I’m happy to have a poem published in the Spring 2020 issue of West Trade Review.
Furthermore, I’ve been invited to kick off their 2020 Reading Series by reading my poem ‘Ordinary Wings’.
were sitting on the ledge of a building
talking about the pursuit of happiness,
how every human action is motivated
by self-love and trying to reconcile
morality with a mechanistic view
of a universe, everywhere ruled
and determined by inflexible laws
the talk went on for some time
they would interject a few modern expressions
to avoid falling into a complete anachronistic conversation
reminiscent of the 18th century philosophes
then the one on the right said,
– What if we jump?
– there’d be a fall
– yeah, and then what?
– who knows
– do you think there’s consciousness after death?
– as much as you can find in the drunk man’s sleep
– should we jump? what stops us from finding out?
– fear, our loved ones, the desire to seek new experiences and store them in the insatiable coffins of memory. But mostly fear.
– if you could have anything in the world before you die, what would it be?
– another lifetime to figure that out
– do you often think of death?
– on rare special occasions, like funerals and that kind of thing
– do you find any consolation in the thought of death?
– yeah in the thought that death dissolves all suffering with the same intensity as life withheld happiness from the individual
– I’m going to jump
– I’ll take the stairs
He did not jump but was he really considering it? They decided to go home. As they walked together over the bridge they both noticed the sea was restless that day.
People breathe. Struggle. Write.
Talk. Read. Write. Publish.
While most will never even
know his name.
And will die as well.
Poetry: main collections
1966: Death of a Naturalist, Faber & Faber
1969: Door into the Dark, Faber & Faber
1972: Wintering Out, Faber & Faber
1975: Stations, Ulsterman
1975: North, Faber & Faber
1979: Field Work, Faber & Faber
1984: Station Island, Faber & Faber
1987: The Haw Lantern, Faber & Faber
1991: Seeing Things, Faber & Faber
1996: The Spirit Level, Faber & Faber
2001: Electric Light, Faber & Faber
2006: District and Circle, Faber & Faber
2010: Human Chain, Faber & Faber
Poetry: collected editions
1980: Selected Poems 1965-1975, Faber & Faber
1990: New Selected Poems 1966-1987, Faber & Faber
1998: Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996, Faber & Faber
Prose: main collections
1980: Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968–1978, Faber & Faber
1988: The Government of the Tongue, Faber & Faber
1995: The Redress of Poetry: Oxford Lectures, Faber & Faber
2002: Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971–2001, Faber & Faber
1990: The Cure at Troy A version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes, Field Day
2004: The Burial at Thebes A version of Sophocles’ Antigone, Faber & Faber
1983: Sweeney Astray: A version from the Irish, Field Day
1992: Sweeney’s Flight (with Rachel Giese, photographer), Faber & Faber
1993: The Midnight Verdict: Translations from the Irish of Brian Merriman and from the Metamorphoses of Ovid, Gallery Press
1995: Laments, a cycle of Polish Renaissance elegies by Jan Kochanowski, translated with Stanisław Barańczak, Faber & Faber
1999: Beowulf, Faber & Faber
1999: Diary of One Who Vanished, a song cycle by Leoš Janáček of poems by Ozef Kalda, Faber & Faber
2002: Hallaig, Sorley MacLean Trust
2002: Arion, a poem by Alexander Pushkin, translated from the Russian, with a note by Olga Carlisle, Arion Press
2004: The Testament of Cresseid, Enitharmon Press
2004: Columcille The Scribe, The Royal Irish Academy
2009: The Testament of Cresseid & Seven Fables, Faber & Faber
Limited editions and booklets (poetry and prose)
1965: Eleven Poems, Queen’s University
1968: The Island People, BBC
1968: Room to Rhyme, Arts Council N.I.
1969: A Lough Neagh Sequence, Phoenix
1970: Night Drive, Gilbertson
1970: A Boy Driving His Father to Confession, Sceptre Press
1973: Explorations, BBC
1975: Stations, Ulsterman Publications
1975: Bog Poems, Rainbow Press
1975: The Fire i’ the Flint, Oxford University Press
1976: Four Poems, Crannog Press
1977: Glanmore Sonnets, Editions Monika Beck
1977: In Their Element, Arts Council N.I.
1978: Robert Lowell: A Memorial Address and an Elegy, Faber & Faber
1978: The Makings of a Music, University of Liverpool
1978: After Summer, Gallery Press
1979: Hedge School, Janus Press
1979: Ugolino, Carpenter Press
1979: Gravities, Charlotte Press
1979: A Family Album, Byron Press
1980: Toome, National College of Art and Design
1981: Sweeney Praises the Trees, Henry Pearson
1982: A Personal Selection, Ulster Museum
1982: Poems and a Memoir, Limited Editions Club
1983: An Open Letter, Field Day
1983: Among Schoolchildren, Queen’s University
1984: Verses for a Fordham Commencement, Nadja Press
1984: Hailstones, Gallery Press
1985: From the Republic of Conscience, Amnesty International
1985: Place and Displacement, Dove Cottage
1985: Towards a Collaboration, Arts Council N.I.
