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Best of Irish Poetry 2010
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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
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Caitríona O'Reilly was educated at Trinity College Dublin, where she completed a Ph.D. She has published two full collections of poetry. Her first collection, The Nowhere Birds, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for best first collection and won the Rooney Prize in Irish Literature. Her second collection The Sea Cabinet, appeared in 2006, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and was shortlisted for the Irish Times Literary Prize. The title poem of that collection, which concerns the 19th century whaling industry in the North of England, was commissioned by the BBC and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She is also a widely published critic. Between 2008 and 2011 she was editor of Poetry Ireland Review and she currently sits on the editorial board of Poetry Salzburg Review. She lives in Lincolnshire.
I bruise my knuckles
against its smooth white walls.
Containment is in
the nature of a house,
but I would sooner
the berserker’s filthy pelt,
sooner swallow hot coals
as proof against the blunt
force of iron, sooner a door
in the two-chambered brain
to let the dark in still
and through which the owl
might issue its summons.
The wound of the mouth closes;
to perish its roots,
a radiant stone is placed on the tongue.
I recognised her in your eyes,
the way you have of keeping separate,
aware that to wake is to weigh the damage.
From the shore of my own island I saw
her in the shards of your face,
as though she’d shattered her mirror
and left the pieces there to glitter.
Brightness attracts me like a child:
the light-veined sea,
and the threads of light from the sky,
and you whom I see but cannot reach,
intangible as phosphor blushing on water,
cold as the dawn of our one waking.
Beyond the throw of any rope,
head full of the skua’s laughter,
I faced the reeling shore.
You’ve left me thin with saintly hunger,
fed me renunciation’s delicate bread.
I’m used to that.
My chief want—
the gold-and-olive chasing of your glance,
a look of nakedness and clear fathoms.
The crystal spider hidden in your eye
cast a single lucent cord,
hung between us the quivering instant,
then shrank to spinning veils.
It pierced me the way light pierces
the tunnel in a tunnel-grave:
only to distinguish the dark.
goes on with our clothes,
all the discreet lies.
We’ll discard the details:
your tongue scouring my mouth,
our voices, our tears, our selves.
Still it hums along my veins –
a view I took from the hill
that to you was usual –
beaches gleaming with northern birds,
the wing-bones and skulls
of the waves’ whitest outcasts.
It is bread for the hungry road.
The island is a flower head,
and the swaying sea its stem.
©2012 Catríona O'Reilly
Caitríona O'Reilly at Bloodaxe Books
Reading by O'Reilly for Poetry Ireland (YouTube)
Stubborn Tiny Lights: Blog with frequent contributions by O'Reilly