‘Keep Digging’ by David Atkinson

Keep Digging

We Irish have a reputation for being handy with a spade,
digging potatoes and turf; and when the potatoes stopped growing,
no matter how much we dug, we planted our children in the ground.
When we grew tired of planting our children we left for England,
and when we arrived they gave us a spade and we dug
roads and railways the length and breadth of the country,
and when they needed someone to do bit of digging in France,
we said we were the boys for the job, and off we went, digging.

Being such experts why did it take so long to dig that particular hole,
was it so hard to break the ground, to find what was buried at night
without prayer or pity, piled high like straw in a pit for piss and shite?
This digging needs to be slow, respectful, lifting the soil in layers,
finding bones so small a head could fit on your hand, and crying,
eight hundred holes before we turn the soil to the sky for the last time.
David Atkinson is a Belfast-born poet who has had his prize winning work published nationally and internationally. He has published two collections of poetry, Thomas (2004) and Black Eyed Peace (2014), which includes the Pushcart nominated poem “Hunting for the Aurora”. Twitter @ablackeyedpeace

‘Beyond the Pale’ by Ann Leahy

Beyond the Pale
(in West Cork)

I commit a minor act of appropriation –
pick plants whose names I don’t know
from the ditches to try and make my own
of the unfamiliar:
the rise ahead in the road
the peak of Miskish behind me
the arthritic finger of Coulagh bay before me.

In my field guide I always seem
to be going over the same ground:
Heath Speedwell, Scabious, Lady’s Bedstraw.
Words from a language I speak
that remain as foreign as the names
for parts of speech: possessive pronouns,
complex prepositions – the past imperfect.

I consult ‘O’Donaill’, roll the Irish names
around my mouth like bulls eyes:
Annulach, Cab an Ghasáin, Boladh Cnis.
Words that sound familiar
from a language I don’t speak,
whose sense is raw around the edge –
plucked stems themselves.

Annulach – Speedwell – lit. arrogance
Cab an Ghasáin – Scabious – lit. toothless mouth of the sprig
Boladh Cnis – Lady’s Bedstraw – lit. smell of skin

‘Beyond the Pale’, appeared in the collection, The Woman Who Lived her Life Backwards (Ann Leahy, Arlen House 2008)
Ann Leahy’s first collection, The Woman who Lived her Life Backwards (Arlen House, 2008), won the Patrick Kavanagh Award. Individual poems have also won national awards (the Poetry on the Wall, and Clogh Writers’ prizes and others) and have twice been commended in the British National Poetry Competition. Her poems have been published widely in journals (Stand, AGENDA, Orbis, Poetry Ireland Review, Cyphers, New Welsh Review and others) and anthologies (Best of Irish Poetry 2010; The Echoing Years: An Anthology of Poetry from Canada and Ireland, 2007 and others). She has taken part in writers’ festivals in Ireland and Germany, and received a Culture Ireland bursary for a reading tour in the U.S. She grew up in Co. Tipperary and lives in Dublin.

‘Songs of the the Sea’ by Eleanor Hooker

Songs of the Sea

At Kilmore town ancient carols are sung,
legend says the sea will drown their town.
Casting stones into the sea is wrong,
storm-crested waves drag silent sail down.

Legend says the sea will drown their town,
a silver coin beneath the mast brings luck.
Storm crested waves drag silent sail down,
church bells sound when sinking ships are struck,

A silver coin beneath the mast brings luck.
true to say, what the sea wants, it gets,
church bells sound when sinking ships are struck,
a curlew’s flight makes fair-wind sailors fret.

