Paula Meehan


Life
1955- ; b. Gardiner St., Dublin 1, to working-class family; ed. Central Model Girls’ School; family moved to Finglas, where she was expelled from Holy Faith Convent; studied successfully on her own for Intermediate Certificate; involved in street theatre in Dublin after her Leaving Certificate, having seen The Non-Stop Connolly Show by Margaretta D’Arcy and John Arden, 1972; grad. in English at TCD, where she was taught by Brendan Kennelly;
 

took a Masters of Fine Arts at Eastern Washington Univ. (USA) where she was taught by Gary Snyder and was influenced by Bhuddism and eco-politics; won Arts Council Bursaries, 1987 and 1990; involved in prison workshops and community groups, and freq. works in multimedia contexts; writer in residence at TCD [q.d.]; issued Music for Dogs: Work for Radio (2008), being three pieces first broadcast on RTÉ (Radio 1), and reflecting ‘the rhetoric of the boom’; her plays produced by Team Theatre Co., Rough Magic, Calypso Theatre Co., and Peacock Th.; issued Painting Rain (2009), poems focussing on landscapes lost to housing developments and lives blighted by deprivation and marital disharmony;

 
awarded of Marten Toonder Prize by the Arts Council; awarded the Butler Award for Poetry by the Irish American Cultural Institute, 1998; lives in Dublin; her partner is the poet, editor and broadcaster Theo Dorgan; in 2009 she was the subject of a special issue of An Sionnach: A Journal of Literature, Culture and the Arts (Spring 2009); Living the Craft (2010) is a documentary on Meehan dir. by Elaine Crowley of the Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dun Laoghaire;
 
Meehan recited her poem “The Statue of the Virgin at Granard” occasioned by the death of Ann Lovett in Co. Longford in 1984 at a march on 18 Nov. 2012 in remembrance of Savita Halappanavar, the mother who died of blood poisoning at Galway University Hospital in the previous month, leading to a change in the Irish anti-abortion laws; her Mysteries of the Home (Carcanet 1996) was reissued by Dedalus Press in Feb. 2013; she was elected Ireland Professor of Poetry in Sept. 2013, succeeding Harry Clifton, shortly after the death of Seamus Heaney whose Nobel Award gave rise to the three-campus post; inducted into the Hennessy Literary Hall of Fame, Feb. 2015; spent six months as writer in residence at Heaney Centre, QUB. ATT DIL2

See Theo Dorgan interviewing Paula Meehan at the Howard Country Poetry and Literary Society in April 2016

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Works
Poetry collections
  • Return and No Blame (Dublin: Beaver Row Press 1984);
  • Reading the Sky (Dublin: Beaver Row Press 1986);
  • The Man Who Was Marked by Winter, with a foreword by Eavan Boland (Oldcastle: Gallery 1991);
  • Pillow Talk (Oldcastle: Gallery 1994; rep. 2000), 74pp. 1995 [incls. “Berlin 1991” and prose-poem sequence];
  • Mysteries of the Home (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe 1996), 96pp., and Do. [rep.] (Dublin: Dedalus Press 2013);
  • Dharmakaya (Manchester: Carcanet 2000), 63pp.;
  • Music for Dogs: Work for Radio (Dublin: Dedalus Press 2008), 102pp. [“Janey Mac is Going to Die”; “The Lover”; “Threehander”].
  • Painting Rain (Manchester: Carcanet 2009), 100pp.
Collected editions
  • Mysteries of the Home (Dublin: Dedalus Press 2013),94pp. [reissue of The Man Who was Marked by Winter and Pillow Talk].
Joint collections
  • Three Irish Poets: Eavan Boland, Paula Meehan, Mary O’Malley (Manchester: Carcanet Press 2003), 144pp.;
  • with Tony Curtis and Theo Dorgan, Days Like These ( Brooding Heron Press 2007).

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Drama
  • Mrs Sweeney (Dublin: New Island Books 1999), q.pp.
  • Cell: A Play in Two Acts for Four Actors and a Voice (Dublin: New Island Books 2000), q.pp.
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Miscellaneous
  • contrib. to Gerald Dawe & Jonathan Williams, eds., Krino, ‘The State of Poetry’ [Special Issue] (Winter 1993), p.47 [‘… is the sum of the states of the poet.’];
  • “Dharmakaya”, in Fortnight Review (Dec. 1995), p.14 [in mem. Tom McGinty, “The Dice-man”: ‘become a still pond in the anarchic flow / The streets unceasing carnival altered and redeemed.’];
  • “Thunder in the House” (The Irish Times, 19 Dec. 1998) [infra].
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Discography

Christina Noble reads “The View from Under the Table” by Paula Meehan, on Voices and Poetry of Ireland (London: HarperCollins 2003).

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Criticism
  • Theo Dorgan, ‘Interview with Paula Meehan’, in Colby Quarterly, 28 (Dec. 1992), pp.265-69 [available online; accessed 07.09.2008];
  • Antoinette Quinn, review of The Man Who was Marked by Winter, in Irish Literary Supplement (Fall 1992), [see extract];
  • Tracy Brain, ‘Nobody’s Muse, Pillow Talk with Paula Meehan’, in Irish Studies 10 (Spring 1995), pp.11-15 [see extract];
  • Inés Praga, ‘Interview with Paula Meehan’, in The European English Messanger, 6, 2 (Autumn 1997), pp.14-20; also in Ireland in Writing: Interviews with Writers and Academics, ed. Jacqueline Hurtley, Praga, et al. (Amsterdam & Atlanta: Rodopi 1998), pp.71-82.
  • Thomas O'Grady, ‘Akhmatova on the Liffey: Paula Meehan’s Lyrical Craft’, in Colby Quarterly, 35, 3 (Sept. 1999), pp.173-83. [available online; accessed 13.09.2013].
  • Mitsuko Ohno, ‘Hokusai, Basho, Zen and More: Japanese Influences on Irish Poets’, in Journal of Irish Studies (IASIL-Japan), XVII (2002), pp.15-31; p.24 [questionnaire-response].
  • Kevin Kiely, review of Painting Rain [with other collections], in Books Ireland (Sept. 2009), p.183-84 [remorseless severity directed at ‘sham metaphysics’].
  • Eavan Boland, ‘Unfinished Business: The Communal Art of Paula Meehan’, in An Sionnach: A Journal of Literature, Culture, and the Arts, 5, 1 & 2 (Spring & Fall 2009), pp.17-24 [see extract].
  • Andrew Auge, ‘The Apparition of “Our Lady of the Facts of Life”: Paula Meehan and the Visionary Quotidian’, in An Sionnach: A Journal of Literature, Culture, and the Arts, 5, 1 & 2 (Spring & Fall 2009), pp.50-64.

See Jody Allen Randolph, guest ed., An Sionnach: A Journal of Literature, Culture, and the Arts, 5, 1 & 2 [“Paula Meehan Special Issue”] (Spring & Fall 2009) [see contents; incls. contribs. by Brendan Kennelly, Mary O'Malley, Thomas McCarthy, Lucy Collins, Ciaran Carson, Anne Mulhall, Kathyrn Kirkpatrick, Máirín Nic Eoin, Anne Fogarty and Theo Dorgan, et al.]

See also entry on Meehan in Contemporary Irish Women Poets: Some Male Perspectives, ed. Alexander G. Gonzalez (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press 1999).

