Poetry Month 2012. 23: From the Irish

It’s quite evident that I like Ian Duhig, having shared three of his poems before – ‘Use Complete Sentences’, Civilization and Nothing Pie – the latter with a tenuous theme of language or colloquialisms. The poem I’m sharing today shares that theme.

I borrowed some of his earlier work from the library. So far I’ve just read the one old collection – The Bradford Count. Duhig’s parents were Irish but he now lives in Yorkshire, so the Bradford of the title does indeed refer to the Bradford I live in. The “Bradford Count” is actually a measure of the number of hanks of yarn that could be spin from a fleece – Bradford used to be a mill town, and in the 19th Century was known as the wool capital of the world.

I have to say I found the collection quite impenetrable. It references a lot of history that I’m not aware of, with big words and names that don’t mean anything to me. Sadly I can’t really be bothered (today at least) to look up the meanings and back stories to access what he’s talking about.

     From the Irish

     According to Dineen, 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 of your eyes
     is the mark of the beast, it is because
     I want to love you properly, according to Dineen.

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