Nocturne: Dennis O'Driscoll

Time for sleep.  Time for a nightcap of grave music,
a dark nocturne, a late quartet, a parting song,
bequeathed by the great dead in perpetuity.

I catch a glance sometimes of my own dead at the window,
those whose traits I share; thin as moths, as matchsticks,
they stare into the haven of the warm room, eyes ablaze.

It is Sunday a lifetime ago.  A woman in a now-demolished house
sings Michael, Row the Boat Ashore as she sets down the bucket
with its smooth folds of drinking water . . .

The steadfast harvest moon out there, entangled in the willow’s
stringy hair, directs me home like T’ao Ch’ien;  A caged bird
pines for its first forest, a salmon thirsts for its stream

Dennis O’Driscoll
Weather Permitting, Anvil Press

The Irish poet Dennis O’Driscoll died suddenly on Christmas Eve aged only 58.  I’ve recently been reading his collection ‘Weather Permitting’ and enjoying his work.  The poem above is the last poem in the collection and its mood, both elegiac and prescient, seems a suitable choice for today’s blog.  Dennis seems to have been a poet who made his own way, regardless of fashions, and with total disregard for notions of marketing.  There’s a kind of quiet joy in his language and I love the ‘Irishness’ of the images.  Seamus Heaney wrote a beautiful obituary in the Guardian, click here to read.  New and Selected Poems is his most recent collection and it contains poems included in Weather permitting.

Dennis’s acclaimed 2008 interviews with Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, Stepping Stones,  published by Faber, is available both as a paperback and on Kindle - I’ve just loaded it on mine to read while travelling.

I’m currently in the air somewhere (hopefully) on my way to New Zealand and for the next few weeks will be featuring some New Zealand poets as my contribution to the Tuesday Poem. 

If you’d like to read more poetry, please take a look at the Tuesday Poem website and check out the poets in the left-hand sidebar.

Nocturne from Weather Permitting, Anvil Press 1999


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