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Bibliographical details
An Sionnach: A Journal of Literature, Culture, and the Arts, 5, 1 & 2 [“Paula Meehan Special Issue”, guest ed., Jody Allen Randolph; Nebraska UP] (Spring & Fall 2009). CONTENTS: Jody Allen Randolph, ‘Paula Meehan’ [5-16]; Eavan Boland, ‘Unfinished Business: The Communal Art of Paula Meehan’ [17-24]; Brendan Kennelly, ‘It takes trees in summer’ [25-26]; Mary O’Malley, ‘City Centre’ [27-33]; Luz Mar González-Arias, ‘In Dublin’s Fair City: Citified Embodiments in Paula Meehan’s Urban Landscapes’ [34-49]; Andrew Auge, ‘The Apparitions of “Our Lady of the Facts of Life”: Paula Meehan and the Visionary Quotidian’ [50-6]; Thomas McCarthy, ‘“None of us well fixed”: Empathy and its Aesthetic Power in Paula Meehan’s Poetry’ [65-74]; Katarzyna Poloczek, ‘“Sharing Our Differences”: Individuality and Community in the Early Work of Paula Meehan’ [75-89]; Kim McMullen, ‘“Snatch a song from a stranger’s mouth”: The Stage Plays and Radio Dramas of Paula Meehan’ [90-113]; Michaela Schrage-Früh, ‘“Transforming that Past”: The Healing Power of Dreams in Paula Meehan’s Poetry’ [114-26]; Lucy Collins, ‘A Way of Going Back: Memory and Estrangement in the Poetry of Paula Meehan’ [127-39]; Ciaran Carson, ‘Painting Rain for Paula Meehan’ [140-41]; Anne Mulhall, ‘Memory, Poetry, and Recovery: Paula Meehan’s Transformational Aesthetics’ [142-55]; Jefferson Holdridge, ‘The Wolf Tree: Culture and Nature in Paula Meehan’s Dharmakaya and Painting Rain’ [156-68]; Eileen Denn Jackson, ‘The Lyricism of Abjection in Paula Meehan’s Drama of Imprisonment’ [169-79]; Pilar Villar-Argáiz, ‘“Act Locally, Think Globally”: Paula Meehan’s Local Commitment and Global Consciousness’ [180-93]; Gary Snyder, ‘Why California Will Never Be Like Tuscany’, p.194]; Kathryn Kirkpatrick, ‘“A Murmuration of Starlings in a Rowan Tree”: Finding Gary Snyder in Paula Meehan’s Eco-Political Poetics’ [195-207]; Máirín Nic Eoin, ‘Two Translations: “Marbhna do Pháiste [Elegy for a Child]” and “Adhlacadh Páiste [Child Burial]” by Paula Meehan’ [208-12]; Anne Fogarty, ‘“Hear Me and Have Pity”: Rewriting Elegy in the Poetry of Paula Meehan’ [213-25]; Eric Falci, ‘Meehan’s Stanzas and the Irish Lyric After Yeats’ [226-38]; Jody Allen Randolph, ‘The Body Politic: A Conversation with Paula Meehan’ [239-71]; Jody Allen Randolph, ‘Paula Meehan: A Selected Bibliography’ [272-301] (Available at Project Muse - online or as listed by issue; for these Contents in table-format, see attached.)

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Commentary
W. J. McCormack, reviewing Return and No Blame (Beaver Row), in Books Ireland (Oct. 1985), writes: ‘The cover of Return and No Blames tells the reader nothing of the author. The twenty-five poems graph the development of a promising and engaging writer from gauche transcriptions of inner-city life to wry cameos of self-as-tourist. On the way, “T.B. Ward” gives wonderful evidence of the very proper use of obscenity for poetic purposes. We should all know more of Paula Meehan.’ (p.153.)

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Antoinette Quinn, review of The Man Who was Marked by Winter, in Irish Literary Supplement (Fall 1992), [q.p.]; speaks of a new territory for Irish poetry, pervaded by a migrant restiveness, zones of disaffection, unsettling ambiences, emotional impasses, treacherous detour. Her endings are unhappy (and her middles also), ‘I fear our story ends in pain / during wind and cold, changeable weather / The page torn, the mirror shattered.’ (“Her Dream”). Escape is a dominant motif in the collection, associated with daughter / parent relationships, and terminal love-affairs. The burden of the statue’s complaint in “The Statue of the Virgin at Granard Speaks” is that she is immobilised in an uncongenial role. The rhetoric of her poetry is confrontational, ‘you’, ‘I’, or ‘he’ and ‘he’ generally estranged, the narrative voice adversarial and accusatory, conjuring up an obdurate and uncomprehending other. ‘Three Paintings from York Street’ celebrates a seamster, ‘in your pattern the shapes keep shifting / like flighty spirits threatening / to burst into song.’ In seed, the metaphysical is recognised, ‘I bless the power of see, / Its casual, useful persistence / and bless the power of sun.’

