Total Pageviews

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Sonnet

Reading the Sonnet, Joseph Lorusso

I am having a love affair with the sonnet since the summer.  The Shakespearian follows the rhyming scheme of ab,ab,cd, cd, ef, ef, gg. The form consists of fourteen lines structured as three quatrains and a couplet. The third quatrain generally introduces an unexpected sharp thematic or imagistic "turn" called a volta. In Shakespeare's sonnets, the couplet usually summarizes the theme of the poem or introduces a fresh new look at the theme. The usual meter is iambic pentameter, which means five iambic feet, i.e., ten-syllable lines.

I admire John Keats' sonnet Bright star! would I were

Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art—

Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,

And watching, with eternal lids apart,

Like Nature’s patient sleepless Eremite,

The moving waters at their priestlike task

Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,

Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask

Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—

No—yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,

Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,

To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,

Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,

Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,

And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

The word sonnet comes from the Italian word sonetto which means little song, cute!

The Italian or Petrarchan sonnet has the rhyming scheme abba, abba, cde, cde or abba, abba, cd, cd, cd or abba, abba, cd, cc, dc.  The Italian sonnets included two parts. First, the octave (two quatrains), which describe a problem, followed by a sestet (two tercets), which gives the resolution to it. Typically, the ninth line creates a "turn" or volta which signals the move from proposition to resolution.

Here Is A Wound That Never Will Heal, I Know

Here is a wound that never will heal, I know,

Being wrought not of a dearness and a death,

But of a love turned ashes and the breath

Gone out of beauty; never again will grow

The grass on that scarred acre, though I sow

Young seed there yearly and the sky bequeath

Its friendly weathers down, far Underneath

Shall be such bitterness of an old woe.

That April should be shattered by a gust,

That August should be levelled by a rain,

I can endure, and that the lifted dust

Of man should settle to the earth again;

But that a dream can die, will be a thrust

Between my ribs forever of hot pain.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Below is an example of a modern sonnet by e e cummings.

i like my body when it is with your

i like my body when it is with your

body. It is so quite new a thing.

Muscles better and nerves more.

i like your body. i like what it does,

i like its hows. i like to feel the spine

of your body and its bones, and the trembling

-firm-smooth ness and which i will

again and again and again

kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,

i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz

of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes

over parting flesh ... And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you so quite new

And finally there is Sonnet by The Verve

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Launch of Boyne Berries 7

A significant crowd gathered in The Castle Arch Hotel in Trim on Thursday night.  Ciaran Mangan, the Meath County Librarian, launched. 
Readers on the night included members of the Boyne Writers and notables such as Tommy Murray, Frank Murphy, Aideen Henry, Peter Goulding, Sinead MacDevitt and Niamh Boyce.  I had met Sinead at the Francis Ledwidge Award ceremony in the autumn of last year and Niamh when we were both finalists in the Eist Poetry Competition in 2008.  We attended a poetry writing seminar given by Fred Johnston as prize winners.  Michael Farry had also been a finalist,  as had Andrew Caldicott who is included in this current issue of Boyne Berries too.

Afterwards tea and coffee were served and it was then a chance for all to mingle and chat.  The picture of myself and Catherine Hastings is courtesy of Paddy Smith.  Greg Hastings is responsible for cover design and artwork on Boyne Berries 7.

Michael Farry:
Niamh Boyce
     Sinead MacDevitt

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Tomorrow I am looking forward to my niece's seventh birthday party in the evening and to the launch of Boyne Berries 7 by night.  All these sevens must surely mean good luck!
It seems ages ago since I submitted to the first edition of Boyne Berries in the spring of 2007.  I had been very cautious about sending in some poems for the editor's consideration but I was also thrilled to learn later that one of my poems would be included.  It was called Night Aria and it was written about the joy I felt due to the birth of my second niece.  It was a wee poem:

Night Aria.

There is a fire aflame.

There is a girl with a heart.

There is a birth.

There is an earthy name.

And I’m floating down the river

that goes on and on and on I’m

drifting along.

And I’m sleeping on the grass

where the night air is cool,

where the stars are cooling in velvet.

Before long I’ll be dreaming.

I’ll be in your heart,

like an old jaded song.

I am empty to be quiet,

silent to be heard,

lost to find or to be found.

There is no image wide enough.

I am humbled by the profound.

I was too shy on the night of the launch of Boyne Berries 1 to read this poem but the following year I found myself joining the Boyne Writers Group and I haven't looked back (well not too much) since.  This has been due to the regular group meetings, discussions and encouragement with and by the likes of Michael Farry, Paddy Smith, Brendan Carey Kinane, Paul Kerr and Tom Dredge, to name a few members.  May there be many more meetings and issues to come!
Now back to tomorrow...
But first sleep -
And in the morning,


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Some Irish sayings that caught my eye

I was in the library yesterday and came across a book called Irish Weather Wisdom:Signs of Rain.  It is compiled by Gabriel Rosenstock and illustrated by Rosemary Woods.

Some of the sayings I like include:

Go n-imni an tuile den turlach leat (may you take your bad luck with you)

La coscartha an tsneachta (the day that melts the snow)

Dar bri na greine is na gealai (by the power of the sun and the moon)

La brea amarach ma chludaionn teada an phuca an talamh (a soft day tomorrow when gossamer threads cover the ground)

I find it lovely that the people who had this saying described the threads of gossamer as the ghost's threads.  The phuca means, the ghost!  It must show that the old Irish people were poetic and innocent at times.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Boyne Readings and Open Mic, March

L-R Oran Ryan, Ross Hattaway, James Linnane, Eamonn Cooke
The weather outside was milder and though arriving slightly late, Oran Ryan and Ross Hattaway, from the Seven Towers Agency in Dublin, did not disappoint the select and appreciative crowd who had gathered to listen to them read. Oran read from his novel Ten Short Novels by Arthur Kruger and Ross from his poetry collection The Gentle Art of Rotting.

The Boyne Writers Group was well represented with members sharing pieces between and after featured readers.  Also contributing was Frank Murphy of Meath Writers Circle.  Paddy Smith was, again, a great MC.
Paddy Smith & Frank Murphy

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Evening Poems

Sunday night and to relax I've been doing a little writing myself.   Inspired by my trip into the Cooley Mountains and Newry yesterday I gleaned a poem.  It was fascinating to be in Newry and to see something of the clash between the North and the Republic, so much seemed familiar yet alien.  I was in another country.  The accent was different, the countryside, the signs, the currency.  I must go back again.

While in the bath I read a Susan Connolly poem which gave voice to a notion I often had about longing to be able to go back to the child you were and speak with her, to comfort her.  The poem is called The Path :

My life has to be
exactly as it is,
so that she can find
her way back
step by step,
to talk with me.

Then googling Northern Irish poets I came across Leontia Flynn and a wonderful poem called The Furthest Distances I've Travelled which mentions exotic and far flung places but in the end the poet realises that the further distance she has travelled is between people "And what survives of holidaying briefly in their lives."  This is a link to the poem and you can hear Flynn reading the poem too: