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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 seconds between you and the darkness ...

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 pebble striking pebble ...

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. Geisha 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 ...

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 carved out of cajeto, ears Slotted into the skull, the unexpected markings (Blotches of butum oil) that represent leaf-shadows Or are they stars fallen through the forest canopy? Dare we buy it and bring it back home to Ireland, The hare in Sarah’s picture, the Mato Grosso hare? Its eyes are made from beeswax and mother-of-pearl ...

Room to Rhyme

Michael Longley, 23 September 2015

... in memory of Seamus Heaney I 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. II 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 breezes, A name to silence cuckoo And frog, lizard orchid ...

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 to sponge down the armchairs And tables, while Telemachos, the oxherd and the swineherd Scraped the floor with shovels, and then between the portico And the roundhouse stretched a hawser and hanged the women So none touched the ground with her toes, like long-winged thrushes Or doves trapped in a mist-net across the thicket where they roost, Their heads bobbing in a row, their feet twitching but not for long, And when they had dragged Melanthios’s corpse into the haggard And cut off his nose and ears and cock and balls, a dog’s dinner, Odysseus, seeing the need for whitewash and disinfectant, Fumigated the house and the outhouses, so that Hermes Like a clergyman might wave the supernatural baton With which he resurrects or hypnotises those he chooses, And waken and round up the suitors’ souls, and the housemaids’, Like bats gibbering in the nooks of their mysterious cave When out of the clusters that dangle from the rocky ceiling One of them drops and squeaks, so their souls were bat-squeaks As they flittered after Hermes, their deliverer, who led them Along the clammy sheughs, then past the oceanic streams And the white rock, the sun’s gatepost in that dreamy region, Until they came to a bog-meadow full of bog-asphodels Where the residents are ghosts or images of the dead ...

Three Poems

Michael Longley, 20 October 2011

... Boat 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 printed on,’ You say ...

Three Poems

Michael Longley, 27 June 2002

... To sun itself. It had been wintering In memory’s outhouse and escaped the wren. Petalwort For Michael Viney You want your ashes to swirl along the strand At Thallabaun – amongst clockwork, approachable, Circumambulatory sanderlings, crab shells, Bladderwrack, phosphorescence at spring tide – Around the burial mound’s wind-and-wave-inspired Vanishing ...

Three Poems

Michael Longley: ‘For Eddie Linden at Seventy’, ‘Call’ and ‘The Wren’, 7 July 2005

... 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 ...

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 plough – until Jupiter brought Mercury without his wand or wings ...

On Michael Longley

Colin Burrow: Michael Longley, 18 October 2017

... There are​ few contemporary poets as likeable as Michael Longley. That’s not because his poems are simply amiable, but because he looks at things hard and clearly and invites his readers to share his acts of seeing. In his new book, Angel Hill (Cape, £10), even a cataract operation is an opportunity to celebrate sharpness of vision: ‘My eyeball’s frozen ...

Fading Out

John Redmond, 2 November 1995

The Ghost Orchid 
by Michael Longley.
Cape, 66 pp., £7, May 1995, 0 224 04112 6
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... land of transplanted urban dream kingdoms, a paradise for poets who do not wish to be disturbed. Michael Viney’s documentary, The Corner of the Eye, opens with a slow sweep across this landscape, a picture of distances fringed with purple and a few tawny cows nosing through the foreground, then switches to a little white cottage in the midst of it all, and ...

Two Poems

John Burnside, 20 September 2001

... naming, one thing at a time: fieldfare, redshank, cranesbill, alchemilla. A Duck Island Flora For Michael Longley On the road to the Brensholmen ferry: snow gentians, mineral blue and perfect, like a child’s idea of north; but here is all marshland and water between the fields where they still cut and rake the hay with tools that are heirlooms. Two ...
Selected Literary Criticism of Louis MacNeice 
edited by Alan Heuser.
Oxford, 279 pp., £19.50, March 1987, 0 19 818573 1
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... a journalistic entity’. Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon, John Montague, Paul Muldoon, Seamus Deane, Michael Longley and their colleagues are from the North, and they are poets: but they are individual poets, not a school. They are not even two rival schools, though some of them have started fabricating a split, presumably in the hope of establishing that ...

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