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Tracy Brain, ‘Nobody’s Muse: Pillow Talk with Paula Meehan’, review of Pillow Talk, in Irish Studies Review, 10 (Spring 1995), pp.11-15 [ills.], remarks, ‘Feminist critics continue to examine the predicament of the female poet who takes the position of someone who generates meanings, despite the ever-present awareness of a long literary history of woman as muse and object instead of speaking subject’; quotes Meehan’s poem “Not Your Muse”: ‘In my twenties I often traded a bit / of sex for immortality / That’s a joke. Another line I swallowed, hook / and sinker. Look at you - / rapt, besotted. Not a gesture that’s true / on that canvas, not a droopy breast, / wrinkle, or stretchmark in sight. / But if it keeps you happy who am I / to charge in battledressed to force you to test / youre painted doll against the harsh light / I live by, against a brutal merciless sky.’ Further, reports Meehan’s remarks on the phrase ‘woman writer’: ‘it’s often used to ghettoise women. I don’t find the label … an insult, but I’m wary that it can be used to try and marginalise women. But I grew up in the fight-the-begrudger school of poetry, where you’re not going to let that interfere with your work. I they use language to cage me, I just refuse it. But I’m utterly exhausted sometimes. Unfortunately, the younger women coming up behind me will have to fight the same battle I had to fight [… &c.]’; Meehan looks sceptically on the proposition that writing is gendered and comments on the Field Day exclusion in that context: ‘You’ve probably come across the whole controversy about The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing which was an immense undertaking, a very worthy undertaking. It has brought lots of texts back into the language, into libraries. But women’s exclusion was a huge insult. We have to settle for a fourth volume, which will be for women. And it does smack of the ghetto. But I suspect that fourth volume will be much more popular than the others, simply because of the issues around it. It’ll be a great force. I’ve prepared many anthologies - a book of women’s writing, or “sixty women poets”. At this stage things should be better’. [Cont.]

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Tracy Brain (‘Nobody’s Muse: Pillow Talk with Paula Meehan’, 1995) - cont. [quotes]: ‘I would have to say that poetry, overall, is genderless. I really believe it’s a question of spirit taking form in language. Someone like Keats would have been very important to me because, growing all the models I got were male. Emily Dickinson was the only woman poet who was on our reading list at school. What struck me about male poets was that their poetry transcended gender. And of course male poets had dubious gender connotations attached to them. There’s always been sexual ambiguity surrounding whole area of poetry. Someone like Whitman was source of huge liberation to me. Those long lines, saying those poems, the whole change, the physic; change in the breath and the body. To just say and that leave it is to deny that there is a struggle in art, bu struggle is political. The fact that I now have a woman’s bodv and I live in this time and place, that gives me certain struggles that I just have to work out as a citizen. But I actually think the domain of poetry transcends specific gender demarcations. Unfortunately, those who control, the canon makers, and the curriculum designers, might not see it that way. I really believe the exclusion of women from The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing was political rather than anything to do with poetry’ (p.12). Further, reports her comments on background: ‘I think your background puts certain responsibilities on you. I have to give back to the people who gave me language, gave me a way of surviving in language. I have to give back to them now what I’ve made of all that nurturing and all that sacrifice. It would have been a huge sacrifice for my parents to get me a secondary education. Just buying my books. My grandparents too who would have chipped in. I don’t see it as a burden, but it does put a responsibility on you to give back to the people you come from - what you’re made of or hve been given. Most of the people I’m talking about are dead. I don’t think you ever repay debts to your teachers or your people who’ve cared for you. But you pass them on to others. And that has involved trying to take the poems out into the community’. (p.15.); influences cited incl. Dylan Thomas (when she started writing poetry) and Walt Whitman.

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Eavan Boland, ‘Unfinished Business: The Communal Art of Paula Meehan’, in An Sionnach: A Journal of Literature, Culture, and the Arts, 5, 1 & 2 (Spring & Fall 2009), pp.17-24: Boland describes her response to The Man Who was Marked by Winter: ‘The first time I opened The Man Who Was Marked by Winter I marveled at the structure. [...] I was looking at poems which seemed to resist their confinement on the page. Each piece was fluid rather than framed, ready to spill into the next. Poems like “The Pattern,” with its tough meditation on inheritance, reached into other pieces, such as “The Statue of the Virgin at Granard Speaks.” The constant shifting of image to theme and theme to address was made possible by the strength of the voice. It was clear and compelling. It had a timbre that held tight the argument and let loose the meaning. I was full of admiration. / “It is hard to even begin to gauge how much a complication of possessions, the notions of “my and mine,” stand between us and a true, clear, liberated way of seeing the world.” These words by Gary Snyder - a guiding spirit for Meehan - were written against mid-century American materialism. They are also apt for this poetry. The sociable nature of these poems, their resistance to Snyder’s narrow definition “my and mine” is arrived at with grace and confidence. I immediately felt, on reading them, a difference in voice and posture. These poems reached out. They implied community, even while they recognized its flawed nature. (...).’ Also singles out “Two Buck Tim from Timbuctoo”, “Ard Fheis”, “My Love about his Business in the Barn”, and “Buying Winkles”. [Available online].

