Irish Poetry



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The last frontier

is a turnip

under frozen mud.


As this


of journalists

brush up on their Russian-


the spelling of Simferopol

and Sevastopol

,will for a time,

be known

on Twitter

- people will gaze down

on the Crimea

through Google Earth,

surprised that there is


more east than the Balkans

in the West.


A place

soon to be forgotten

like South Ossetia, Abkhazia,

or Sudetenland.


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Jesus, Mary & Joe Duffy

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I was sitting in my kitchen

listening to the bithchin on the radio

my head was wrecked ya know;

people moaning down the phone

about the taxes on their homes,

(which in fact the banks own)

and the greedy seed was sown

by the Dail’s C.E.O.’s

who couldn’t give a shit

about the people being hit

by the cuts……..


Children going hungry in our schools

whilst there clearly are no rules

for the bankers run around

with their heads in the clouds

an untouchable realm

don’t you know they’re at the helm?

Under the influence

high on affluence

they’re gonna sink this ship

then hop, skip and jump

with a tidy lump sum

upon a safety boat

and off they will float

to a far away land

letting go of the hands

of the Irish population

drowned by inflation

don’t forget the creation

of a blockbuster film

yes, FILUM!


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Becoming an American

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The Depression

“I would rather play roles that carry conviction.
Maybe it’s because they’re the easiest and yet
the hardest things for me to do.”

— Peg Entwistle, Oakland Tribune, 05/05/1929


Sprawled across a teak and brass rail bar,

suppose it’s September 1932
and you haven’t worked since Broadway.
Wouldn’t you sit and just get drunk?
Tell your folks you’re meeting friends
in a drugstore on Beachwood Drive
then beeline up the trail to Mount Lee?
Imagine the black fry of manure
and gardenias. All them crickets.
L.A.’s bristling dark and yellow
like a bumblebee’s fur.
Downhill through hosiery and scrub
to HOLLYWOODLAND and up the first
few rungs of a workman’s ladder,
you see your face in a small ravine.
Do you fall backwards or forwards
off the ‘H’; prefer it for its sigh—
in some quarters, not pronounced at all—
or simply jump? One day vies
against the next and for every kernel
of untruth, you’re just like a rosary bead.
Your own ghost calls it through
and two policemen make the find. Face down.
Well-dressed. Shoes and jacket in a parcel.

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Pantoum for Limerick National City of Culture 2014

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I will be taking stock of resourcing requirements

in the light of everyone else having resigned.

I am determined to hit the reset button.

I am moving on in a calm and deliberative way.


In the light of everyone else having resigned,

I’m absolutely satisfied we have the capacity.

I am moving on in a calm and deliberative way.

I would like to thank those who ran screaming from the building.


I’m absolutely satisfied we have the capacity.

It’s been a challenging start but we need to draw a line under this.

I would like to thank those who ran screaming from the building.

I may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.


It’s been a challenging start but we need to draw a line under this.

I am humbled by what I’ve heard here tonight.

I may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

This is a lot more complicated than what actually happened.


I am humbled by what I’ve heard here tonight.

I am determined to hit the reset button.

This is a lot more complicated than what actually happened.

I will be taking stock of resourcing requirements.


Kevin Higgins

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and yet /we must live/ in these times

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and yet /we must live/ in these times

In the housing office the woman says
if I need a house that I’ll have to tell the council
I’m homeless  or else bunk in with my parents
and I feel  the heat of tears in my eyes and let me tell you
it’s not sadness I’m feeling it’s anger;
after all of my years insisting that no one
will ever call me victim in they come
and do it from a whole different angle I didn’t see coming
and they call it helping,
these are the times that I live in
still paying the tail end of my mortgage
with no home to show for it
and I wonder what I’ve absorbed that means
even with all of my theories, my politics
this, the oldest human endeavour;
seeking out shelter
has become shame-filled
and on my way down through town
Rosaleen asks for a fiver, I give it
it’s easier to offer than to ask I reckon
she says I am beautiful showing the limits
of her English vocabulary, I am not
what I am is damaged and raging,
on days like this I seek the sea out and breath it,
or I’ll write love poems to someone
and you what do you do to get through it?

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Man Whose Middle Name Is Against

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Man Whose Middle Name Is Against


When his conviction for cruelty

to two canaries

got quashed on a technicality,

he found Jesus in a cheap B&B

outside Tuam and married

a girl with an excellent set

of teeth.


On bath night, as the scrubbing brush

worked its magic into every

crevice, she told him he smelt

like a Summer breeze without

the hint of cow shit.


The morning of his forty fourth

birthday, she got lockjaw

at the most sensitive point in proceedings.

After which, he sold Rosary beads

door to door in the more swish parts

of Mountbellew.


On bucketing afternoons he grew preoccupied

with writing letters against sodomy.

So taken with life, he wished to inflict it

on every sperm that ever died on a tissue

or made its way to a necessary end in a white

treatment room outside Liverpool.


