeaking daughter, growing less
familiar where we fell asleep together.
Wakeful moth-wings blunder near a chair
Toss their light shell at the glass and go
To inhabit the living starlight,Stranded hair
Stirs on the still linen. It is as though
The black breathing that billows her sleep, her name,
Drugged under judgement, waned and – bearing daggers
And balances – down the lampless darkness they came,
Moving like women: Justice, Truth, such figures.

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

August 22, 2017

 

Who goes amid the green wood

By James Joyce

 

Who goes amid the green wood
With springtide all adorning her?
Who goes amid the merry green wood
To make it merrier?

Who passes in the sunlight
By ways that know the light footfall?
Who passes in the sweet sunlight
With mien so virginal?

The ways of all the woodland
Gleam with a soft and golden fire
For whom does all the sunny woodland
Carry so brave attire?

O, it is for my true love
The woods their rich apparel wear
O, it is for my own true love,
That is so young and fair.

GOOD LUNCH WITH GREAT PEOPLE

May 5, 2017

 

Catharine writes:

Today, May 4th, I attended a packed luncheon hosted by the Irish-Canada Chamber of Commerce. Our Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Ireland gave speeches emphasizing the strong bond between the two countries, with a firm emphasis on expanding trade embedded in a treaty with the European Union.

The speeches were met with a sustained standing ovation from approximately 500 people. A historic moment, when Canadians could reassert a certain independence from the whims floating across the border south of us.

I presented a copy of my book  Polly of Bridgewater Farm to the Irish Prime Minister, and also to Thomas Mulcair. To my great amusement, as you can see in the photo, a selfie with Mr. Mulcair, who knew Neil over many years, was the result.

I also presented a copy of Neil Mckenty Live to our Prime Minister. There on page 19 is a picture of his father about to throw out the first puck at the launch of floor hockey for the mentally challenged at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, as part of the Canadian Special Olympics. Neil worked for three years with Red Foster, the Kennedys and Brian O’Neill of the National Hockey League to  bring those Special Olympics to Canada and there Neil is standing behind Pierre Trudeau in the picture.

Neil’s story and Polly’s story both tell of hope in times of adversity. What keeps me young at heart is sharing both these stories as widely as possible. The response to both continues to grow.

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

May 2, 2017

 

The Wild Swans at Coole.

by

W.B. Yeats

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

Any suggestions of subject for the blog or just comments and ideas. linesarestillblazing@gmail.com

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

March 21, 2017

Because spring has arrived, here is a poem translated to English from the Irish language.

Anois teacht an tEarraigh

Spring is now coming

Now with the springtime
The days will grow longer
And after St. Bride’s day’
My sail I’ll let go
I put my mind to it,
And I never will linger
Till I find myself back
In the County Mayo.

In Clare of Morris family
I will be the first night
and in the Wall on the side below it
I will begin to drink
to Maghs Woods I shall go
until I shall make a months visit there
two miles close
to the Mouth of the Big Ford.

I swear
that my heart rises up
as the wind rises up
or as the fog lifts
when I think about Ceara
or about Gaileang on the lower side of it
about Sceathach an Mhíle
or about the plains of Mayo.

Cill Liadain is the town
where everything grows
there are blackberries and raspberries there
and every sort of fruit
and were I to be standing
in the center of my people
age would depart from me
and I would be again young.

There is always wheat and oats
growing barley and flax there
rye in branch there
flower-bread and meat
the folks who make moonshine
without a licence selling it there
the pride of the country
playing and drinking.

There is sowing and plowing
and fertilizing without manure
and it’s many the thing there
of which I have not yet spoken
kilns and mills
working without rest there
with hardly any talk about a pennys rent
or about nothing of that sort.

 

 

Written by the famous Irish language poet, Antaine Ó Raifteirí.

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

March 14, 2017

cover-inside

How in the world did Polly Noble, a bubbly little girl with freckles, born just outside Dromore in January 1837, live to become the subject of a biography more than a century later in Toronto.