True to say, what the sea wants, it gets,
casting stones into the sea is wrong,
a curlew’s flight makes fair-wind sailors fret,
at Kilmore town ancient carols are sung.
(published in The Shadow Owner’s Companion, Dedalus Press 2012)
Author’s note: I was fascinated to hear from a fellow RNLI crew that in Kilmore, legend has it that unless their beautiful ancient celtic hymns are sung every Christmas, the sea will take their town. There are many superstitions around sea lore, but this one fired up my imagination. The hymns are haunting, slow and chant like, I was trying to get that sway and rhythm in this pantoum. The Kilmore Carols.
Eleanor Hooker is an Irish Poet and Writer. Her second poetry collection A Tug of Blue (Dedalus Press) was launched October 2016. The Shadow Owner’s Companion (Dedalus Press) is her first collection of poetry. Twitter @EleanorHooker_

‘Dair Ghaelach (Irish Oak)’ by Carol Caffrey

Dair Ghaelach (Irish Oak)

The heft
and reach of him
through mountain bog and field
earthed bark to leaf-lit canopy
true north.

(i.m. Seamus Heaney.)
(previously published in Shrewsbury Stanza’s Anthology 2015)
Carol Caffrey is an Irish writer and actor who lives in Shropshire with her husband and two grown-up children. A former teacher and full-time mother, her work has appeared in Bare Fiction magazine, the Fish Anthology, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Lunch Ticket (Antioch University Review) and the Galway Review . She tours a one-woman play by Irish poet and playwright, Paula Meehan, called Music for Dogs.

‘Aisling’ by Adam Wyeth


Beautiful girl
with a broken harp
who plays on the side
of the street through wind
and rain, her open case catching
coins that flicker as leaves on a lake.
Her plaintive notes which float like pleas
then flee into a whooshing diaspora of rush-
hour traffic as she plinks and plucks more
hay-wire chords that shudder down the
roads and spines of passers-by who do
not know her out-of-tunes have
nothing to do with dexterity
but are due to her harp’s
disrepair. Yet she
continues to play
through wind
that blows
her song
and rain that collects in her case,
and, because of this, is beautiful.
(from The Art of Dying, Salmon Poetry 2016)
Adam Wyeth is an award-winning poet, playwright and essayist living in Dublin. His second poetry collection The Art of Dying was published with Salmon in November 2016 and was named as an Irish Times Book of the Year. In 2016 he was a selected poet for Poetry Ireland Review‘s Rising Generation.

‘Comhrá na Tríonóide’ (Trinity Colloquy) by David Butler

Comhrá na Tríonóide

Is mé ar seachrán san coláiste ar maidin
do bhaineas ana-thaitneamh as mo dhíchuimhne
nuair a thugas faoi deara
go rabhas ag caint liom féin
fad is ag falróid a bhí mé.
Trí cheist le freagairt dá bhrí sin:
Cé bhí ag caint? Cé bhí ag éisteacht?
agus in ainm Dé,
Cé bhain aoibhneas as an staid sin?

Trinity Colloquy

And I wandering between Faculties this morning
I got a kick out of my own forgetfulness
when I realised I’d been talking to myself
all the while I’d been walking.
Three questions arise out of this:
Who was doing the talking?
Who the listening?
And in God’s name
Who got such a buzz out of it?
(published in Via Crucis, Doghouse 2011)
David Butler‘s second poetry collection, All the Barbaric Glass (Doire Press) will be launched on Thurs March 23rd at the Irish Writers’ Centre.

‘Skinny Dipping’ by Jean O’Brien

Skinny Dipping

I’m Irish, we keep our clothes on
most of the time. We perform
contorted dances on beaches in Cork,
or Donegal; undressing under
not-yet-wet-towels. Worried that any gap
might expose us, lay some body-part bare.
It was the Immaculate Conception that did it,
if Mary could conceive a child without
removing her knickers, then by God
us could undress and swim
without baring our buttocks.
We swam serene in freezing seas,
goose bumps freckling our pale skin.
We lay togged out on wet sand desperate
for the weak sun to dry us, before performing
the contorted dance in reverse. Now as I
remove my clothes, peel them off
layer by layer down to the bare,
a brief moment of unease before the release
of water baptising skin. With a quiet ‘Jesus, Mary’,
I dive in.
(previously published in Merman, Salmon Publishing 2012 and The Windharp Ed. Niall MacMonagle, Penguin 2015)
Jean O’Brien‘s fifth collection is New & Selected Poems: Fish on a Bicycle, Salmon 2016. She has won the Arvon International Poetry Award and the Fish Poetry award as well as being placed in many other competitions, most recently her work was Highly Commended in the Forward Prize (2014). She holds an M.Phil in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin and tutors in CW.

