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Tag Archives Dublin


‘O, there you are,’ Mr Bloom said, turning from the fire.

ULYSSES, James Joyce


Joyce read his poems to Lady Gregory

in Dublin. She was impressed and gave him five pounds

to help fund his escape to Paris

from the ‘coherent absurdity’ (his words)

of Catholicism. She wrote to Yeats –

her close friend and patronee, who had lodgings

a five minute walk from Euston – to meet him

off the Holyhead train at six a.m.,

give him breakfast,



Caernavon Bay is below, and to the west

the Irish Sea. The restive winds and waves

are lulled now to a breath, to a swell.

In the distance the London-Holyhead train

crosses the causeway. A multi-decked ferry

from Dublin is entering the harbour.


After the Druids hid, and the Romans left,

there came a multitude of saints, mostly

martyrs, not infrequently princesses,

renowned in death for healing the heart’s anguish.

St Gwenfaen – ‘Blessed White Rock’ –



Where the Menai Straits are at their narrowest,

between two bluffs, Thomas Telford chose to build

his one span suspension bridge, high enough

for tall ships to pass. The two towers,

exposed to the tides, were built of limestone blocks

from the Penmon quarries on the coast

north of here. Caernavon Castle had been built

from Penmon stone – and blocks were shipped to Dublin

to line the Liffey with wharfs and quays.


Telford, the ‘Colossus of Roads’, was reared

in penury –



Beside the first angle in the zigzag steps

that descend steeply to the lighthouse –

where I have stopped to rest lungs and knees

and vow again this will be the last –

unique to this place on our planet

a fleawort is growing, its flowerheads

like miniature sun flowers. A red beaked chough

calls from the heathland above – pyrrhocorax,

pyrrhocorax. I can see Ireland from here –

the hills and mountains south of Dublin –


EASTER, 1916

‘We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric,

but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry’

W.B Yeats, ‘Anima Hominis’, Essays (1924)



Could he hear the firing squads day after day?

Did the rattle carry from Kilmainham Gaol

to Merrion Square as the poem quickened?


Easter had been as late as it could be

that year. Unlikely saviours came forth,

commonplace clerks, scribblers, pedagogues.

The English sent a gunboat up the Liffey.



Felicia Hemans





In 1962, the year the Pope excommunicated Fidel Castro

and the USA and USSR went toe-to-toe,

I won the Felicia Hemans’ prize for lyric poetry,

open to students and alumni of the University of Liverpool.


Mrs Hemans, born in Liverpool, but living

most of her life in North Wales, a best selling poet,

a child prodigy, a prolific adult, whose work

was admired by Wordsworth and Landor,



Catching the last train on any Sunday night,

when I was a student, before The Troubles,

they would be there. I would notice them

in noisy farewells clustered near the bar:

the men, red faced, shouting companionably

with the drink, the women calming kids –

the cardboard suitcases, the carrier bags.


Changing at Crewe, there would be more of them

to join us for the early Irish Mail –

refreshment bars and ill-lit platforms full

of bothered,