Poem of the Day: ‘The Blue Booby’ by James Tate

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The Blue Booby by James Tate

The blue booby lives
on the bare rocks of Galápagos
and fears nothing.
It is a simple life:
they live on fish,
and there are few predators.
Also, the males do not
make fools of themselves
chasing after the young
ladies. Rather,
they gather the blue
objects of the world
and construct from them

a nest—an occasional
Gaulois package,
a string of beads,
a piece of cloth from
a sailor’s suit. This
replaces the need for
dazzling plumage;
in fact, in the past
fifty million years
the male has grown
considerably duller,
nor can he sing well.
The female, though,

asks little of him—
the blue satisfies her
completely, has
a magical effect
on her. When she returns
from her day of
gossip and shopping,
she sees he has found her
a new shred of blue foil:
for this she rewards him
with her dark body,
the stars turn slowly
in the blue foil beside them
like the eyes of a mild savior.

Poem of the Day: ‘Crab Poem’ by Sharon Olds

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Crab Poem by Sharon Olds

When I eat crab, slide the rosy
rubbery claw across my tongue
I think of my mother. She’d drive down
to the edge of the Bay, tiny woman in a
huge car, she’d ask the crab-man to
crack it for her. She’d stand and wait as the
pliers broke those chalky homes, wild-
red and knobby, those cartilage wrists, the
thin orange roof of the back.
I’d come home, and find her at the table
crisply unhousing the parts, laying the
fierce shell on one side, the
soft body on the other. She gave us
lots, because we loved it so much,
so there was always enough, a mound of crab like a
cross between breast-milk and meat. The back
even had the shape of a perfect
ruined breast, upright flakes
white as the flesh of a chrysanthemum, but the
best part was the claw, she’d slide it
out so slowly the tip was unbroken,
scarlet bulb of the feeler—it was such a
kick to easily eat that weapon,
wreck its delicate hooked pulp between
palate and tongue. She loved to feed us
and all she gave us was fresh, she was willing to
grasp shell, membrane, stem, to go
close to dirt and salt to feed us,
the way she had gone near our father himself
to give us life. I look back and
see us dripping at the table, feeding, her
row of pink eaters, the platter of flawless
limp claws, I look back further and
see her in the kitchen, shelling flesh, her
small hands curled—she is like a
fish-hawk, wild, tearing the meat
deftly, living out her life of fear and desire.

Poem of the Day: ‘Night’ by Moya Cannon

Night-Time-Photography1-600x399Photo cred: Giovanna Griffo

Night by Moya Cannon

Coming back from Cloghane
in the sudden frost
of a November night,
I was ambushed
by the river of stars.

Disarmed by lit skies
I had utterly forgotten
this arc of darkness,
this black night
where frost-hammered stars
were notes thrown from a chanter,
crans of light.

So I wasn’t ready
for the dreadful glamour of Orion
as he struck out over Barr dTrí gCom
in his belt of stars.

At Gleann na nGealt
his bow of stars
was drawn against my heart.

What could I do?

Rather than drive into a pitch-black ditch
I got out twice,
leaned against the car
and stared up at our windy, untidy loft
where old people had flung up old junk
they’d thought might come in handy,
ploughs, ladles, bears, lions, a clatter of heroes,
a few heroines, a path for the white cow, a swan
and, low down, almost within reach,
Venus, completely unfazed by the frost.

Fish Poetry Prize 2017: Read winning poem

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I really enjoyed reading at the launch of the Fish Anthology 2017 down in beautiful Bantry at the West Cork Literary Festival this week.

My winning poem ‘Paris, 13 November 2015’ has now been posted on the Fish website, along with the winning entries in the Fiction, Flash Fiction, and Short Memoir categories.

You can find it here.

New review of poetry collections in Southword

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My review of poetry collections by Adam White and Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin appears in the July 2017 edition of Southword. 

Read more about What Else is There? and Hofstetter’s Serenade here.

Poetry workshops in Greece with Aimee Nezhukumatathil

 

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This was my view for the two weeks I spent on the island of Thasos, having gratefully received funding from the Arts Council of Ireland in order to attend Writing Workshops in Greece and study poetry with the amazing Aimee Nezhukumatathil.

This picture looks out over the peninsula of Aliki, where the remains of a temple dedicated to Castor and Pollux—brothers of Helen of Troy—can be found, as well as an ancient marble quarry.

When we arrived, our course director Christopher Bakken warned us that ‘this place has a way of breaking you open’ and was proved, in my case at least, eerily correct. Hopefully the poetry that will eventually come out of my time on Thasos will speak for itself.

For now, here is a poem of Aimee’s from The Atticus Review.

At the Drive-In Volcano by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

St Lucia

I am a very different wife.
Sulfur & ash fill my nose

until both nostrils are beige,
my hands hot & webbed

with steam. My new husband
urges me closer to the center

of the steaming caldera
for a picture until I am up

against the rail. Our guide
tells us of a rasta man

who once fell in
& survived. His entire body

turned smooth as a candle.
Come with me, Husband.

Put down your backpack,
your camera—let us

be remarried in fire.
One by one the stars go out.

Even in this darkness,
there is so much light.

 

Poem of the Day: ‘As Children Together’ by Carolyn Forché

As Children Together by Carolyn Forché

Under the sloped snow
pinned all winter with Christmas
lights, we waited for your father
to whittle his soap cakes
away, finish the whisky,
your mother to carry her coffee
from room to room closing lights
cubed in the snow at our feet.
Holding each other’s
coat sleeves we slid down
the roads in our tight
black dresses, past
crystal swamps and the death
face of each dark house,
over the golden ice
of tobacco spit, the blue
quiet of ponds, with town
glowing behind the blind
white hills and a scant
snow ticking in the stars.
You hummed blanche comme
la neige and spoke of Montreal
where a québecoise could sing,
take any man’s face
to her unfastened blouse
and wake to wine
on the bedside table.
I always believed this,
Victoria, that there might
be a way to get out.

You were ashamed of that house,
its round tins of surplus flour,
chipped beef and white beans,
relief checks and winter trips
that always ended in deer
tied stiff to the car rack,
the accordion breath of your uncles
down from the north, and what
you called the stupidity
of the Michigan French.

Your mirror grew ringed
with photos of servicemen
who had taken your breasts
in their hands, the buttons
of your blouses in their teeth,
who had given you the silk
tassles of their graduation,
jackets embroidered with dragons
from the Far East. You kept
the corks that had fired
from bottles over their beds,
their letters with each city
blackened, envelopes of hair
from their shaved heads.

I am going to have it, you said.
Flowers wrapped in paper from carts
in Montreal, a plane lifting out
of Detroit, a satin bed, a table
cluttered with bottles of scent.

So standing in a Platter of ice
outside a Catholic dance hall
you took their collars
in your fine chilled hands
and lied your age to adulthood.

I did not then have breasts of my own,
nor any letters from bootcamp
and when one of the men who had
gathered around you took my mouth
to his own there was nothing
other than the dance hall music
rising to the arms of iced trees.

I don’t know where you are now, Victoria.
They say you have children, a trailer
in the snow near our town,
and the husband you found as a girl
returned from the Far East broken
cursing holy blood at the table
where nightly a pile of white shavings
is paid from the edge of his knife.

If you read this poem, write to me.
I have been to Paris since we parted.