Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Amid all the faux Irish stuff floating around today, my parents will be on the radio playing authentic Irish music on WNHU 88.7 FM, out of the University of New Haven in West Haven CT.

You can listen to them live streaming here.

Another of my favorite Irish poems, this one by Austin Clarke (the Irish poet, not the Canadian novelist)

The Blackbird Of Derrycairn

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.

Beannachtai na Feile Padraig!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

With St. Patrick’s Day nearly upon us, I though I would take time to share some of my favorite examples of Irish poets in English and Irish.

Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill
is probably one of the best-known poets writing in the Irish language today. I heard her do a reading at the cavernous Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale years ago and despite her small stature, she captivated her audience with her strong voice and ready sense of humor. Her poems are often a mix of culture, history, and femininity. She says she cannot write poetry in English and relies on others, often major poets themselves, to translate her work. The English version here was translated by poet Paul Muldoon.

Ceist na Teangan

Cuirim mo dhóchas ar snámh
i mbáidin teangan
faoi mar a leagfá naíonán
i gcliabhán
a bheadh fite fuaite
de dhuilleoga feileastraim
is bitiúman agus pic
bheith cuimilte lena thóin

ansan é a leagadh síos
i measc na ngiolcach
is coigeal na mban sí
le taobh na habhann,
féachaint n'fheaclaraís
cá dtabharfaidh an sruth é,
féachaint, dála Mhaoise,
an bhfóirfidh iníon Fharoinn?

The Language Issue

I place my hope in the water
in this little boat
of the language, the way a body might put
an infant

in a basket of intertwined
iris leaves,
its underside proofed
with bitumen and pitch

then set the whole thing down amidst
the sedge
and bullrushes by the edge
of a river

only to have it borne hither and thither
not knowing where it may end up;
in the lap, perhaps,
of some Pharaoh's daughter.

Another favorite poet of mine, is William Butler Yeats. Here are two shorter examples of his work.

Brown Penny

I whispered, 'I am too young,'
And then, 'I am old enough';
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
'Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair.'
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
I am looped in the loops of her hair.

O love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away
And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
One cannot begin it too soon.

and the more popular:

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

“Mais ou sont les Blog Entries d’antan?”

Yes, I know I’ve left all you BookKook fans in limbo wondering where I’ve been. While I would rather confess that I was off tramping around the Lost City of Atlantis using Google Maps - Viola! -sadly, I was not.

Like everyone else in the bloggosphere, I hit the great blank wall of midwinter and decided to ride out bleak February until more hopeful spring arrived. I have been busy reading and writing. I did learn some things in the interim:

That a little snow can shut down Ireland & Great Britain!

What the Stimulus Bill means to my home state of Connecticut (according to Senator Chris Dodd) Here.

That even before the horrible attack in Stamford, no one should own a pet chimp: (warning:disturbing images) and (more here too).

That Shakespeare looks a little like me: (oh go on, yes he does!)

That the Kindle is the next iPod: (although it is NOT a book and CAN NEVER replace it, EVER!!)

That only four times in U.S. history has a president asked a poet for an Inaugural Poem:

-John F. Kennedy of Robert Frost

-Bill Clinton of Maya Angelou in 1993

-Bill Clinton of Miller Williams in 1997

-and Barak Obama of Elizabeth Alexander in 2009

(What’s the matter? Are Republicans anti-poetry? Well, honestly, only Maya Angelou’s poem is any good.)

What a Mondagreen is.

And immediately found an example.

That the Kepler Space telescope, looking 3000 light years up our spiral arm of the Milky Way could discover Earth like planets. Hello!

That the Japanese love of transforming robots has now crossed over to aviculture.

And even a wild animal has a heart..

And most importantly, I’ve discovered what Anthony Bourdain really thinks of his fellow chefs. Sorry, Rachel Ray!