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Best of Irish Poetry 2010
Editor: Matthew Sweeney
Songs of Earth and Light
Barbara Korun poems translated by Theo Dorgan
Done Dating DJs
by Jennifer Minniti-Shippey
Winner, 2008 Fool for Poetry Competition
Richesses: Francophone Songwriter Poets
Edited and translated by Aidan Hayes
Munster Literature Centre
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Sinéad Morrissey was born in Co. Armagh in 1972 and grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She is the author of four poetry collections, all published by Carcanet: There Was Fire in Vancouver (1996), Between Here and There (2002), The State of the Prisons (2005) and Through the Square Window (2009). Her awards include the Patrick Kavanagh Award, an Eric Gregory Award, the Rupert and Eithne Strong Award, and the Michael Hartnett Poetry Prize. She has also been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot prize, the Irish Times Poetry Prize and the John Llewellyn Rhys Commonwealth Literature Prize. In 2007 she received a Lannan Literary Fellowship. Through the Square Window took first place in the UK National Poetry Competition the same year. She is lecturer in Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, Queen’s University, Belfast.
At 25 and 29 respectively, Hans Holbein’s
burly furred ambassadors haven’t got long to go:
the pox, the plague, the ague, a splinter
in the finger, a scratch at the back of the throat
or an infection set into the shoulder joint
might carry them off, in a matter of writhing
hours, at any instant—
Too obvious a touch
to set the white skull straight. Better
to paint it as something other: driftwood
up-ended by magic from the right-hand side
of the tesserae carpet; to let it hang
like an improbable boomerang just under
the clutch of pipes, the lute with the broken
string, still casting a shadow …
For there is bewitchery in those brown beards yet—
in the (slightly) rakish tilt to the saucer hat
of the ambassador on the left.
for Paul Maddern
The rat on your salvaged pallet out the back
among pots, bricks, paperweights,
bees made of glass, a litter
of pink petals from the balsawood trellis,
the blown-open tongues of the honeysuckle —
is already a bed for flies and getting rained on.
It shifts its weight every fifteen minutes or so
so we know it’s still living.
With bodies as blue as a peacock’s waistcoat
or coal’s first concession to fire,
the flies shimmer at intervals
along the animal’s flank: so still
you’d think they’d died together.
Now neither sex, nor leaf-sweep, nor thunder
can cleave them. The eyes of the rat are sealed tight
as though pencilled shut with eyeliner.
More flies alight. It rains harder. I can’t look.
The rat draws its consciousness
back into its own scuttled bone-shack.
And the blue of the flies shines: jewelled,
unfazable; a mineral attack
on the walls of our final kingdom;
burglars, with a sense of grievance,
desecrating the Hall of Ishtar.
©2011 Sinéad Morrissey
Sinead Morrissey at Poetry International Web--Ireland
Carcanet's page on Morrissey
Morrissey listing, including a critical essay, at Contemporary Writers