Saturday, March 17, 2012

Prompt #95 - Happy St. Patrick's Day

(Vintage Postcard from Ireland)

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit! Happy St. Patrick’s Day! This is always a special day for me – a day to think about my Irish ancestors and to re-read the works of the Irish poets I love most. The earliest surviving poems in Irish date to the sixth century, and Ireland has produced many poets including Lathóg of Tír Chonaill, Thomas Kinsella, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, Patrick Kavanagh, Paul Muldoon, Eavan Boland, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Mary O’Donoghue, Elaine Feeney, and Noelle Vial. Below are some poems by a few (just a few!) of my favorite Irish poets.
 Bain sult as (enjoy)!

A number of years ago, I spent three weeks in Ireland. That trip was a kind of going home – not for myself but for my great grandfather Patrick Kenny who brought my family to America in 1889 and for my dad who never got to Ireland. Ancestors, family, and homeland are traditional and recurrent themes in Irish poetry. We went green in an earlier prompt, so this week let’s adopt an Irish-type theme and write poems about our various ancestries, our different nationalities, our people – our “roots.”

Some Ideas:

1. Write a poem about the country from which your ancestors came.
2. Write a poem about your ancestors.
3. Perhaps you’ve come to this country from another. Write a poem about making the decision to leave the country of your birth and to settle in a new country. Or, write a poem about your homeland.
4. Write a ballad about one of your ancestors (or a current family member).
5. Alternatively, you just might want to write a poem about St. Patrick, shamrocks, Guinness, Irish Wolf Hounds, or something else that’s wonderfully Irish, whether you’re Irish or not!

Sample Poems:

In a spirit of sharing, here’s an excerpt edited from an early version of the title poem from Chosen Ghosts:

Chosen Ghosts

A chattering wind brings down the leaves,
remnants of bagworm and chestnut lie in the tangle.

Moonlight falls in fractions through dead bindweed,
on milkweed pods that crack open and float away.

Always in autumn, when the backyard thins and
the brittleness starts, I go back to my griefs.

I bury the last chrysanthemums and wish it was still
summer when the sky traveled  in a thousand directions

at once or years ago when every season was spring
with its risings and promise. But now, here and now,

in the whirl of this brief, sad season, I call my ghosts
home and gather them around me. Like the flock of

geese that sleeps in an open field near the river, they rise
in a rush of wings that remembers the victory of flight.

Where does it begin? A wandering Celt follows the sun
to a green island and turns his painted face away from

the pagan gods. An Irish farmer digs a harvest of black
moons and surrenders his plow to a coffin ship, weeks

of pitching in the dark hold, a sea-wrack of salt and tar.            
My grandfathers, immigrant spirits. They enter my house

and stand together on the stairway. My father, still in
uniform, walks in from the cold and holds my mother’s

hand as if nothing were changed. The others arrive –
family and friends – the company of Heaven. They all

turn toward me and raise their glasses in a toast. These
are my ghosts – the invited, the chosen – a party of souls.

Life, liquid and thick, leaps in their wrists. I touch
their cheeks with gentle fingers, brush stray hairs from

their foreheads – remembering, remembering,
as I kiss the dust from their lips. 

And ... A Little Irish Slideshow That I Made to Celebrate the Day


  1. I can only say, "WOW!" And "WOW!" again!

    What a wealth of spirit, poetry, and ideas for writing, not to mention your own stunning poem and the wonderful video. Thank you, Adele! I'm sure you're wearing green - Happy St. Patrick's Day to you and your adorable little Chaucey!


    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Jamie!

      (Yep, I wore green all day yesterday - hope you had a great St. Pat's!)

  2. Thank you, Adele! You have the most thoughtful prompts. Thank you for sharing your poetry and you video. How did you make that video? Is there a program out there that helps you? One of these days I would like to learn how to do that. Chaucey is adorable, by the way. BRAVO for all the great work you do. What a lovely gift you left for us. Thank you so much!!! ~Anjie Kokan

    1. Thank you, Anjie, for your comment and for your kind words. I'm so glad to know that you're enjoying the blog posts.

      I use iMovie to make the videos - it's a program that came with my Mac, very intuitive and easy to learn. If you have a Mac, you may have the program. There something called "Windows Movie Maker" for PCs, and there's a free download offered here:

      Thank you again!

