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20 February 2015
Poetry - Study Ireland

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- ages 11-16


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Nature & Landscape

Michael Longley says:

'...Carrigskeewaun is unbelievably beautiful - it's the most magical place in the world for me. It's the Garden of Eden and I often think about it. If I am depressed I go for a walk in my mind up the path to the cottage around the little ruined out houses and I stand taking in the view even though I am in Belfast or London or New York.'

'...The whole thing is an exploration and I think the emerging form of the poem is like a compass that an explorer might use when he is exploring unknown territory...the poet in the act of writing a poem should be discovering at the back of his or her mind things that he doesn't know should be a surprise...if the poet doesn't surprise himself he is not going to surprise anybody else.'

'...The patterns of poetry are a way of finding, echoing mirrored shapes in patterns in the world around us.'

'...The major task for the poet is to find fresh rhythms. To make fresh music and not to repeat himself or anybody else for that matter, and the only way one is going to find new vital rhythms is being vital and alive and alert and responsive oneself. To live life with all of one's pores open.'

For Penny and David Cabot

The Mountain

This is ravens' territory, skulls, bones,
The marrow of these boulders supervised
From the upper air: I stand alone here
And seem to gather children about me,
A collection of picnic things, my voice
Filling the district as I call their names.

The Path

With my first step I dislodge the mallards
Whose necks strain over the bog to where
Kittiwakes scrape the waves: then, the circle
Widening, lapwings, curlews, snipe until
I am left with only one swan to nudge
To the far side of its gradual disdain.

The Strand

I discover, remaindered from yesterday,
Cattle tracks, a sanderling's tiny trail,
The footprints of the children and my own
Linking the dunes to the water's edge,
Reducing to sand the dry shells, the toe
And fingernail parings of the sea.

The Wall

I join all the men who have squatted here
This lichened side of the dry-stone wall
And notice how smoke from our turf fire
Recalls in the cool air above the lake
Steam from a kettle, a tablecloth and
A table she might have already set.

The Lake

Though it will duplicate at any time
The sheep and cattle that wander there,
For a few minutes every evening
Its surface seems tilted to receive
The sun perfectly, the mare and her foal,
The heron, all such special visitors.

Michael Longley

Michael Longley was born in Belfast in 1939 and has lived there for most of his life. For many years he worked for the Arts Council of Northern Ireland where he was Combined Arts Director. Previous collections include Poems 1963-83, Gorse Fires, The Ghost Orchid and Broken Dishes. Selected Poems was published in October 1998. He won the TS Eliot Prize and the Irish Literature Prize for Poetry in 2001 for his collection The Weather in Japan. He won the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 2001. The Longley poems in this selection are Carrigskeewaun and The Civil Servant.


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