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Catriona O’Reilly, review of Paula Meehan, Dharmakaya (2000), 63pp.; notes rootedness in memory of [her] urban life; many poems elegiac; notes debt to Eavan Boland’s feminism; cites poems, “The Lost Twin”; “My Sister Lets Down her Hair”; “It is All I Ever Wanted”, which explicitly invokes Boland; “Suburbs”; “Pyrolatry”; “Thunder in the House!”; “The Tantric Master”; “The Bog of Woods”; “Mother”; “Recovery”; notes ability to poke fun at herself but also tendency to sail dangerously close to bathos; characterises the majority of poems as ‘sober, elegiac and limpid without being po-faced’, and marking ‘an advance and maturation of Meehan’s voice.’

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Eamon Kelly, review of Music for Dogs, in Books Ireland (March 2009): ‘[In] Janey Mac is Going to Die [...] a mother who has lost her son to a drug overdose, takes in a youth of her son’s age and they put together a business idea which becomes wildly successful on the internet. Janey Mac is Going to Die is a richly ironic piece which addresses the idea of the revenge of the poor against the well-to-do in a blackly comic manner. A working-class woman, a promiscuous druggy type, has been given six months to live. She decides to commit suicide at her favourite beachside resort rather than face a slow lingering death. The play picks up with her on the beach, making a recording on a cheap cassette recorder for her elder brother and sister, both of whom have done well in life and look down their noses at her. Having done well herself in recent times, with a madcap internet business venture, she is in a position to leave a small fortune to her only remaining relatives, her brother and sister. But it emerges that she is leaving them the money out of a sense of spite, to “stick it to them” as she might herself say. The collection includes two other plays. [...] Her approach to writing for radio is very instructive as she keeps her attention always on the possibilities of aural communication and entertainment. The language in parts is earthy, to say the least, and I was a bit surprised that RTÉ, usually quite conservative, had produced these plays. Hooray for Paula Meehan.’ (p.56.)

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Jody Allen Randolph, ‘The Body Politic: A Conversation with Paula Meehan’ in An Sionnach: A Journal of Literature, Culture, and the Arts, 5, 1 & 2 (Spring & Fall 2009), pp.239-71 [on the ‘sound-maps’ of her Dublin city childhood]: ‘One of the most noticeable things about it, even to me as a child, was that there were no books, not many at least, in the houses around, in the flats. So an awful lot of the energy, the excitement was in the oral. I grew up in an oral tradition: the stories, the singers, the old people, the lore, the sometimes very empowering lore. I soon developed, I believe, a hunger for ritualized sound, in and of itself. The rhetoric around trade union politics, for instance, would feed it as much as, what seemed in childhood, the continual ceremonials around the church. Then, it was the part of the city where the Citizen Army had been active. That had a whole set of stories and dramas. It had the old lore of the Monto, which at the turn of the last century was the biggest red light district in Europe servicing the garrison, the docks, the Ascendancy, and the laboring classes. The old whores were still around when I was a child, it had the lore of the docks and the dockland community. It was a vivid, interesting, and textured world forme with a lot of song, a lot of music, not least the music of the city itself, the steel hoop rims on cobbles, the horses’ hooves. There was an abattoir near us. I remember the squealing of pigs and the cries of sheep waiting to be slaughtered. The music of the Latin, of the bells of the church, all of that - a fantastically rich childhood in sonic terms.’ (p.239; see full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

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Quotations

Michael Collier interviews Paula Meehan on “The Writing Life”, a programme supported by National Endowment for the Arts and the Maryland Humanities Council - available at YouTube [online; accessed 15.12.2014]. See also Meg Tyler (Boston University) introducing Paula Meehan at Boston University - available at YouTube [online; accessed 15.12.2014].

§

“The Statue of the Virgin at Granard”

It can be bitter here at times like this,
November wind sweeping across the border.
Its seeds of ice would cut you to the quick.
The whole town tucked up safe and dreaming,
even wild things gone to earth, and I
stuck up here in this grotto, without as much as
star or planet to ease my vigil.

