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Best of Irish Poetry 2009
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Songs of Earth and Light

Songs of Earth and Light
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PAULA MEEHAN

 

 

Paula Meehan photoPAULA MEEHAN was born in 1955 and raised in two famous working-class districts of Dublin, before graduating from Trinity College and Eastern Washington University. She has written plays for children and adults and has conducted writing workshops with inner city communities and in prisons as well as universities. Meehan’s books of poetry most recently include Dharmakaya (Carcanet Press & Wake Forest University Press, 2000); and Painting Rain (Carcanet & Wake Forest, 2009). Her work is much translated, widely anthologized, and among the prizes she has won are The Martin Toonder Award (1995), the Butler Literary Award (1998) and the Denis Devlin Award (2002). She is also a member of Aosdana.

 

 

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A Sonnet for Garry Snyder on his 80th Birthday

A Netchke for Barbara Korun

 

 

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A Sonnet for Garry Snyder on his 80th Birthday

 

 

To sit an hour in gratitude, the heart

opening to dustmote sunbeam deep shade

in this sequoia grove the mind expands

to the edge of the forest which is the edge

 

of mind where I see the enchanted path

in and through the teeming forest of childhood,

your poetry written on my empty hands,

the leaves, your pages dreaming a whole age:

 

its mysteries writ clear as a star chart

across the heavens the trail you have blazed

O to be alive! The blest holy land

beneath my bare feet, humble and privileged;

 

to follow after, to walk the same earth,

to get down and kiss the ground of your birth.

 

 

8th of May, 2010

 

 

 

A Netchke for Barbara Korun

 

 

Coming down off the high mountain

tracing the Soca river from her headwaters

we stopped at every roadside tourist stall

trying to buy a netchke.

Between one year

and the next theyd disappeared. No call

anymore, nobody makes their own bread.

 

Like a language or a creature you only miss

when its already extinct, or like some

implement banished to a shed or attic

not yet dusted down for a museum of folk life,

the netchke and its name might just as well

have been a stream fallen into a fissure in the karst.

 

They sold wooden spoons, chopping boards, plaques

and souvenirs with Lake Bled or Greetings

from Slovenia in hot pokerwork. No netchkes,

those hollow troughs of birch to knead dough in.

 

A cranky woman in her seventies or eighties

bent over nearly double and dressed in black

minding her sons stall on the road to Bohinj

hoked one out of a heap of discarded stock.

It was shop soiled and mottled with the black

spatters of damp mould but we got it for a song.

It fit the curve of my belly perfectly.

 

That night we reached the sea, pushed through Strunjan

out past Trst. We slept to the pulsing waves.

The moon was gibbous and my spirit baby rocked

as I cast her off from shore into the current.

 

The netchke was white in what little light there was.

I had lined it with golden straw of wheat,

there was salt of forgetting on my daughters tongue

and oil of forgiveness on her delicate feet.

 

 

 

©2011 Paula Meehan

 

 

 

Author Links

 

'Text and Context': article in An Sionnach regarding Meehan's work (PDF-132k)

Meehan at Poetry International Web

Carcanet's page on Meehan

 

 

 

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