It was on her father’s farm, an old Coach Road between Dromore and Enniskillen, that Polly spent an idyllic two years with her parents, George and Jane Noble.  Then disaster struck.  On January 6, 1839, the Big Wind rose out of the sea and swept across Ireland, wailing like a thousand banshees.  It flattened whole villages, burned down farm houses, and finally killed her father.  It changed Polly’s life forever.

Two years later, Polly’s mother, Jane, married William Fleming, the handsome widower across the road at Bridgewater Farm.  Soon Polly began to walk back and forth the mile or so to the one-room school run in Dromore by the Kildare Society.

But she also found time to plant potatoes, milk the cows, look after the goats, pull flax, chase the hens and run bare-foot in the meadows.

Then disaster struck again.  The potato crop failed and famine and typhus threatened Bridgewater Farm.  Like thousands of others the Fleming decided they must escape.

They packed what they could and traveled by horse and cart to Londonderry/Derry, drinking in their last views of the green fields and hills of Ireland.  On the 14th of May, 1847, along with four hundred and eighteen other passengers, they boarded the three-masted sailing ship Sesostris.

After an appalling voyage, during which some of the passengers, including Polly’s darling little brother and sister died, they docked at Grosse-Ile, the quarantine station on the St-Lawrence River, about an hour from Quebec.  After three years in Montreal,  where she met her future husband, Polly was now ready for her next adventure in a vast unknown land called Canada.  Her destiny would be linked with a dozen children who had called their mothers, one of them a future mayor of Toronto.

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

March 7, 2017

The Blackbird of Derrycairn

by Austin Clarke

The Blackbird of Derrycairn by Austin Clarke. Image copyright Ireland Calling

Stop, stop and listen for the bough top

Is whistling and the sun is brighter
Than God’s own shadow in the cup now!
Forget the hour-bell. Mournful matins
Will sound, Patric, as well at nightfall.

Faintly through mist of broken water
Fionn heard my melody in Norway.
He found the forest track, he brought back
This beak to gild the branch and tell, there,
Why men must welcome in the daylight.

He loved the breeze that warns the black grouse,
The shouts of gillies in the morning
When packs are counted and the swans cloud
Loch Erne, but more than all those voices
My throat rejoicing from the hawthorn.

In little cells behind a cashel,
Patric, no handbell gives a glad sound.
But knowledge is found among the branches.
Listen! That song that shakes my feathers
Will thong the leather of your satchels.

The poem is about the dominance the Catholic church held over the government in Ireland.

PIT STOP

March 2, 2017

Here’s Neil with his column in the Senior Times

Pit Stop

Look to Northern Ireland for a way to peace in Middle East

The recent outbreak of violence in Northern Ireland seemed at first like a black cloud threatening the fragile peace process. Until the silver lining appeared.

What happened after two British soldiers and an Irish policeman were murdered by a discredited IRA dissident group is almost unimaginable. The forces that had been at each other’s throats for decades came together to publicly denounce the killings.

Thousands of people, Catholic and Protestant alike, took to the streets to express their outrage and abhorrence. And the republican splinter groups who have claimed responsibility have been roundly condemned by the mainstream republican organization, Sinn Fein. Martin McGuinness, deputy first minister in the power-sharing executive, stood shoulder to shoulder with the protestant first minister, Peter Robinson, to condemn the killings: “We were elected to lead and, through democratic institutions, deliver for everyone throughout the community. We will not allow a tiny mindless minority to set our political agenda or divert us.”

McGuinness called those responsible “traitors to Ireland” and urged Catholics to cooperate with police in catching the culprits. Such an unambiguous display of support for the Northern Ireland Police Service from the leadership of Sinn Fein is unprecedented. As the London journal The Tablet wrote: “Twenty years ago they would have been plotting the killing of soldiers and policemen themselves.”

Those responsible for the bloodshed plainly intended to destroy the power-sharing structure of the Assembly at Stormont and escalate sectarian tensions across the community. However, the response from politicians and even more importantly from ordinary citizens, who took to the streets in significant numbers at short notice to support vigils and peace rallies, made clear that any attempt to turn back the clock on the peace process would not be tolerated.