‘The English Papers’ by Mike Gallagher

The English Papers

On Achill the post came twice each week –
Tuesday brought Queenshead fivers,
postmarked Ormskirk, Tamworth, Kilburn –
short letters from villages of men
transplanted en masse to alien trenches.
Thursday brought brownpaper rolls, neatly
wrapped; Anthony Jack flung them from his bike,
cursed their weight, their wickedness, their
Englishness with equal ferocities. The Achill mother
unfurled the Sunday Post, plucked The News of the World
from the entrails of The Sunday Mail
and, with a magician’s sleight of hand,
made it disappear. The others
were absorbed, devoured by her children, tales
of dazzling sights and city lights grooming them too,
for the emigrant fate of their fathers. The mother
bided her time, waited for the covert hour, then savoured
the News of the World, revelled in stories
of bedroom romps, relief from absence and abstinence,
far-fingered foreplay, forbidden by Church and State,
twin conspirators who saw fit to make
slaves of their sons, sinners of their saints.
Mike Gallagher was born on Achill Island and worked in London for forty years before retiring to Kerry. His prose, poetry, haiku and songs have been published worldwide. His writing has been translated into Croatian, Japanese, Dutch, German, Chinese and Italian. He won the Michael Hartnett Viva Voce competition in 2010 and 2016, was shortlisted for the Hennessy Award in 2011 and won the Desmond O’Grady International Poetry Contest in 2012. His collection Stick on Stone is published by Revival Press.

‘Dublin Puzzle’ by Aoife Lyall

Dublin Puzzle

The porous bag sliced through.
Sediment gathered in the corners.
We upend the pieces into the lid and bottom.
We shift through them, panning for edges, corners.

We kneel on the green felt kings use to play chess and
peer at each piece; inscrutable, divine, mysterious.
The gradations, lines, shadings, out of place –
the edges connect, the real work begins.

Some pieces fit easily, naturally,
matching colours, patterns, cross-hatchings,
letters, body parts, shapes: others
we come back to again and again –

resurfacing in the shoggled box like a guilty secret,
a prick of conscience, a broken promise –
a piece of cloud, a shadow, a joining piece –
rotated, beleaguered, threatened, coaxed.

It refuses to fit in any one place but its place.
It niggles, annoys, frustrates, creates
false hope of victory, until –
suddenly it clicks – that little cloud,

that shadow – there, there, there!
It fits, slips in among the other shapes,
glides and drops, first time.
The shape, complete.

And now, finished, it lies ignored.
Now, accepted, it attracts no attention.
Now, in its place, all mystery lost

(published in Irish Times, 25th July, 2015)
Aoife Lyall is an Irish poet living in Scotland. Her work has appeared in the Irish times and The Poets’ Republic, and is forthcoming in The Stinging Fly and Northwords Now. Shortlisted for the Hennessy New Writing Award 2016, she is currently writing her first collection. Twitter @PoetLyall

Blog: Aoifelyall.wordpress.com

‘Finn MacCool offers his thumb’ by Laura McKee

Finn MacCool offers his thumb

to my salmon lips
to see if I’m ready

and when I drip
when I spit

it burns
tells him

all he needs to know
and he wants to

suck the knowing
out of me
Author’s note: The Salmon of Knowledge is one of many stories surrounding the legend of
Finn MacCool (Fionn mac Cumhaill)
Laura McKee’s poems have appeared in various journals including The Interpreter’s House, Butcher’s Dog, Obsessed With Pipework, Prole, The Rialto, Ink Sweat & Tears, And Other Poems, and the anthology Mildly Erotic Verse (Emma Press). She was a winner in the Guernsey International Poetry Competition. Contact her on Twitter: @Estlinin