Michael Longley

Michael Longley’s Angel Hill has recently been published, along with Sidelines: Selected Prose 1962-2015. He is the author of ten other collections of poems.

Poem: ‘After Amergin’

Michael Longley, 5 April 2018

I am the trout that vanishes Between the stepping stones. I am the elver that lingers Under the little bridge. I am the leveret that breakfasts Close to the fuchsia hedge. I am the stoat that dances Around the erratic boulder. I am the skein of sheep’s wool Wind and barbed wire tangle. I am the mud and spittle That make the swallows’ nest. I am the stonechat’s music Of...

Poem: ‘Room to Rhyme’

Michael Longley, 24 September 2015

in memory of Seamus Heaney


I blew a kiss across the stage to you When we read our poems in Lisdoonvarna Two weeks before you died. Arrayed in straw The Armagh Rhymers turned up at the end.


In the middle of a field in Mourne country Standing side by side, looking straight ahead We peed against a fragment of stone wall, St Patrick’s windbreak, the rain’s urinal.



Two Poems

Michael Longley, 7 March 2013

Lizard Orchid

I All ears in the Mugello What with the far cuckoo, The harmonising frog And crickets everywhere, Domestic sounds as well – Heidi baking a chestnut Cake, Lorenzo’s ladder Scraping the cherry tree – We find in Silvano’s Sloping upper meadow Close to the wood, regal Among seeding grasses, An orchid, each lower lip A streamer, extroversion Requiring subtle...

Three Poems

Michael Longley, 20 October 2011


What’s the Greek for boat, You ask, old friend, Fellow voyager Approaching Ithaca – Oh, flatulent sails, Wave-winnowing oars, Shingle-scrunching keel – But, so close to home, There’s a danger always Of amnesiac storms, Waterlogged words.

Marigolds, 1960

You are dying. Why do we fight? You find my first published poem – ‘Not worth the paper it’s...

For Eddie Linden at Seventy

I’m thinking of the pope and you, Eddie, As I dander towards the New York Public Library to peek at the field notebooks Of Edward Thomas wandering in England In pursuit of spring before poetry and war. Somewhere between Dorval and La Guardia I encountered John Paul among the clouds Like a surge of energy from the engines. Now he lies stiff and full of...

Two Poems

Michael Longley, 19 February 2004

Wooden Hare

Sarah drew a hare under a sky full of large stars When she was ten: now, more than a childhood later, In antique Paraty where the sea seeps up the street Depositing between boulder-sized cobbles sand And the feathers of snowy egrets and frigate birds, We meet the hare again, an ‘indigenous artefact’, And want to know everything about the animal, Its crouching body...

Three Poems

Michael Longley, 27 June 2002

Two Skunks

Why, my dear octogenarian Jewish friend, Does the menagerie of minuscule glass animals On top of your TV set not include a skunk? I have been travelling around in America, Sleeping in wooden houses with squeaky floors, Landings hung with pictures of lost relatives, Professors, station-masters, wise embroiderers. Driving along the Delaware my poet-host Stops to let two wild turkeys...

Two Poems

Michael Longley, 6 February 1997

January 12, 1996

He would have been a hundred today, my father, So I write to him in the trenches and describe How he lifts with tongs from the brazier an ember And in its glow reads my words and sets them aside.

The Mustard Tin

You are dying and not sleeping soundly because Your eyes stay open and it doesn’t seem to hurt. We want you to blink and find three of us standing For a few...

Poem: ‘Baucis & Philemon’

Michael Longley, 17 December 1992

In the Phrygian hills an oak tree grows beside a lime tree And a low wall encloses them. Not far away lies bogland. I have seen the spot myself. It should convince you – If you need to be convinced – that the power of heaven Is limitless, that whatever the gods desire gets done.

Where a drowned valley makes a sanctuary for water birds (Divers, coots), a whole community used to...

Poem: ‘The Butchers’

Michael Longley, 9 November 1989

When he had made sure there were no survivors in his house And that all the suitors were dead, heaped in blood and dust Like fish that fishermen with fine-meshed nets have hauled Up gasping for salt-water, evaporating in the sunshine, Odysseus, spattered with muck and like a lion dripping blood From his chest and cheeks after devouring a farmer’s bullock, Ordered the disloyal housemaids...

Five Poems

Michael Longley, 8 January 1987

Eva Braun

The moon beams like Eva Braun’s bare bottom On rockets aimed at London, then at the sky Where, in orbit to the dark side, astronauts Read from Mein Kompf to a delighted world.


Though the partition opens at a touch She makes a pin-hole and watches people Watching the sky where a heavy bomber Journeys to her mirror and jar of rouge.


No room has ever been as silent...

In his Diary Tom Paulin refers to the film he is making, with David Hammond, about the Ulster Scots dialect (LRB, 24 August). In passing he describes a poem of mine as ‘packed with Ulster Scots words’; and goes on to wonder: ‘Maybe the poet is wanting to ruffle his deft parnassian or to raise certain readers ’hackles? For there’s a calculated over-determined quality to...

No Unionist

1 August 1985

SIR: I am grateful to Tom Paulin for his thoughtful and generous review of Poems 1963-1983 (LRB, 1 August). However, he refers to me as ‘a highly sensitive, liberal Unionist’. I hope I am sensitive and liberal, but in Ulster’s many elections I have not once voted Unionist.

By spring​ 1919, Robert Graves was a demobilised war veteran, a new father and the author of four volumes of poetry. At this moment came ‘the first poem I wrote as myself’, as his...

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The Ticking Fear: Louis MacNeice

John Kerrigan, 7 February 2008

As Louis MacNeice lay dying in 1963, his last major work, a radio play called Persons from Porlock, was broadcast by the BBC. It is about a painter called Hank, who starts well in the 1930s, but...

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Fading Out

John Redmond, 2 November 1995

The West of Ireland is a good place in which to hide. Fast-moving columns of sun and rain cause landmarks to appear and disappear; the roads have potholes which could hide the many vagrant...

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Christ’s Teeth

C.K. Stead, 10 October 1991

‘Dates, dates are of the essence; and it will be found that I date quite exactly the breakdown of the imaginative exploit of the Cantos: between the completion of the late sequence called...

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Like the trees on Primrose Hill

Samuel Hynes, 2 March 1989

In ‘The Cave of Making’, his elegy for MacNeice, Auden describes his friend as a ‘lover of women and Donegal’. The geography seems a bit wrong – the Irish counties...

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Tom Paulin, 1 August 1985

Recently I received a somewhat smug letter from one of the editors of PN Review asking me to contribute to yet another symposium on the state of critical chassis which still persists in Great...

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Everything is susceptible

Douglas Dunn, 20 March 1980

Derek Mahon’s Poems 1962 – 1978 includes most of his three earlier books, to which he has added a few uncollected poems and about 35 pages of new work. Readers will discover that...

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