Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Poet

I met a poet from Tipperary. A man in his fifties; his frailty, humour, his wisps of hair and pale, elfin face made him a different creature from anyone I’d ever met. I wanted to tell him that, despite his bemoaning the status of poetry in Australia, clandestine visitors to my isolated bush shack had stolen nothing but a copy of Phillip Larkin’s Collected Poems. They could have shot holes in the rainwater tank or taken my gas bottle or generator. But no ...  a book of poetry.

He nodded slowly. “Larkin. They showed good taste.”
“I thought so too.”
“I heard that you are a fisherwoman,” he said.
“Yes. We work the estuaries with nets, in a little boat.”
He took his time during the conversation. He looked distracted and stared across the table at something or someone. “You look like you are strong.”
“I am.”
“And how did you begin this fishing life?”
“I grew up here. Then there were tuna fishermen and whalers, hard men, and it was a woman’s job to serve them beer or shovel the fish in the factories. I did that for a while but I wanted to work on a boat. One day I started working for Old Salt.”
“Do you argue on the boat? It must be hard, sometimes ...”
“We fight, often. It’s a small boat.”
“But you work for this man, because ... you must feel some affection for him.”
“Yes. Yes. I do feel affection for him.”
Later, he shook my hand goodbye and said, “I would like to read your book and I shall tell my wimpy friends in Ireland all about you.”


  1. There are no more poetic in life than the Irish. This is a very good piece. I was reading just today that in the American Civil war, they would rather hire and sacrifice Irish than their African slaves. The Irish cost a dollar a day, the slaves far more, and irreplaceable.
    Here they were hired mercenaries, paid in land. My Hannovarian great, great Grandfather married a woman from Tipperary, for this I am eternally grateful. The Germans no mean poets themselves.

  2. Was that during the Black War Merc? The mercenaries I mean. I heard that some soldiers came out of that so shellshocked that they could hardly function, let alone ever fight again.
    Yes, this poet really got stuck into the low status we give our poetry and I guess it would look rather lackluster, being Irish himself.

  3. Don't ask me how I travel, but I travel, - my own people went to Virginia, from where they were ousted for being..."Kings men". It is wise I think if one is a mixed breed, to know that mix well.
    The Irish mercs (heh) were both impressed and regular marines fighting - in the case I thought of - in the Waikato Wars, started in Rangiriri, November 20, 1863 (100 years to the day of my birth) - an auspicious time for the America's as well.
    As for poetry and the colonies...NZ has to rank lowest in the esteem proffered by the populace towards our own, and that includes an incredibly rich Maori tradition. I could go on here.

  4. They are currently trying to gain a pardon for all the Irishmen who deserted the (neutral) Irish army to join the Brits and fight Hitler. They were treated like outcasts, once they had served their prison sentences, but the Brits have never been popular over there, even when compared to Nazis. A lot of 'wimpy' poets died in WW1 as well.

    1. I think O'Driscoll's 'wimpy' was a bit self deprecating and directed at himself, academics, public servants etc. Anyway, definitely not the Irish in general.
      I approached him as an instant fan after his 2012 gig in Albany. He turned our meeting into an interview whilst looking disinterested and concerned all at once. I experienced him drag the narrative out of me - and not in the formulaic way a psych does. Poet.

  5. Should have called this post "An Irishman, a Kiwi and an Englishman walked into a bar" ...

    1. ... and they all ordered f'sh and ch'ps.