Updates From Sabbatical in Ireland

I’m currently on sabbatical in Ireland and reading a lot of Irish poets: Geraldine Mills, Lorna Shaughnessy, Patrick Cotter, Mary Noonan, Victoria Kennefick, Vona Groarke, Jessica Traynor, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Gerry Murphy and loads of others. Thanks to the fine folks at Dublin UNESCOÁine-Máire Ní Cheallaigh (Anne-Marie Kelly) and the poet Jackie Lynam, who got me started here. 


They pointed me toward Washing Windows and Washing Windows Too, important collections of Irish women writing poetry. 

I’m staying near Cork, between Crosshaven and Carragaline, and loving it. I’ve been coming to Ireland since I was twenty and Ireland still seems to have more literary activities per capita than any place I’ve ever seen or read about. It’s a joy to immerse myself in it.

My parking spot.


I wrote a piece for the Poetry Ireland Review, “When Eavan Boland Scolded Me,” and it should appear in the fall issue.


I’m also taken with the late Derek Mahon’s brilliant essay “Huts and Sheds.” A painter friend of ours, Angie Shanahan, has a painting in the essay. I loved coming upon that. 


Oddly, I fell into writing a piece on the British poet Robert Graves who had deep roots in Ireland. I wanted to take on a big book for a month and I chose The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth. The book turned out to be more about Irish myth than Greek ones and I was delighted by the mad turns of rhetoric that Graves employs. 


That piece ends up following Graves into his obsession with psychedelic mushrooms, which he claims is the real “Ambrosia.” It’s like imagining a meal plan in a Marvel Comic. 


I read at Salmon Books, more museum than actual store. The publisher, Jessie Lendennie is the founder and Managing Editor of Salmon Poetry, the largest publisher of poetry in Ireland. Geraldine Mills and I joined Susan Rich to celebrate her new book. 

New Irish books everyone should read:

A Ghost in the Throat by Dorieann Ní Ghríofa

We Don’t Know Ourselves by Fintan O’Toole

Seven Steeples by Sara Baume

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