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A Refreshing Whiff of Old-School

I have been reading Emergency Kit: Poetry for Strange Times (ed. Jo Shapcott and Matthew Sweeney: Faber and Faber 2004) and have come across some poets that I probably would never have found out about otherwise. Overall I found the collection quite hit and miss – some of it really wasn’t for me. However, there are a few good’ns that need your full attention.

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin (does anyone have a pronunciation guide?) – I found her work refreshingly traditional in terms of imagery, with simple structures and narratives that fly me to Ireland and peaceful villages. I found her work very soothing at a time when I’ve been trying to write poems which are as abstract as possible! This poem in particular stuck out as something great:


When all this is over, said the swineherd,

I mean to retire, where

Nobody will have heard about my special skills

And conversation is mainly about the weather.


I intend to learn how to make coffee, as least as well

As the Portuguese lay-sister in the kitchen

And polish the brass fenders every day.

I want to lie awake at night

Listening to cream crawling to the top of the jug

And the water lying soft in the cistern.


I want to see an orchard where the trees grow in straight lines

And the yellow fox finds shelter between the navy-blue trunks,

Where it gets dark early in summer

And the apple-blossom is allowed to wither on the bough.


I have spent the last few weeks trying to diverge from my own style as much as possible; experimenting with new and interesting ways of writing poetry (e.g. some of the John Cage I’ve been getting my teeth into). However, it was great to see Chuilleanáin’s simple style and appealling imagery still offering so much originality in a time when poetry has to be cut-up, layered and run through by a lawn mower to be taken notice of.

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Jennifer is currently available for commissions and can be contacted here.

Specialities: British wildlife I.D. (birds, mammals and wildflowers), the natural world, allotment life, witchcraft writing, Shamanism, Paganism, New Age, veganism, eco-living.

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