These public displays were followed by the unprecedented image of Catholic republicans and Protestant loyalists attending the funeral of Stephen Carroll, the murdered Ulster police officer. In a highly personal address at the end of the service, in the presence of Carroll’s widow, the head of the Police Service, Sir Hugh Orde, told her:

“He will not be forgotten, Kate. I promise you. My staff and officers will not forget what he did. I know the community will not forget what he did.”

The hard fact is there will be no united Ireland for the foreseeable future. But the blinkered IRA dissidents refuse to recognize that. They first demonstrated their hostility to the peace process when they planted a car bomb in Omagh in August 1998 that killed 29 people in the main shopping street. (I walked on this street in a trip to Ulster a couple of years ago. The Omagh blast is still fresh in the minds of the citizens there).

Undeterred by the hostile reaction, pockets of disgruntled republican activists throughout Northern Ireland vowed to defy majority public opinion, re-arm and revive “physical force” republicanism as the traditional and only effective means they could see of ever achieving a united Ireland.

For a time there was nothing much more than propaganda stunts with armed, hooded figures on manoeuvres in remote Irish boglands. From time to time police on both sides of the border intercepted arms and explosives in transit to a planned atrocity. The dissidents suspected that the mainstream IRA was double-crossing them by infiltrating its own people into their ranks to betray them.

But several well-planned ambushes over a year ago, in which police officers were wounded, underlined the growing dissident threat. Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde warned that the dissidents were intent on killing a police officer, a grim prophecy that has now been fulfilled.

Still, tragic as the killings were, what remains is the virtual universal condemnation of them in Ulster by the ordinary people and their elected leaders. Remember these same leaders had been fighting each other for decades. Now they are united for peace, an extraordinary accomplishment and a way forward for others.

It is no coincidence that U.S. President Barack Obama chose as his new envoy to the Middle East the very man who played a large role in bringing the warring Irish factions together in the Good Friday Agreement. Former democratic senator George Mitchell now brings his negotiating skills, honed in Ulster, to building peace between Israel and the Palestinians, whose enmity is perhaps the most dangerous in the world.

But the peace process in Ulster is a paradigm for a similar development in the Middle East. There are dissimilarities of course, but if the hard men in Ulster can unite for peace, so can those other warring factions – the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The peace process in Ulster points a way to peace in the Middle East.

The Senior Times

Pit Stop April 2009

Neil recounts his time on TV

February 16, 2017

After returning from Ireland in the summer of 1987, where the John Main biography had been launched at Trinity College, I was astonished to receive a telephone call from a senior program producer at CFCF television, Don McGowan, a well-known Montreal television personality in his own right. Over lunch at the garden café of the Ritz-Carlton, McGowan asked me if I would be interested in doing a live talk show on television, a sort of poor man’s Larry King Live. McGowan would provide a chauffeur-driven limousine to pick me up each morning (impressive for the neighbors) and an extensive new wardrobe (a delight for Catharine who never approved of my doing radio in a scruffy T-shirt).

04-28-2013-4

Neil on set at CFCF

Of course I jumped at the opportunity, and in September 1987, we went on air with Montreal’s first English live call-in television program, McKenty Live. Television is more cumbersome and complicated than radio, but for the next three years I had a lot of fun – the limousine with a bar, telephone and TV set in the back seat; the warmth and soft hands in the make-up room; a small, friendly staff. During the three years we had some remarkable guests: the famous sexologist, Dr. Ruth, who was so tiny she had to sit on a Montreal telephone directory; Canada’s chief negotiator, Louis Reisman, with whom I had a ferocious argument on free trade two days before the federal election; and René Lévesque, the only guest who not only smoked, but offered a cigarette to everyone in the crew. Only a week later, this man whom I liked very much, died of a heart attack. René Lévesque’s last appearance in public might well have been on McKenty Live.

Neil and a  guess at CFCF

Although I enjoyed McKenty Live and my associates on the program, Daniel Freedman, Wendy Helfenbaum and Bernie Peissel, at the end of the third season, I decided to leave the program. My reasoning was: I would be repeating programs we had already done; some of my associates were being changed; I wanted to do some more writing, perhaps a book on Catharine’s grandfather, onetime mayor of Toronto; and both Catharine and I were busy with the Benedictine Priory and meditation. So in June 1990, I left CFCF television.

from the Inside Story.