1986: Clearances, Cornamona Press
1988: Readings in Contemporary Poetry, DIA Art Foundation
1988: The Sounds of Rain, Emory University
1989: An Upstairs Outlook, Linen Hall Library
1989: The Place of Writing, Emory University
1990: The Tree Clock, Linen Hall Library
1991: Squarings, Hieroglyph Editions
1992: Dylan the Durable, Bennington College
1992: The Gravel Walks, Lenoir Rhyne College
1992: The Golden Bough, Bonnefant Press
1993: Keeping Going, Bow and Arrow Press
1993: Joy or Night, University of Swansea
1994: Extending the Alphabet, Memorial University of Newfoundland
1994: Speranza in Reading, University of Tasmania
1995: Oscar Wilde Dedication, Westminster Abbey
1995: Charles Montgomery Monteith, All Souls College
1995: Crediting Poetry: The Nobel Lecture, Gallery Press
1997: Poet to Blacksmith, Pim Witteveen
1998: Commencement Address, UNC Chapel Hill
1998: Audenesque, Maeght
1999: The Light of the Leaves, Bonnefant Press
2001: Something to Write Home About, Flying Fox
2002: Hope and History, Rhodes University
2002: Ecologues in Extremis, Royal Irish Academy
2002: A Keen for the Coins, Lenoir Rhyne College
2003: Squarings, Arion Press
2003: Singing School / Poems 1966 – 2002, Rudomino, Moscow
2004: Anything can Happen, Town House Publishers
2005: The Door Stands Open, Irish Writers Centre
2005: A Shiver, Clutag Press
2007: The Riverbank Field, Gallery Press
2008: Articulations, Royal Irish Academy
2008: One on a Side, Robert Frost Foundation
2009: Spelling It Out, Gallery Press
2010: “Writer & Righter”, Irish Human Rights Commission
There will be no more.
I will close my eyes
as a wriggle in timelessness.
From the table
we put in our mouths
the last lesson of the bread,
we close the door
and the familiar unknown
disappears together with the
There was no explanation
for this history of glimmers.
There will be no more:
injustice – no more form
and ideas will be lost
against the sounds of the bells.
The eyes will become simple silences,
clouded by the color of the music.
Everything will be resting
under the warmth
& patience of the shadows.
House, an ambulance of thorns and the chairs. The dust
a coat of ghost upon furniture, reality – the hairs
in my nostrils a trembling unto death. Laughter,
a www or another milieu ripe with decadence
and the ballet of bullets in a new nation – forever?
The moon has grown without tasting an apple and
it explodes, one day, without leaving enlightenment
arrrrrrgh. or ash
in elevator low the masterpiece of low sound
the foreseen doom of leaving veins into
narrow corridors warehouse of worms wonder
the same bullshit because they die
and become little food
for grass/trees and
there goes the waiter with a white shirt
always a man with a face and a pack
of cigarettes and always Schopenhauer
in theater thinking of Thanatos et triviality
aid to disease and milestone quintessential
orb of alleviation, my dear anxiety
where like an angel will I see the light
and fly away morose like
some morsel masticated selflessly
because this house is curtain
and the blood is shiny
like mirror a sound
tired from abyss
in my hand
Then he’ll realize, when the last moment comes, that he never knew what life was, that he held to a truth that was only belief, that he struggled, loved and suffered in a reality that was only illusion. He will realize that he has only known his perceptions and these have been in perpetual flux incapable of leading him to anything everlasting, definable or knowable. He will realize that life is a faint spark vaguely shivering under an approaching darkness; that it was so insubstantial that the exhaustion of sleep could erase it wholly in the deepest hours of the night and that soon an eternity of profound death will shrink it to nothing, as if it never happened.
with the leaf
of another name
if a violet flower
quivers like ornament
on the ephemeral rawness
of this earth
so a tiny poet
cleaves like thistledown
to the thin vastness
of the word
if it was genuine
my standing by the pond
weighing the quantity of universe
in these thoughts
if it was certitude
that clung as cascade
to the branches
of renewing blood
upon exiting the flesh
I thought unto death
to look back toward
this pallid clarity of ash
this has been important to me
to fling final words as anchor
in the hidden plethoric ;
time as billowing toward
some lambent exit
this alone is clear
all these residual things
spilled in darkness.
I am going to die.
But there are days
when flesh titillates
and joins the circus
of the sinews
and there’s ecstasy
in the flesh
as if it were loaves
of bread soaked
in froths of bliss
and the moment’s trapeze
is a vehicle or an aspect
and neighbors witness
a whiff of shadow
swirling in dimly lit
and forget noon
dawn or wood
head or heart
in physical perpetuity
in whirlpools of hairs
and hairs and hairs
towards a dizzy
until I become
a mote of sound
that has permeated
the intermediary air.
before pain is áh vowel,
me ended. Death
is a petty leaf, to sleep beneath
a pretty earth. What word will last
oracle come past
when I’m almost stiff
and conclusive gasp. ‘A
Spanish mutter or aspect
while curling and reaching
could be a joke and I laugh
blue with smoke blurring
of what existence
was but no more mission
but lo and behold
I shall say, it is time! me
I have a bubble
the silent walls,
structures of silence.
It is a tiny
flame of sound,
a flickering leap
upon the smooth
slabs of concrete.
I saw the snow
like an army of silent
And I wanted
to join its
A minor chord
yes it resonates,
inside a minor heart.
I pressed down
the piano keys.
The dark is draped with echo.