His face tragic as Ted Hughes

opening his latest gas bill,

he plods Main Street with a huge

colour photograph of a mutilated

baby, which to glancing motorists looks

like an advertisement

for a full Irish breakfast.



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Thorns in Assad’s Side

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Thorns in Assad’s Side

By Kate Ennals
‘Rows and rows of bodies, fully grown men
and small children
lie lifeless with no signs of physical injury or bodily trauma’
says the Irish Times head line
(no mention of women)
A silent horror
Described as ‘thorns’ in Assad’s side
(according to Russians, it is the rebels)
Whose ever thorns they are, I want to know
Why the grief? Why the Western disbelief?
These bodies are not hacked, axed, shot, beheaded,
They are not torn, ravaged, raped,
They are silent, whole, and dead
A peaceful scene of war.
No bombs. No Terror.
To be honest, easier to watch on TV
Though I do not. I listen to the radio.
I listen to the Hague cry ‘inhumane’
But I do not understand the pain.
I say in my desperation,
If to kill is the purpose
Why not chemical gas
as a weapon of choice?
If to kill is the intent
Of these men
Why not instant death
For if there are no people left
There will be no chemicals, no gas
No love, no hate.
The civilised world says in speeches
Chemical gas kills innocent victims
It kills civilians
So does poverty, and disease,
Never has this caused Western unease.
In Ireland this afternoon
gold hangs from trees over a
plantation of green on sky blue
fruiting blackberries, ferns, nasturshiums
an oasis of earth, moist, damp, rich.
A land the Syrians will never know.
No matter where they have died and how
or whatever hell they live in now.



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Big Bust Bank Poem

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Big Bust Bank Poem

I’d just finished my 7 Mins of poetry
at the Irish embassy in London,
my poems and cursing delighted
and shocked the crowd.
He came over: handmade suit,
free glass of wine.
The man from the Big Bust bank,
handed me his card, asked
about prices for workshops.
“Call me when you get back to Dublin,
we’ll meet and chat about projects.”
I took the card, my funds were a bit low.
I let it sink in for a day or two.
I argued with myself about it.
I wasn’t sure what to do.

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Sponsor This Poem Or I’ll Kick Your Head In

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I won’t name the entity that’s colonising creativity
except to say that it has been turfed off the sportsfield
for low tackles and foul behaviour already, you will find it in
a million spewed up burgers on our city pavements
and it was there while a thousand boy racers
had single vehicle collisions and left their mothers crying
it stood and watched wife beatings, gay bashings, street violence
it leered at women with their skirts askew in doorways
it sat at the cliffs while friends of mine jumped off them
and quicker than you can say tax-payer- funded
public- service- broadcasting it mixed with pills and sadness
in lonely apartments and killed people, worse it appeased
our post colonial state so much that we can’t mount
even a strongly worded letter and now in the last bastion
where people can create something, in one last Arena
of no profit ventures ,in a refuge of free breathing, seeing
and of open fulfilling disagreements It has the nerve to ask
if it could be allowed to enter, it says it’s at our service,
but to be honest I doubt it. Sponsor this poem or I’ll bottle ya.

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An Irish Prayer


An Irish Prayer
After Charles Cotton’s 17th Century Poem “The Litany”
From soft-bodied, suited snails who smile
and slither through shining corridors,
through the slick paw of justice,
through the smudged subtext
of the daily papers, through
the precious pennies of our savings accounts -
from their slippery, silvery trail
Deliver us.
From the public Punch and Judy show
starring Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael
and only You, God, know what role Labour plays
(but we can imagine them all backstage
after the shouting's done for the day,
cosying up for pints for which we've paid)
but please Deliver us.
From the couches of our apathy, from
our conditioned inferiority, from
our muttering religiosity, from
our slack-jawed gullibility, from
our yawning inequality, from
our paralysing futility, from
our grotesque lack of accountability -
Deliver our country, Lord
Deliver us!

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Alternative History: Constance Markievicz Gets A Sex Change


Alternative History: Constance Markievicz Gets A Sex Change  

for Rhona McCord

 “97 years ago people lost their lives in that park over there.

  Constant Markievicz gave up his life to enable enable us

  to eradicate suppression, taxation, addiction, criminality…”

Tom D’Arcy of Direct Democracy Ireland


Truth is, Joe, I have it on good authority

that fella Constant Markievicz, was shot

by the British in the park across the road.

Secretly buried on the moon by people

with names that, to me, sound

homosexual. While I have you, that man

on the ventilator in Johannesburg

isn’t Nelson Mandela but an imposter

installed by the same shower who want

to bring euthanasia to Ireland.


 We’ve reached the stage, Joe, in this country,

which fellas like Constant Markievicz fought

and died over, if a man has the audacity

to tell the people what’s really going on,

or even what’s not, Special Branch

take daily cum-shots of his Facebook page

and file them away for later use.

Get the Minister on here, Joe.

