I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized The Bears and the Bees

The Bears and the Bees

Thomas McCarthy
Imaginary Bonnets with Real Bees in Them (The Poet’s Chair: Writings from the Ireland Chair of Poetry), by Paula Meehan, University College Dublin Press, 110 pp, €20, ISBN: 978-1906359911 The Ireland Chair of Poetry, where a poet of national distinction is appointed for three years to a roving professorship, is one of those absolutely daft good things that the powers that be in Irish life come up with now and again. As with the formation of Aosdána, everyone is astonished at the success of what was potentially an embarrassing idea. This Ireland professorship is as unique as a hedge school, bringing furtive teachers down from the mountains where they’d hidden; and calling all children to the bottom of a barley field; to that shade by the blackthorn bush where two streams always meet in Irish poetry. This innovative, first-mover risky thing has taken hold and has accumulated a splendid new authority from the names of those poets who are willing to take a punt on three years of commitment, from John Montague to Harry Clifton, from Michael Longley to Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill. Bob Collins in his foreword to the present book praises “the energetic and selfless engagement” shown by Paula Meehan during her now closing term as professor. Meehan’s elevation to the post seemed like a crowning moment for women’s poetry in Ireland; but it paralleled the simultaneous elevation to posts of influence of both Gillian Clarke and Carol Ann Duffy across the Irish Sea, creating an impression that year of complete female leadership of the poetic worlds of Great Britain and Ireland. Meehan seized the historic moment; and in the lectures collected here she has created both a sourcebook and a catechism for new kinds of poetries. These lectures offer a new open architecture for a different kind of person-centred Irish poetry. This is not the usual alternative, the post-doctoral Beckett-Coffey route, but the modernity of a personal presence in the poem, a poetry beyond rhetoric. Utterly outmoded nationalisms and loyalisms are set aside and in their stead a person-centred aesthetic is established; an aesthetic that derives from the direct treatment of all things, including honey bees. Her first lecture here is a series of nine “meditations” on poetry, on what she calls the “always mysterious purposeful flight of bees in my bonnet”. Her journey begins with an irate teacher and a poem about her dead dog, Prince. The teacher…



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