The howling won’t let up. Trees
cavort in agony as if they would be free
and take off - ghost voyagers
on the wind that carries intimations
of garrison towns, walled cities, ghetto lanes
where men hunt each other and invoke
the various names of God as blessing
on their death tactics, their night manoeuvres.
Closer to home the wind sails
over dying lakes. I hear fish drowning.
I taste the stagnant water mingled
with turf smoke from outlying farms.

They call me Mary - Blessed, Holy, Virgin.
They fit me to a myth of a man crucified:
the scourging and the falling, and the falling again,
the thorny crown, the hammer blow of iron
into wrist and ankle, the sacred bleeding heart.

They name me Mother of all this grief
Though mated to no mortal man.
They kneel before me and their prayers
fly up like sparks from a bonfire
that blaze a moment, then wink out.

It can be lovely here at times. Springtime,
early summer. Girls in Communion frocks
pale rivals to the riot in the hedgerows
of cow parsley and haw blossom, the perfume
from every rushy acre that’s left for hay
when the light swings longer with the sun’s push north.

Or the grace of a midsummer wedding
when the earth herself calls out for coupling
and I would break loose of my stony robes,
pure blue, pure white, as if they had robbed

a child’s sky for their colour. My being
cries out to be incarnate, incarnate,
maculate and tousled in a honeyed bed.

Even an autumn burial can work its own pageantry.
The hedges heavy with the burden of fruiting
crab, sloe, berry, hip; clouds scud east,
pear scented, windfalls secret in long
orchard grasses, and some old soul is lowered
to his kin. Death is just another harvest
scripted to the season’s play.

But on this All Soul’s Night there is
no respite from the keening of the wind.
I would not be amazed if every corpse came risen
From the graveyard to join in exaltation with the gale,
A cacophony of bone imploring sky for judgement
And release from being the conscience of the town.

On a night like this I remember the child
who came with fifteen summers to her name,
and she lay down alone at my feet
without midwife or doctor or friend to hold her hand
and she pushed her secret out into the night,
far from the town tucked up in little scandals,
bargains struck, words broken, prayers, promises,
and though she cried out to me in extremis
I did not move,
I didn’t lift a finger to help her,
I didn’t intercede with heaven,
nor whisper the charmed word in God’s ear.

On a night like this, I number the days to the solstice
and the turn back to the
light.

O sun,
center of our foolish dance,
burning heart of stone,
molten mother of us all,
hear me and have pity.

 
— In The Man Marked for Winter (1991); available at Christopher Fox Graham Blogspot - online; also at Wake Up to Poetry website - online [both accessed 13.09.2013].

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“The rain makes one word ...”
 

The rain makes one word

for the woman when they quarrel.
It falls on the city.

Her boots let in
but they got her through the winter.

The rain makes one word that drops
in the silence when it stops

beads - each a convex mirror

of the room where
she’s polishing her boots.

Loss: the rain made.
Loss. She stares

at the boots
that have got her through the winter.

 
— In Pillow Talk p.70; quoted in Eric Falci, ‘Meehan’s Stanzas and the Irish Lyric after Yeats’, in An Sionnach (Spring & Fall 2009), p.233.

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“My Father Perceived as a Vision of St Francis.”
for Brendan Kennelly

It was the piebald horse in next door’s garden
frightened me out of a dream
with her dawn whinny. I was back
in the boxroom of the house,
my brother’s room now,
full of ties and sweaters and secrets.
Bottles chinked on the doorstep,
the first bus pulled up to the stop.

The rest of the house slept except for my father.
I heard him rake the ash from the grate,
plug in the kettle, hum a snatch of a tune.
Then he unlocked the back door
and stepped out into the garden.
Autumn was nearly done, the first frost
whitened the slates of the estate.
He was older than I had reckoned,
his hair completely silver,
and for the first time I saw

the stoop of his shoulder, saw that
his leg was stiff. What’s he at?
So early and still stars in the west?

They came then: birds
of every size, shape, colour;
they came from the hedges and shrubs,
from eaves and garden sheds,
from the industrial estate, outlying fields,
from Dubber Cross they came
and the ditches of the North Road.
The garden was a pandemonium
when my father threw up his hands
and tossed the crumbs to the air.
The sun cleared O’Reilly’s chimney
and he was suddenly radiant,
a perfect vision of St Francis, made whole, made young again, in a Finglas garden.

