Round Ireland with an iPhone: Belfast #3

A day in December past, Ormeau Park, Belfast. The air was crisp chill, the sunlight pale and hypnotic. One tree had bark of a peculiar orange shade, made more surreal by the way a sun shaft illuminated its branches. A bird puffed its body up against the breeze and sang in muted tones. I walked and breathed the mist and light.

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The song of the thrush

I was delighted to discover this blog during a search for R P Hewitt who wrote the school poetry anthology A Choice of Poets. I too have my old school copy from Carolan Grammar School, Belfast, about 1976-7 with my pencil notes in the margins. Like the citation here, Gerard Mankey Hopkins is one of my favourites, especially Binsey Poplars, though Thomas Hardy never appealed. Wilfred Owens’ poems made a lasting impression, not least down to the fact that I had two great grandfathers wounded in the First World War, one of whom I remember well telling me stories of pigeons and ‘muck and bullets’. Lately my poetic tastes have been broadened to include Seamus Heaney, WB Yeats and Louis McNiece, whose work will be the subject of new posts to come. Let me end with an excerpt from Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol:
Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word.
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword.

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chasingavianvoices

I first really encountered poetry in 1978, at Mount Lourdes Grammar School (http://www.mountlourdes.com) in Miss Reihill’s English class. Of course I’d been exposed to poetry in primary school, but my vague recollection now is that it was the kind of whimsical doggerel that is customarily used to patronise children, engaging the senses rather than the emotions. My first three years at grammar school were a desert of dullness, enlivened only by a Touchstones anthology where I discovered an excerpt from John Masefield’s Reynard the fox (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/38052), which I sneaked readings of under the desk while the rest of the class laboured through whatever novel it was that the teacher insisted be read aloud. I, of course, had long since read to the end of said novel, and was withering with lassitude and boredom as a result. Thus, entry to Miss Reihill’s class to begin my O’level English courses (I…

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