As any literary minded Dubliner will know, April is the month of the ‘One City One Book’ series of events. This year for the first time, it is the turn of poetry to take centre stage with a specially edited anthology edited by Pat Boran and Gerard Smyth entitled If Ever You Go: A Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song (Dedalus Press). This is an event worth marking in itself but doubly so as three of Liberties Press’s writers appear in this innovative collection. The authors in question are Leland Bardwell (b. 1922),John Montague (b. 1929) and Sheila Wingfield (1906–1992). Just to give you a flavour of their work here’s the short poem by Wingfield that is included in the new anthology and an excerpt from one of Bardwell’s four poems in If Ever You Go. John Montague has one poem in the anthology, 'Herbert Street Revisited' from which I will just give the first part, as the poem is in three sections.
Herbert Street Revisited
Warm anecdotes and wry observations
A light is burning late
in this Georgian Dublin street:
someone is leading our old lives!
And our black cat scampers again
through the wet grass of the convent garden
upon his masculine errands.
The pubs shut: a released bull,
Behan shoulders up the street,
topples into our basement, roaring 'John!'
A pony and donkey cropped flank
by flank under the trees opposite;
short neck up, long neck down,
as Nurse Mullen knelt by her bedside
to pray for her lost Mayo hills,
the bruised bodies of Easter Volunteers.
This is the first part of a three part poem which was dedicated to Montague's wife Madeleine. Another literary luminary gets a walk on part in the third verse as a bygone Dublin evening is conjured up by Montague's words. The illustration shown is of a volume of memoir published by Liberties Press, in which Montague talks about the many artistic, musical and literary characters he has met.
'While much of the book covers the writer's public and literary life, it also addresses the strain that living apart from his wife Madeleine placed on their marriage - which would ultimately lead to their break-up. While the book principally spans the period from the mid-sixties to the late seventies, Montague has included a powerful and moving epilogue featuring more recent events. He writes of visiting young men with AIDS in a New York hospital, and of a final meeting with an ailing Samuel Beckett in Paris'.
As a frequent visitor to the National Museum of Ireland, I was delighted to discover that Sheila Wingfield’s poem depicts some of the intriguing exhibits in the Archaeology Museum. This poem is included in our selected edition of her poems, edited and introduced by
(2013). It originally dates from 1977 and Wingfield first published it in
(Dolmen Press). In his foreword to the selected poems, Brendan Kennelly refers to Wingfield’s ‘melancholy affection for Dublin’, which finds expression in this evocative piece about a Bronze Age woman’s hair rings:
In a Dublin Museum
Get reading and Walking...
About the use or name
Of these few
Bronze Age things,
And in gold,
Too wide for finger-rings.
Till some old epic came
To light, which told
Of a King’s
Daughter: how she slid them on to hold
The tail ends of her plaited hair.
After discovering that Leland Bardwell was included in the anthology I picked up her fascinating autobiography
A Restless Life
which Liberties Press published in 2008. The first line, which reads, ‘We were all born under cabbages then. Or found. So I chose mine. I chose mine because it was broad and leafy – one of the biggest in the row of cabbages in my grandfather’s garden’ completely captivated me.
During one of the ‘One City One Book’ events last week, Pat Boran introduced a recording of Bardwell reading
Them’s Your Mammy’s Pills
, which was so striking that I wanted to add a few lines from the poem here. It eloquently describes the desolation of families having been uprooted from their old homes and moved to a housing development in a new suburb. The loneliness and dislocation is palpable:
Them’s Your Mammy’s Pills
Memoir published 2008
for Edward McLachlan
They are going back to the city for the day
this is all they live for -
going back to the city for the day.
The line of shops and solitary pub
are camouflaged like check-points on the border
the supermarket stretches emptily
a circus of sausages and time
the till-girl gossips in the veg department
Once in a while a woman might come in
to put another pound on
the electronic toy for Christmas.
From behind the curtains every night
the video lights are flickering, butcher blue
Don’t touch them, them’s your mammy’s pills.
If you want to follow up and find out more about Leland Bardwell or John Montague then you can purchase a copy of
though the website or call in to Liberties Upstairs.
We have stock of
by Shelia Wingfield available too. We also publish a novel by John Montague entitled
which is in stock and available to order.