A nod to Seamus Heaney

RTE recently ran a competition called A Poem for Ireland, where the nation were invited to nominate their favourite poems. A shortlist of 10 poems was selected and then opened to voting.

While there were 10 great poems in the shortlist, there was only one winner for me. It was this poem by the great Seamus Heaney. I hadn’t read it before and after I did, I immediately voted for it. Like other Heaney poems, I had a lump in my throat by the closing lines.

Heaney is surely one of the country’s best poets. He had an amazing knack of summing up emotions so poignantly. So here it is below. If you haven’t read Heaney before, then this is a real treat.

And btw, it won the contest. Of course!

When all the others were away at Mass

In Memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984


When all the others were away at Mass

I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.

They broke the silence, let fall one by one

Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:

Cold comforts set between us, things to share

Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.

And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes

From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside

Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying

And some were responding and some crying

I remembered her head bent towards my head,

Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives –

Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

International Literature Festival Dublin

Formerly known as the Dublin Writers Festival, the International Literature Festival Dublin will take place from May 16-24.

It was founded in 1998 and features readings, discussions, debates,workshops, performance and screenings.

With a new Programme Director (Martin Colthorpe) on board, the festival will continue to champion Dublin’s position as a UNESCO City of Literature.

Full programme details are due any day…

For more info see http://ilfdublin.com/

Immrama – Lismore Festival of Travel Writing

Immrama – Lismore Festival of Travel Writing will take place from
June 11-14 in Lismore, Co Waterford.

The festival’s title Immrama is taken from an old Irish word for journey. The festival – dedicated to travel writing, music, and entertainment – has been running since 2003.

The programme will consist of book launches, discussions and workshops.

For more information see: http://www.lismoreimmrama.com/

Listowel Writers Week

Early bird tickets go on sale tomorrow morning (Thursday April 2) for some key events at Listowel Writers Week.

The festival will be held from May 27 until May 31 in the Kerry town of Listowel.

Below are some of the events that will be open to ticket purchasers tomorrow:

Irish Fiction Laureate Anne Enright and Listowel Writers’ Week President Colm Tóibín will be in conversation to discuss their latest novels, respectively The Green Road and Nora Webster on Thursday May 28 at 4pm.

Award-winning actor, director and writer Alan Cumming will discuss his memoir Not My Father’s Son: A Family Memoir on Thursday May 28 at 8pm


Boston crime writer and bestseller Dennis Lehane will discuss his new novel World Gone By Friday May 29 at 7.30pm. Dennis is currently adapting the RTE crime series Love/Hate for American audiences.

Journalist and author Patrick Cockburn will discuss his book The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution on Saturday May 30 at Noon.

TV host Graham Norton will share his most memorable experiences from his memoir The Life and Loves of a He Devil: A Memoir on Saturday May 30 at 8.30pm.

Singer and songwriter Declan O’Rourke will perform in concert on Saturday May 30 at 10.30pm

Tickets for these in-demand events can be bought online at www.writersweek.ie or by phone at: 068 21074.