  3. It is( almost) incredible!
    I am just trying to translate "Desert" by Adonis, not from Arabic but from English translation by Khaled Mattawa (

    a poem about the siege of Beirut, the open desert, a lost homeland...

    " The city's face beamed
    like a child arranging his dreams for nightfall
    bidding the morning to sit beside him on his chair...
    ..There is no homeland there"

    Buon giorno di San Patrizio!!!!

    1. Hi Jago! It's always a pleasure to hear from you!

      What a coincidence that you're working on the translation of "Desert" by Adonis! I hope you'll share it when the translation is completed. The lines you posted are so powerful and compelling.

  4. St Patrick's Day
    risa roberts

    four leafed clovers
    rare and hard to find
    authentic and genuine
    green like spring
    green like money
    also rare and hard to find
    the Irish are everywhere
    everyone is Irish on St Patty's Day
    all evil spirits
    we'll drive away!

    1. Thanks for sharing your poem, Risa!


  5. Thanks, Risa!

    I'm so glad the prompts are working for you and that you're writing again!

  6. What a wonderful line from Adele's poem: ". . . I kiss the dust from their lips." So much more than the passive exercise of memory.

    Here's something that relates to the idea of someone transplanted from another country, another culture--someone who challenges the cultural norms we so often take for granted.

    A Man From Another Country

    A man from another country says,
    “I don’t understand you!”
    When I try to explain
    How we do things here,
    How we behave.

    Everywhere we go
    People stare.
    He walks too slow,
    He talks too loud,
    He laughs at my earnest everyday endeavors
    As if he were watching
    Some riotous vaudeville show.
    He is constantly amused.

    I will teach him how to fit in,
    How to talk to people
    In ways they expect
    And understand.
    “You must learn how we act here,”
    I explain.

    “You are afraid of life!”
    He yells at me,
    Waving his arms wildly
    As we stumble down a crowded sidewalk.
    I move away
    And pretend we are strangers.

    1. Thanks so much for posting, Russ (and for your kind words about my poem)!

      This one captures the sense of "stranger" that, sadly, immigrants often feel.

    2. Thanks, Russ, for sharing another of your wonderful poems with us.


  7. A wealth of "green" and much poetry to celebrate! Thank you, Adele! And thank you to Russ and Risa for posting their poems!

    1. Thanks, Bob!

      Ditto the thanks to all the poets who have shared with us this week!

  8. A belated Happy St. Patrick's day to you, Adele! What a wonderful and comprehensive post - lovely!

    Go n-éirí an bóthar leat
    Go raibh an ghaoth go brách ag do chúl
    Go lonraí an ghrian go te ar d'aghaidh
    Go dtite an bháisteach go mín ar do pháirceanna
    Agus go mbuailimid le chéile arís,
    Go gcoinní Dia i mbos A láimhe thú.

    Máire Ó Cathail (Ireland)

  9. Thank you, Maire, and happy St. Patrick's Day to you too!

    A beautiful Irish blessing, for which thanks ... and here it is back to you in English:

    May the road rise to meet you
    May the wind be always at your back
    May the sun shine warm upon your face,
    The rains fall soft upon your fields
    And until we meet again
    May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

  10. This is my first time writing to your prompt Adele, this was a fun one! I'm not sure how you conduct poem sharing but I'll leave a link here of the poem this prompt inspired. Thank you for all of the very interesting detail included! ~Smiles!

    1. Hi Hannah!

      Welcome aboard! And thanks for the link to your poem, which I enjoyed very much!

      Poem sharing is up to the poets -- links to the poems elsewhere online or the poems themselves are always welcome! I'm so glad the prompt worked for you and hope that this week's prompt will result in something special.

      Thanks again!