With March 17th just days away, let’s celebrate St-Patrick’s Day and Ireland, the land of lyricism and poetry, with words and verse.

Though my mum, my sons, and many of my friends and family have been to Ireland, I haven’t (yet!), though it’s the birthplace of many of my ancestors (at least a couple of branches of the family tree).

Still, it’s a place that feels familiar, and that calls to me. I think it’s the voices of Ireland’s poets and writers that I hear.

My own St-Patrick’s Day contribution is this list of  Ireland in Adjectives. Would you like to add  to it?

1. Ireland in adjectives

Ancient, beautiful, boisterous, Celtic, creative, desolate, dispersed, embattled,enchanted, erudite, eternal, forgotten, gentle, harsh,

historic,immortal, industrial, insular, intellectual, intemporal, literary, lyrical, magic, modern, monastic, 

mystical, mythical, poetic, pugnacious, rambunctious, restless, riven, soulful, spiritual, timeless, torn, verdant…

Here now, are poems of Ireland. This first one is by Padraic Pearse: it is, I think, Ireland defiant and unyielding.

2. Miss Eire (I Am Ireland), by Padraic Pearse    5258899_orig

I am Ireland:
I am older than the Old Woman of Beare.

Great my glory:
I that bore Cuchulainn the valiant.

Great my shame:
My own children that sold their mother.

I am Ireland:
I am lonelier than the Old Woman of Beare.


To read more about the poet:


I have only just discovered Pat Ingoldsby, whose poetic voice I hear like that of a friend.  There’s nowhere in the world that’s out of the reach of this beautiful first poem, which seems apt this week, when Jean Vanier has just won the Templeton Prize.

3. For Rita With Love
by Pat Ingoldsby

Poet Pat Ingoldsby

You came home from school
on a special bus
full of people
who look like you
and love like you
and you met me
for the first time
and you loved me.
You love everybody
so much that it’s not safe
to let you out alone.
Eleven years of love
and trust and time for you to learn
that you can’t go on loving like this.
Unless you are stopped
you will embrace every person you see.
Normal people don’t do that.
Some Normal people will hurt you
very badly because you do.

Cripples don’t look nice
but you embrace them.
You kissed a wino on the bus
and he broke down and cried
and he said ‘Nobody has kissed me
for the last 30 years.
But you did.
You touched my face
with your fingers and said
‘I like you.’

The world will never
be ready for you.
Your way is right
and the world will never be ready. We could learn everything
that we need to know
by watching you
going to your special school
in your special bus
full of people
who look like you
and love like you
and it’s not safe
to let you out alone.
If you’re not normal
there is very little hope
for the rest of us.

Ingoldsby delights me with these next two poems of contemporary Ireland. I love the rhythms and the lilts of this first one; and the wry humour and mischief of both.

4. Conversation With A Garda In
Grafton Street

by Pat Ingoldsby

A couple of years back I paused in Grafton Street
and leaned against a litter bin to listen to a busker.

A large garda appeared beside me.

“Are you selling anything that you shouldn’t be selling?”photo-nuns-garda-clerys-630x332
he said.

“I’m just enjoying the sunshine and the music”

“Yeah but are you selling anything that you shouldn’t 
be selling”

“I’m simply enjoying the music.”


“You’re wearing an awful lot of jewellery all the same.”

“That is none of your business” I said.

“I was just making conversation” he said.


5. A Good Trick If You Can Do It by Pat Ingoldsby

I don’t know how he did it.
The bus driver said- “Watch this!”
And he stopped the bus.
The trees and fields
on both sides of the road
kept on moving past us.

“Now they think the bus
is moving,” he said

To know more about Pat Ingoldsby:


Ireland’s literary heritage is so rich, that it can boast about having four Nobel laureates: W.B. Yeats (1923), George Bernard Shaw (1925), Samuel Beckett (1969) and Seamus Heaney (1995).

This first poem, by Seamus Heaney, is a lovely expression of Ireland as sea, wind and landscape.

6. Postscript
by Seamus Heaney

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown, headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart offguard and blow it open.

As a special treat, you can hear a shy and endearing Heaney reciting “Postscript” at: https://vimeo.com/73559117

This second Heaney poem speaks of fathers, sons and the land that passed from one to the other:

7. FOLLOWERby Seamus Heaney

My father worked with a horse-plough,
His shoulders globed like a full sail strungmaxresdefault
Between the shafts and the furrow.
The horse strained at his clicking tongue.

An expert. He would set the wing
And fit the bright steel-pointed sock.
The sod rolled over without breaking.
At the headrig, with a single pluck

Of reins, the sweating team turned round
And back into the land. His eye
Narrowed and angeled at the ground,
Mapping the furrow exactly.

I stumbled in his hob-nailed wake,
Fell sometimes on the polished sod;
Sometimes he rode me on his back
Dipping and rising to his plod.

I wanted to grow up and plough,
To close one eye, stiffen my arm.
All I ever did was follow
In his broad shadow round the farm.

I was a niusance, tripping, falling,
Yapping always. But today
It is my father who keeps stumbling
Behind me, and will not go away.

To read the poet’s biography: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1995/heaney-bio.html

It feels right to end with Yeats, whose work I love. I hope that this one is new to you:

8. To A Child Dancing In The Wind
by William Butler Yeats
Dance there upon the shore;yeats-bio
What need have you to care
For wind or water’s roar?
And tumble out your hair
That the salt drops have wet;
Being young you have not known
The fool’s triumph, nor yet
Love lost as soon as won,
Nor the best labourer dead
And all the sheaves to bind.
What need have you to dread
The monstrous crying of wind!

To read more about W.B. Yeats: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1923/yeats-bio.html





  1. Thanks again, David! I’m educating myself as I write and post, but anything that speeds that process along is a boon, and every one of your suggestions has been terrific.

    I looked Paul Muldoon up right away, of course, and learned that he is both a Pulitzer and TS Eliot prize winner.

    What is your favourite poem of his? I’d like to share it here.
    Also, are there any adjectives you’d like to add to my opening list?

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