Today’s Ulster Poet – Séamus Heaney.

This is the last Ulster Poet post and it’s the best of all.


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 light are working off each other

So that the ocean on one side is wild

With foam and glitter, and inland among stones

The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit

By the earthed lightening of a flock of swans,

Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,

Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads

Tucked or cresting or busy under water.

Useless to think you’ll park and capture it

More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,

A hurry through which known and strange things pass

As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways

And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.


Today’s Ulster Poet: Cathal ó Searcaigh (translated from Irish)


“That’s clabber! Clutching clabber

sucks caddies down,” said my father harshly

while I was stomping happily

in the ditch on the side of the road.

“Climb out of that clabber pit

before you catch your death of it!”

But I went on splattering and splashing,

and scattering whoops of joy:

“Clabber! Clabber! I belong to it,”

although the word meant nothing to me

until I heard a squelch in my wellies

and felt through every fibre of my duds

the cold tremors of awakening knowledge.

O elected clabber, you chilled me to the bone.

(Clábar is the Irish word for mud.)

This Friday’s Ulster Poet: Frank Ormsby: One Looks At One (Gate of Heaven, Valhalla, N.Y.)

She steps from behind a tombstone,

is delicately there,

as though shaped from those sad poems

about dead deer.

or simply to stop trembling

and accept the caress

of the way I keep my distance,

muffle the trespass

of even a sudden look.

She watches me sideways,

I ogle a Celtic cross

for as long as it takes to be counted incidental

then not to count. At last I can watch her pass

unscared into the morning, so tuned to place she

is its sole movement. How soft must be the air

in her fine nostrils. How sweet the cemetery grass.

This Friday’s Ulster Poet – Michael Longley – “Ceasefire”

Put in mind of his own father and moved to tears

Achilles took him by the hand and pushed the old king

Gently away, but Priam curled up at his feet and

Wept with him until their sadness filled the building.

Taking Hector’s corpse into his own hands,, Achilles

Made sure it was washed and, for the old king’s sake,

Laid out in uniform, ready for Priam to carry

Wrapped like a present home to Troy at daybreak.

When they had eaten together, it pleased them both

To stare at each other’s beauty as lovers might,

Achilles built like a god, Priam good-looking still

And full of conversation, who earlier had sighed:

“I get down on my knees and do what must be done

And kiss Achilles’ hand, the killer of my son.”

Ulster Poets: Irish Hare by John McGuckian

First, I should say that in Irish Folklore the hare is a shapeshifter and plays a part in many tales.

Just around the time

You might be hoping for a sign,


The Hare appeared

Very far down in my garden

Like an omen of goodwill;

Of the hereafter;

That life had a meaning


The hare came up to my window,

And I was startled too.

Death had struck.

She lay like an old doll

On a sofa.

The family gathered around

And I could sense their fear:

Her he comes!

Wasn’t I the soft one,

In tears.

And isn’t it in my garden

The hare appears.

Ulster poets: OVER THE BRIDGE by James Ellis

I crossed a bridge and thought to shake the dust

From off my feet, but it was not to be;

For though I fled across the Irish sea,

Nursing resentment and profound disgust

That individuals had betrayed their trust

And held the public stage in ignominy,

Events o’ertook the ancient enemy,

And time has mellowed memory, as it must.

Homeward I crawl, a wretched prodigal,

To bide awhile, and then again depart –

To leave once more, once more to feel bereft –

Your picture album in my mental holdall,

The hills of Antrim etched upon my heart,

For truth to tell, I never really left.

Ulster Poems – An Easter Sequence by W.R.Rodgers 1909 – 1969

It is always the women who are the Watchers

And Keepers of life, they guard our exits

And our entrances. They are both tomb and womb,

End and beginning. Bitterly they bring forth

And bitterly take back the light they gave.

The last to leave and still the first to come.

They circle us like sleep or like the grave.

Earth is their element, and in it lies

The seed and silence of the lighted skies,

The seasons with their fall and slow uprise,

Man with his sight and militant surmise.

It is always the women who are the Watchers

And Wakeners . . .

Ulster poems – Lament for Hathimoda, Abbess of Gandesheim.

Poetry lovers are familiar with Séamus Heaney who won the Nobel Prize, and most people would know that he came from Derry in the province of Ulster in Ireland. Ireland has many poets and writers – a friend of mine said it was a wonder the island didn’t sink under the weight of them – but Ulster has more poets per capita than any of the four Irish provinces. I will post one here today and every Friday, for a while . . . This one is anonymous and translated from Latin. It was written in the 9th century, most probably by a monk. I hope you like it.

Thou hast come safe to port

I still at sea

The light is on thy head

Darkness in me.

Pluck thou in heaven’s field

Violet and Rose

While I strew flowers that will thy vigil keep

Where thou dost sleep

Love in thy last repose.