Ireland’s Favourite Poem
John Kelly’s ‘The Works’ programme on RTE has been involving the public in a search for what they consider to be Ireland’s favourite poem. A similar project of 2012 involved the search for Ireland’s favourite painting which proved very popular. The winner there was a love painting titled ‘Hellelil and Hildebrand Meeting on the Stairs’ by William Burton. Last week, on RTE 1, ‘The Works’ programme announced the winner of the country’s favourite poem as per this project. Of course this is a very subjective choice like the selection of one’s favourite song or sports book. I have favourite poems of course but I would want to think through them again so perhaps I will do that anon. My favourites are not in this list though I do like a number of those listed. You may have seen a very popular current Irish poet Paul Durcan read his nominated poem on the Brendan O’Connor show last Saturday night. While Paul Durcan comes across as a man burdened with melancholy he still has a number of very accessible poems. The one a lot of younger people may remember is ‘Going Home to Mayo’ with the line ‘Daddy, Daddy’, I cried, ‘Pass out the Moon’. A fun love poem of his, ‘The Man with a Bit of Jizz in Him’. I’ve diverted to Mister Durcan there but I return now to my primary subject Ireland’s favourite poem.
The project jury was chaired by broadcaster John Kelly, and included the singer Damien Dempsey, former newsreader Anne Doyle, and Catriona Crowe from the National Archives of Ireland.
The full short list was
A Christmas Childhood by Patrick Kavanagh
A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford by Derek Mahon
Dublin by Louis MacNeice
Easter 1916 by William Butler Yeats
Fill Arís by Seán Ó Ríordáin
Filleadh ar an gCathair by Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh
Making Love Outside Áras an Uachtaráin by Paul Durcan
Quarantine by Eavan Boland
The Statue of the Virgin at Granard Speaks by Paula Meehan
When all the others were away at Mass by Seamus Heaney
The winning poem in this instance was Seamus Heaney’s
‘When all the others were away at Mass’
(In Memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984 and it is taken from Clearances, which he published in 1987 on his mother’s death.)
Of course Seamus Heaney is hugely and deservedly popular. The word accessible comes to mind again with me. Since Mother’s Day was on Sunday last it might be appropriate to dwell on the winner at this time even if it a little delayed. I imagine the poem will evoke memories of a similar or related scene in a number of people.
When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.
So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives –
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.
All-Ireland Club Finals... Disappointment
There was a difference in class in both the All-Ireland Club Finals in Croke Park on St. Patrick’s Day. Corofin looked like a fantastic side in their victory over Slaugtneil of Derry. They dominated from the off with many outstanding performances with Michael Lundy being player of the tournament. One would imagine that when the Corofin complement return to the Galway county team, which will probably be for the league game against Roscommon, they will be a formidable force. Slaughtneil had got to this final in a kind of fortuitous way especially in their victory over Crossmaglen. I doubt if Cross would have rolled over so easily had they been in the final.
Ballyhale Shamrocks had earlier dismissed their Limerick opponents Kilmallock in a similar fashion. It might be suggested that Kilmallock were overcome with the occasion but the difference in class was yawning. So Henry Shevlin has added another top medal to his collection. The speculation now is will he continue in the black and amber for another year or not. In a sense I hope he decides to retire now as I would not like to see this great player reduced to being a bit player or doing a gradual fade away. Kilkenny do not look near being the force they have been and this year could see a changing of the guard. But while we have heard that before it does happen and the omens are suggesting so.
Roscommon’s Great Display
After the Portlaoise loss to Laois where there was just one top performance that of Cathal Cregg Roscommon supporters were a bit confused. However after Newbridge there was no player of whom it could be said that they did not play well. At half time in the game a supporter told me that their group called to Newbridge cemetery to visit the grave of Dermott Earley before the game which was a thoughtful gesture.
Roscommon’s U 21 Assassins
The U 21 demolition of Sligo on Wednesday night is further evidence of the quality coming through. In Diarmuid Murtagh, Ultan Harney and Enda Smith this side has three assassins who were just fantastic on Wednesday night. While Enda got three goals Murtagh’s second half goal was just terrific and I was just in line with it. Next Sunday the seniors play Meath in Hyde Park and the U 21s’ play the winners of Mayo/Galway on Easter Saturday April 4 in Pearse Stadium if Galway and in Hyde Park if Mayo. Roscommon C.B.S. play Good Counsel of Wexford in the All-Ireland Senior Colleges ‘A’ Semi-Final in Portlaoise on Saturday March 28.