See Dedalus Press > Meehan > Mysteries of the Home > Samples - online.


  Seed
  The first warm day of spring
and I step out into the garden from the gloom
of a house where hope had died
to tally the storm damage, to seek what may
have survived. And finding some forgotten
lupins I’d sown from seed last autumn
holding in their fingers a raindrop each
like a peace offering, or a promise,
I am suddenly grateful and would
offer a prayer if I believed in God.
But not believing, I bless the power of seed,
its casual, useful persistence,
and bless the power of sun,
its conspiracy with the underground,
and thank my stars the winter’s ended.
   
From Mysteries of the Home (1996; rep. 2013) - given at Christine Murray’s Poethead - online; accessed 17.07.2014.

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“Two Buck Tim from Timbuctoo”: ‘[...] / I’d say Leitrim in the forties was every bit as depressed / as Leitrim is today, the young were heading off / in droves, the same rain fell all winter long. / Eventually one old woman was left looking at her hands / while the Bell Boys of Broadway played “Two Buck Tim from Timbuctoo,” / and dreamt her daughters back about the place, the swing of a skirt, / a face caught in lamplight, with every revolution of the disc.’ (Quoted in Eavan Boland, ‘Unfinished Business: The Communal Art of Paula Meehan’, in An Sionnach: A Journal of Literature, Culture, and the Arts, 5, 1 & 2 (Spring & Fall 2009), pp.17-24 [as supra].

“Would you jump into my grave as quick? / my granny would ask when one of us took / her chair by the fire.  You, woman, / done up to the nines, red lips a come on, / your breath reeking of drink / And your black eye on my man tonight / in a Dublin bar, think / first of the steep drop, and the six dark feet.” (From Mysteries of the Home, 1996.) Note: The poem - entitled for its first line - is the subject of critical notes on the Skool.ie website - online.)

 

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Dharmakaya” (Fortnight Review, Dec. 1995), in mem. Tom McGinty (aka “The Dice-man”): ‘become a still pond in the anarchic flow / The streets unceasing carnival altered and redeemed.’ (p.14.)

Handmaiden”: ‘Lord, when I walked with you under the stars and we were overcome by desire and we lay down in the desert night, I fell into your eyes, tasted your salt. And, Lord, when I was impaled on you gazed on your face with devotion,you spoke of the hard day’s ride and distances you had crossed to couple with me. I have opened wide as a rivermouth to you and would have you invade my cells, my womb, my heart, my head ...’ (Quoted in Kimberley Myers, ‘The Sexual Dialectic of Eavan Boland, Paula Meehan, and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’, in South Carolina Review [“Ireland in the Arts and Humanities, 1899-1999” Special Issue], 32, 1 (Fall 1999) , q.p.)

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References
Patrick Crotty, ed., Modern Irish Poetry: An Anthology (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 1995), selects “The Pattern” [398]; “Child Burial” [401]; “Laburnum” [402].

Maureen O’Rourke Murphy & James MacKillop, eds., is included in An Irish Literature Reader: Poetry, Prose, Drama [2nd Edn.] (Syracuse UP 2006), selects “The Statue of the Virgin at Granard” (pp.414-16) - under section-heading, “Ireland since Independence: Contemporary Poets in Irish and English”.

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Notes
Thunder in the House” (The Irish Times, 19 Dec. 1998), a poem, deals with experience of living beneath a tenement flat occupied by a violent father who beats his daughter, conjugating the responses of self, mother, and father, and ending ‘while from our plastered ceiling shook a fine fall of snow.’

Photo-take: the non-studio photo-port. of Theo Dorgan (bearded) on the Dedalus Press website is copyrighted to Paula Meehan.

Painting Rain (2009), concentrates on landscapes lost to housing developments and lives blighted by deprivation, while one sextet focuses six sycamores planted by original leaseholders of houses on Merrion Square. (See Books Ireland, May 2009, pp.124-25.)

Catriona O'Reilly: in a review of O’Reilly’s collection The Nowhere Birds for the Irish University Review, Jeffrey Holderidge points out that her poem “Nineteen Eighty-Four” descreibes the circumstances surrounding the death of Ann Lovett just as Meehan does in “The Statue of the Virgin at Granard”. (See Irish University Review, 32, 2, Autumn-Winter 2002, p.377-80, p.377; available online; accessed 13.09.2013.)

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