Ian Duhig

Fund for Cultural Education and Heritage is profoundly grateful to the leading Irish Poet Mr. Ian Duhig giving us an opportunity to publish from the forthcoming ‘Selected Poems’.

 

On behalf of FEKT.org we are very honored and grateful for your trust.

Fahredin Shehu

Founding Director of FEKT.

 

 

Ian Duhig has written seven books of poetry, most recently ‘The Blind Roadmaker (Picador 2016) which was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, shortlisted for the Roehampton, Forward Best Collection and TS Eliot Prizes. A former homelessness worker, Duhig still often works with socially excluded groups though now on writing projects and is currently developing a piece for Refugee Tales. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Cholmondeley Award recipient, Duhig has won the Forward Best Poem Prize once and the National Poetry Competition twice.

 

Poems

 

From the Irish

 

According to Dinneen, a Gael unsurpassed

in lexicographical enterprise, the Irish

for moon means ‘the white circle in a slice

of half-boiled potato or turnip.’ A star

is the mark on the forehead of a beast

and the sun is the bottom of a lake, or well.

 

Well, if I say to you your face

is like a slice of half-boiled turnip,

your hair is the colour of a lake’s bottom

and at the centre of each or your eyes

is the mark of the beast, it is because

I want to love you properly, according to Dinneen.

 

 

 

Margin Prayer from an Ancient Psalter

 

Lord I know, and I know you know I know

this is a drudge’s penance. Only dull scholars

or cowherds maddened with cow-watching

will ever read The Grey Psalter of Antrim.

I have copied it these thirteen years

waiting for the good bits ― High King of the Roads,

are there any good bits in The Grey Psalter of Antrim

 

(Text illegible here because of teeth marks.)

 

It has the magic realism of an argumentum:

it has the narrative subtlety of the Calendar of Oengus;

it has the oblique wit of the Battle-Cathach of the O’Donnells;

it grips like the colophon to The Book of Durrow;

it deconstructs like a canon-table;

it makes St Jerome’s Defence of his Vulgate look racy.

I would make a gift of it to Halfdane the Sacker

that he might use it to wipe his wide Danish arse.

Better its volumes intincted our cattle-trough

and cured poor Luke, my three-legged calf,

than sour my wit and spoil my calligraphy.

Luke! White Luke! Truer beast than Ciarán’s Dun Cow!

You would rattle the abbot with your soft off-beats,

butting his churns and licking salt from his armpits.

Luke, they flayed you, pumiced your skin to a wafer —

such a hide as King Tadhg might die under —

for pages I colour with ox-gall yellow …

 

Oh, forgiving Christ of scribes and sinners

intercede for me with the jobbing abbot!
Get me reassigned to something pagan

with sex and perhaps gratuitous violence

which I might deplore with insular majuscule

and illustrate with Mozarabic complexity

ad maiorem gloriam Dei at Hiberniae.

And lest you think I judge the book too harshly

from pride or a precious sensibility,

I have arranged for a second opinion.

Tomorrow, our surveyor Ronan the Barbarian,

will read out loud as only he can read out loud

selected passages from this which I have scored

while marking out his new church in Killaney,

in earshot of that well-versed man King Suibhne …

 

(Text completely illegible from this point

because of lake-water damage and otter dung.)

 

 

 

Aeronwy’s Story 

 

To the Literature Centre gifted with his name

his clapboard workshed seems miraculously flown

as angels bore the church to Holy Walsingham.

On the looped tape he is still refusing to mourn.

By Dylan Thomas Square his statue fidgets, turning from

the English chain-house steak bar and the new marina

to the sunset, where no wave breaks over his fame.

He sees through me as if I was America,

which grew a culture of his death under glass.

His daughter tells of being abandoned in her crib

in a glasshouse, watching the waves of Heinkels

he’d shown defiance to by making for the pub.

He heard unwritten children singing in the night

but when I listen, I am blinded by the light.

 

 

From the Plague Journal

 

 I have been asked to write about our food.

I remember nights spent hulling ration-rice,

soya beans pressed dry before they got to us,

boiling black market sweetfish to hide their smell

from our Neighbourhood Monitor. We ate everything:

reed-root, pig-weed, tugwort, bar-weed ―

these may not be the scientific names.

We smuggled grated radish and bracken-sprouts

past our Neighbourhood Monitor once he started fainting,

propped beneath his Government banderoles:

‘There’s Always Space to Plant a Pumpkin!’

‘The War is Only Just Beginning!’

 

Later, our food became medicine:

dried fig-grubs for the incontinence;

ant-lions in sake for the headaches;

leek-leaves and cucumber for the burns.

I sold my son’s thousand-stitch belt

for peaches and eggs which I mashed and strained,

mashed and strained. Still my children died,

the last little Tadashi, setting his weasel-traps

of bamboo and abalone shells round the pond

he’d stocked with a few, tiny carp fry.

 

That is all I remember about our food.

 

 

 

Archbishop Mar Jacobus Remembers the Baron

 

Even the Syro-Chaldean bishopric I offered

on the strength of Hadrian VII

did not tempt Corvo. As mere Provost

to the Lieutenant of Grandmagistracy

of Sanctissima Sophia he fled

to Venice, convinced the Rhodes Trustees

were plotting his assassination.

Where else should provide a home

to the inventor of submarine photography?

I missed his inch-thick cigarettes,

gigantic Waterman fountain pens

and Graecocorvine vocabulary.

We played duets but kissed only once.

At last he denounced me as a fraud

and schismatic. I said he played the spinet

like a lobster trying to escape its pot –

after that, my overtures were useless.

For all his violence and absurdity

I warm to think of him now,

his cropped grey hair dyed with henna,

his white hand, wearing the spur-rowel ring

I gave him as defence against Jesuits

on the oar of his panther-skinned gondola

Flying the Bucintoro Rowing Club flag.

I think less of the lagoon-eyed fauns

he photographs and masturbates.

Does he think of me in Godless Middlesex,

where it either rains or they’re playing cricket?

The Syro-Chaldean Church is not doing well

despite my sigils, blazons, banners

and the undeniable splendour of our ritual.

The landlord’s wife is singing Auld Lang Syne.

This is going to be a Godless century.

 

Important links:

https://literature.britishcouncil.org/writer/ian-duhig

http://www.poetryarchive.org/poet/ian-duhig

http://www.forwardartsfoundation.org/poet/ian-duhig/

http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=12263

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