The first Club Senior League game of the year takes place on Sunday morning in Boyle when Boyle plays Tulsk.
Spring Clean and Litter Campaign Time
With the good weather and all it is time to attempt the spring clean. I see in Castlecoote, which I keep an eye on, a system where people adopt a distance of road to keep litter free. Perhaps that might be attempted in Boyle. There is quite a bit of litter in evidence on the road sides at the moment. One of the stretches of road that seems to attract more than its share of litter lies between the two arches going out to Lough Key Forest Park. I may have to ‘adopt’ this stretch of road myself but I’d be a little self-conscious doing that on my lonesome.
Car Lights and Slow Road Vehicles
I mentioned this fairly recently but obviously not everybody read my reminder. The number of cars with defective lights is very significant. Now one can easily enough be unaware of some light defects for a short time but with major deficiencies this should not be the case. The real hazard is the front
outside light which if not right may confuse the oncoming drive as to the status of vehicle approaching him/her.
Another element that causes frustration and may lead to dangerous passing out is slow-moving road vehicles such as tractors (sometimes cars driven really slowly). It was suggested that the law requires such vehicles to pull in and allow following vehicles space to pass. I have experienced in West Wales spaces being dedicated for such a procedure. Anyway courtesy and consideration on the road is the mantra. Give Respect Get Respect.
Top Ten Sports Books countdown
I’ll just highlight one for this and the following two weeks. This week it is by Paul Kimmage. For many people it would be their number one.
3. A Rough Ride: An Insight into Pro Cycling. One of the greatest sports books ever.
Paul Kimmage (1990, Stanley Paul) (Cycling)
The first time we heard of Paul Kimmage as a writer and maybe even as a cyclist was on Gay Byrne’s radio show when Gay commented upon how struck and impressed he was by a diary piece by a young cyclist on the Giro d’Italia. At one point conditions and Kimmage’s hands had become so cold he’d urinate on them. It was something gritty, visceral neither Byrne nor any of us had really encountered before in sports journalism but after that we’d become such an avid reader of The Sunday Tribune we’d even go on to work for them.
So also would Kimmage, full-time the following year when he would reveal something even grittier in a new book: the sport we thought we’d come to know and even love from watching Kelly and Roche go up against Delgado and Fignon was rife with drugs. Even Kimmage had succumbed to it on a few occasions to get through a couple of rough days everyone else has long forgotten. But as he’d put it himself, that didn’t make him a cheat. That made him a victim. “A victim of a corrupt system, a system that actually promotes drug- taking in the sport.” He didn’t want that for anyone else, which was one of his motivations for writing the book. We’ve heard it said cynically since — even recently — about the book that it isn’t really about cycling and the sheer intrinsic thrill of being out there in the open, the wind in your face or at your back. But it was.
In the early chapters, Kimmage talks fondly about the innocence and joy of cycling off into the dark with Stephen Roche and a couple of friends and “munching away in the spitting rain” on his mother’s fruit cake, laughing and joking about how lucky they were. That to Kimmage was cycling, not these needles and indifference to them, and it was to the cycling he knew and loved that he wanted the sport to return. But cycling itself didn’t want that and it certainly didn’t want him after pissing in the soup (Even Uncle Gaybo would disapprovingly wonder on the Late Late Show why he’d left people open to doubting the purity of “the lads”, Kelly and Roche). Kimmage would continue to be something of an outcast in the sport, especially when its most towering figure Lance Armstrong took issue with Kimmage’s line of writing and questioning. Yet Kimmage would stand true to his convictions and the premise of writing a certain book. “Writing Rough Ride is the most important thing I did,” he’d reflect recently. “The most important contribution I’ve ever made to my sport.”
We can’t think of a more important book anyone has contributed to any sport. In the pantheon of all the fine books we’ve honoured and climbed through here, A Rough Ride stands at the very pinnacle of the mountain, its own Alpe D’Heuz, on the podium, in yellow.
(Just to reiterate regarding the review above, that while I empathise with it and use it to highlight the book which the reviewers have as their number one, it is not mine. It is just borrowed, for the most part!)