And when he denies it, you’ll know

the truth I speak.



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Consent, by Kimberly Campanello

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Book Review: Consent, by Kimberly Campanello, Doire Press, 2013 

Consent is alive with poems that move the gut, that shock and excite in equal measure.  Eating and shitting, fucking and childbirth, living and dying – all are on full display and the end result is a collection that celebrates the body’s strengths and its breakdowns, and Campanello treats both with a tenderness that demands the reader pay attention.

Humour and defiance are out in full force throughout this collection, and each serves to highlight Campanello’s kindness to the body as it struggles to navigate  a world bound  by the ‘antonyms that bind consent’. In the opening poem ‘Consent’, physical acquiescence due to lactose intolerance, ‘My bowels are bound/by cheese and fear,’ is handled with humour that reads slightly of defiance –  ‘Meaning my shit is bound/for another bright port’.   In short, this sort of breakdown is nothing to be ashamed of.  In ‘The Eggshell Rule’ defiance – born of the notion that it is the fault of the skull, acquiescing for being so thin, a thinness that permits death –   turns to talk of equality, pushing the poem to an ending that is greater than the sum of its parts:

I just want to tell you,

I am a man and you are a woman.

But we are equal

in my mind.


And how did I find you?

And you, me?

As is.

Elsewhere, as in ‘Grandma’, a poem about the body’s breakdown to Alzheimer’s, humour and defiance give way to love –

You burn through the bottom

of four coffee pots

You serve your grandchildren

raw sausages on Sunday

When you’re hungry

you eat ice cream


 You forgo shots of botulism in the face

to stop the twitching in your eye

You are still beautiful

Like a baby mouse

your bones and veins

breathe through your skin

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Paranoia With A Plan

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Book Review: First Book of Frags by Dave Lordan (Wurm Press, Portarlington, 2013)


Dave Lordan announced his uncompromising presence with his first collection ‘The Boy In the Ring. The title poem is emblematic of so much of our recent history. In that brief lyric, Lordan invents or recalls the visceral experience of being the centre of a ring of violence. The boy in the ring is a child in an industrial school, a child in a court, a child in a schoolyard, a child on the street. Whoever he is, he is in great danger, and yet he is not simply a victim. The poem concludes with the unanswered/unanswerable question ‘When will the boy get out of the ring?’

Lordan’s work escapes from all the rings, including the literary traps of form and content. He is always a political poet, always challenging, both as a riveting reader of his own work and in print, so it was with great interest that I opened his first collection of prose.

The title has intrigued me for some time. ‘Fragging’ was the Vietnam War practice of dropping an occasional hand-grenade into the back-pack of an unpleasant officer. And these short fictions are hand-grenades. As the narrator in ‘Christmas Cracker’ says, ‘Tenderness and all that shite is for hypocrites and mealy-mouthed muffin-heads.’ And tenderness there is none in this collection. It seems deliberately set up to take the piss out of all the careful conventions of what we call Irish literature. There isn’t a simple chronological narrative with a sympathetic character and a redemptive ending in the whole thing. What there is a knapsack full of verbal hand-grenades and characters that would stand your hair on end.

‘Dr Essler’s Cocaine’ conjures a fascist orgy somewhere in the (future or present?) west of Ireland in which Lordan has the narrator tell us that ‘The Irishman does not care what his masters get up to as long as he is allowed to get drunk and lash out at his own.’ In another fiction, almost a poem, a series of complex statements about a character called Kathleen is clearly a meditation on the complexity of the feminine image of Ireland beloved of nationalists: ‘We must behave as if the dead are watching and waiting to receive us, or else we are lost. It all comes down to the dead, says Kathleen.’

‘A Bill’ posits an Ireland where transport has declined and the world has grown bigger so that what was once a nearby town is now distant, a place to journey to, and which is famous for its suicides in the same way that Knock is famous for its miracles. The story is about the media and counseling industry that develops around suicides and clusters of suicides, and about managerialism and capitalism’s desire to exploit every human action.

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Ode To The Minister For State Security


Ode To The Minister For State Security – Kevin Higgins

He likes being photographed

with men in uniform

who all work for him. The law

is what he thinks appropriate

any particular day.


He’s the Traffic Cops. He’s the Army.

He’s everything the Special Branch

choose to tell him about

his enemies. In his brief case: things

about you even God’s forgotten.


He sees your smiley face

but heard tell of your

sweating backside

via a joke told him

on the fringes of a classified

national security briefing.


He’s the glorious portrait

of himself that, for now, hangs

above the Commissioner’s

thick brown desk.


He doesn’t suffer fools except

the journalist who writes the headline:

Minister Mustn’t Resign,

who in mitigation – it must be said -

was far too hammered to make bad

the promises and threats

he threw the Polish barmaid’s way,

as last night she assisted to the exit

his absolute confidence in the Minister.


Things remain whatever he prefers to call them,

given every legally held

Uzi submachine gun

in the state is technically

answerable to him.

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