Who is on the plum tree?
It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you a special Irish poet that I am sure will become a regular visitor to Plum Tree Books. Niall O’ Connor is my kind of poet. He writes simply and beautifully using ordinary, everyday things as metaphors around which to weave his poetry magic. Thank you, Niall for gracing us with your presence. As Niall reminds us of the beauty of the rich, musical tones of Michael Macliammoir’s oratory, I added Michael’s picture, as I had the great pleasure of meeting him many, many years ago in Dublin.
The sonorous voice of Micheal MacLiammoir on the black and white television transfixed me so that the adults went to bed and left me on my own. I was seven.
Before that again, I found sleep with the words of William Allingham
UP the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a-hunting
For fear of little men
Words that that as well as bringing sleep, brought the light trip of fairy feet and the tinkling of mountain streams.
The marriage of sound and sense is what made me fall in love with poetry. The connection was further strengthened by the incantation of religious ceremony in Latin; repetition of words and sounds with no great knowledge of their import.
Then at school, the introduction to Yeats and Kavanagh, Robbie Burns and Shakespeare, and I decided I had to take part in this quest for the perfect poem.
The now fashionably unpopular words of Yeats, still ring in my ears and permeates my own writing.
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
—W. B. Yeats, from The Lake Isle of Innisfree
When I had exhausted the Irish and English poets, I was drawn to more exotic shores. Books of poetry and short stories from ‘Old Europe’, from China, and from the countless forgotten writers of the nineteenth century that do not merit even a footnote in our histories of Literature. This cacophony of voices had one thing in common, and that was the use of words to convey emotion and meaning. Poetry is perfection in communication, and that is still the thing I strive to attain.
I finish with a quote attributed to T.S.Eliot: “Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood’, and a favourite of mine…a highly unfashionable love poem…but how far, and how well, has the wonderous echo of its sentiments travelled.”
How Do I Love Thee?
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.