Friday, February 7, 2014

Honest Ulstermen

Paralyzed by influenza, I spent two days lying comatose in bed, Cameron-like murmurs about dying spilling forth from my lips. I had an unnecessary amount of time to think; my neurons danced to the sound of my ragged breath. At one point, I considered the Astral Weeks book that I envision myself writing, a book that won't be migrating from my damaged brain to my golden pen any time soon. I contemplated the slivers and scraps of poetry I would deposit on the manuscript's opening page, a bit of verse that would offer readers a hint of the dross to come. The candidates:

"At Pamukkale" by William Peskett
Now we fill the volumes of the day
with out loud lives.
Hastily we take a bit of time
and leave no trace.

Peskett was born in 1952 and moved to Belfast when he was a child. He was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution.

"Homecoming" by Derek Mahon
Bus into town
and, sad to say,
no change from when
he went away
two years ago
Goes into bar,
affixes gaze
on evening star.
Skies change but not
souls change; behold
this is the way
the world grows old.

"Afterlives (for James Simmons)" by Derek Mahon
But the hills are still the same
Grey-blue above Belfast.
Perhaps if I'd stayed behind
And lived bomb by bomb
I might have grown up at last
And learnt what is meant by home.

Mahon was born in Belfast in 1971. His father and grandfather worked for the world famous shipbuilding company of Harland and Wolff.

"Belfast Confetti" by Ciaran Carson
I was trying to complete a sentence in my head, but it kept

Carson was born in Belfast in 1948. In 2003, he was appointed director of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen's University.

"Whatever You Say Say Nothing" by Seamus Heaney
Northern reticence, the tight gag of place
And times: yes, yes. Of the 'wee six' I sing
Where to be saved you only must save face
And whatever you say, you say nothing.

Raised in County Derry, Heaney was a prominent contributor to Belfast's 1960s literary scene. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995.

Title-less poem from the last page of Michael Longley's A Hundred Doors
swaying along
the ditch
waiting to
cross over
at the end
of my days

Longley was born in Belfast in 1939. He worked for the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for 20 years.

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