Skip to main content

Featured Poet: David Wheatley

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Irish poet-critic David Wheatley - pictured above - to its wind-blown pages this blustery November day.  Wheatley, one of Ireland's impressive younger literary figures, was born in Dublin in 1970, and is the author of four poetry collections with Gallery Press: Thirst, Mocker, Misery Hill and A Nest on the Waves. He has edited the work of James Clarence Mangan, also for Gallery, and Samuel Beckett’s Selected Poems for Faber and Faber. He often reviews for, among others, The Guardian Review section - where his reviews tend to be judicious and thoughtful, and non-representative of his edgier side.  Wheatley is - as many of his Irish generation are - an outspoken opponent of the Catholic Church, and a far-ranging (sometimes madcap) satirist, at least on the Internet, where he has run a lively blog.  In his combination of erudition,  sense of play, and seriousness, he makes a tantalising offer to the future, of growing into the next important Irish poet after Muldoon - though his own style is notably different.  He lives in Hull where he lectures.  This poem is a translation (see his note below) taken from the impressive new anthology, Patrick Crotty's The Penguin Book of Irish Poetry.

Poem by Anonymous

Eochaidh Ó hEodhasa (?1560-1612) was court bard to three successive chieftains of the Maguire clan in Co. Fermanagh. He exemplifies the aristocratic (rather than folk) tradition in Irish poetry that would come to an end with the defeat of the Gaelic chieftains at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601. He is best known to readers in English through James Clarence Mangan’s ‘O’Hussey’s Ode to the Maguire’, and is the subject of James Carney’s 1958 study ‘The Irish Bardic Poet’. This anonymous elegy observes the convention of comparing poetry to a woman, who suffers loss of symbolic authority and status on the death of the poet. The original Irish text can be found in Osborn Bergin’s Irish Bardic Poetry.

On the Death of a Poet (composed during the last illness of Eochaidh Ó hEodhasa)

Poetry is touched by decline:
how can we come to her aid?
She is sure all hope is gone
in her poorly state.

Consider poetry’s plight,
fit only for the sickbed
as word of Eochaidh’s death is brought
to her who was his bride. 

It is hard to witness the honour
once hers turn to scorn:
woeful indignity drawing near,
the cloud of abasement come down.

To Eochaidh above all men she gave
the flower in its prime
of her artistry and love;
and all to nourish him.

The hidden ore of his poet’s craft
burned with a gemlike flame
lighting up the art he left;
much died with his name.

Well he knew the schoolmen’s work,
who sat among the wise;
poet of the golden cloak,
a great lament shall be his.

He stumbled on the hazel of knowledge
in its secret grove,
and left its branches hung with flesh,
stripping the nutshells off.

Out of words both dark and subtle
the poet makes his art
with perfect ease, and in recital
omits no part.

It is no small help to his work
to add the gold relief
of learning to his every word:
such is the way of the beehive.

Bees all over brim their hoard
with the juice they collect 
from the oozings of a milky gourd
or a flower unpacked.

They are examples to the bard
whose craft none can match;
no flower or fruit, soft or hard,
escapes his search.

It is he resolves the doubts
of those already skilled;
he who settles all debates,
he to whom all yield.

Who has not been touched by sorrow
at the master’s loss of life?
This disease goes to the marrow
and pierces like a spike.

Like a cow parted from her calf,
my wits are overthrown;
I make melody from my grief,
who now am orphaned;

and poetry is a widow unless
Maoilseachlainn’s son returns;
no-one can make good her loss
but the man she mourns.

poem translated by David Wheatley from an anonymous poet; from The Penguin Book of Irish Poetry; reprinted with permission of the author.


Popular posts from this blog


According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…


Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…


The Oscars - Academy Awards officially - were once huge cultural events - in 1975, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Shirley MacLaineandBob Hope co-hosted, for example - and Best Picture noms included The Conversation and Chinatown. Godfather Part 2 won. Last two years, movies titled Birdman and Spotlight won, and the hosts and those films are retrospectively minor, trifling. This year, some important, resonant films are up for consideration - including Hidden Figures and Moonlight, two favourites of this blog. Viola Davis and Denzel Washington will hopefully win for their sterling performances in Fences. However, La La Land - the most superficial and empty Best Picture contender since Gigi in 1959 (which beat Vertigo) - could smite all comers, and render this year's awards historically trivial, even idiotic.

The Oscars often opt for safe, optimistic films, or safe, pessimistic films, that are usually about white men (less often, white women) finding their path to doing the right thin…