Cuair | Curves

She stares
at the rising sun,
rests her eyes
on the roundness of hills.
On paper
she draws circles,
arcs of circles,
circle after circle.
Since a surgeon
scalpelled out
her femininity,
she is haunted by curves.

by Áine Ní Ghlinn | translated by the poet

From An Leabhar Mòr: The Great Book of Gaelic, © the author.

Áine Ní Ghlinn was born in Tipperary, Ireland, in 1955. Her collections include An Chéim BhristeGairdín Pharthais and Deora Nár Caoineadh. She also writes children’s stories and for the Irish television drama series Ros na Rún.

Featuring the work of more than 200 poets, calligraphers and artists, An Leabhar Mòr is a unique collection of Irish and Gaelic poetry, from the sixth century to the present day, and includes the earliest Gaelic poem in existence.

Poets include Iain Crichton Smith, Louis de Paor, Sorley MacLean, Aonghas Dubh MacNeacail, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Máirtín Ó Direáin. Each poem appears in the original Irish or Gaelic, accompanied by an English translation. The poems were selected by well-known poets Seamus Heaney, Hamish Henderson and Alastair MacLeod, and by the contributing poets themselves. One hundred artists (50 from each country) were specially commissioned to produce an original and individual work of art to complement each poem. They include Robert Ballagh, Steven Campbell, Shane Cullen, Alan Davie, Rita Duffy and Alasdair Gray.

he O’Brien Press is one of Ireland’s leading trade publishers. A wide selection of free teaching resources for this title, together with audio clips of some poets reading their work and musical renditions of some of the poems, is available from the website. This title and all O’Brien Press books are available to buy direct from the website or from Amazon.

Cold Spell

Back from the grave my mother chills the air
as she used to. “It wasn’t like that at all,” she says,
speaking from a frosted pane on the stairs.

She shakes herself into her shape – quite
a feat after nineteen years under ground:
“You know I did my best for you, despite

the sacrifices – which I gladly made,”
almost as if now dead she spoke her mind,
who in this life left much she meant unsaid.

My childhood passed as if she wasn’t there.
What I remember most was her blank face
turned to the window, empty as the air.

There are many things I am tempted to say
like: “Yes, but you always lied” or “You never asked
what I thought and wouldn’t listen anyway”,

but I half believe the claim because I know
how tenderly I felt at first for her flesh
that winter underneath its ice tattoo.

But now it is the season of stone-hard ground
and she is back again in modern dress,
a new lilt to her voice, more refined.

“Give me what I never had,” I say, and love’s
blast furnace barbecues my face. It’s still
not what I want but I can’t get enough

and slam out to the cold night, leaving you
your angry tears, to gulp the icy air
and breathe the distance as I used to do.

by Julian Turner

from Orphan Sites
Anvil, 2006
Copyright © Julian Turner 2006

This must have been a hard poem to write from the personal point of view, but it is done without over-dramatization and with not only great power but understanding and restrained feeling. Turner’s technical skill quietly reinforces what’s going on in the poem: you hardly notice them, but both the rhymes and the way that colloquial rhythms play against the metre are finely handled. It isn’t one of Julian Turner’s funnier poems, for sure (read the books for those), but it’s a compelling poem.

Julian Turner was born in Cheadle Hulme, near Manchester in 1955. He lives in Otley, West Yorkshire, and works for the mental health charity Mind. His first collection Crossing the Outskirts appeared in 2002 and Orphan Sites, his second, came out in 2006.

Anvil Press Poetry was founded in 1968 and publishes English-language poetry and poetry in translation, both classic and modern.

At Last

At last, there is some colour in the house.
Quite amazing, how these four daffodils
have made this room so bright, made the blank walls
painted, the light come back into the space.

It’s all so simple. Pick them from the side
of busy roads, their petals grey with fumes.
Then put them in a jamjar. Now you’ve made
an ornament, a pet, a fire, a home,

an installation, a mausoleum.
I never thought I’d love such sentiment,
and never thought I’d dare to utter ‘pain’.
I didn’t want to take the easy slant

on things. Did not intend. But here we are,
a room, one window, four yellow flowers.

by Michael McKimm

From: Sherb: New Urban Writing from Coventry.

Mike McKimm graduated from the University of Warwick with an MA in English Literature in 2006. His poetry, much of it first published by Heaventree, won an Eric Gregory Award in 2007. This poem comes from the collection Sherb: New Urban Writing from Coventry.

The Heaventree Press is an independent poetry press based in Coventry. For more information on Heaventree, and to buy Sherb: New Urban Writing from Coventry, please visit the Heaventree Press website.