Since tomorrow is Saint Patrick’s Day and the 21st is World Poetry Day, it seems appropriate to write about Irish poets and Irish poetry. In my experience, it appears that a generous portion of the world’s memorable poets were, and are, Irish. This may be because Irish people seem to be less inhibited in regard to their emotions and thus more inclined to produce poetry that bares their feelings to a degree that others can understand and relate to. That trait is reflected in a line by poet Robert Frost; “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” All human passions seem to be superbly expressed by the Irish poets, in my estimation, love, hate, despair, regret. You name it.
Oscar Wilde, for instance, could describe the despair of imprisonment in so few words as, “...that little tent of blue which prisoners call the sky.” As is true of most poets, he was also successful as a writer of novels and plays. His novel, “A Picture of Dorian Grey” is known to nearly everyone, and millions have been delighted by his comic masterpieces, “Lady Windermere’s Fan” and “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Few people are aware that he also wrote fairy tales for children. In spite of his tumultuous life, or maybe because of it, Wilde said, his humor still intact, “A poet can survive anything but a misprint.”
James Joyce, probably best known to many as the author of “Ulysses” which parallels Homer’s “Odyssey” with a number of stories in different literary styles, wrote, among other familiar things, “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” He worked occasionally as a journalist, authored a play and published three books of poetry, but as every poet knows, poetry alone doesn’t pay the bills. One of his more famous quotes is from “Ulysses”; “History… is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” Something we can all relate to well over a century later. As another poet once wrote, “Those who fail to learn from history are bound to repeat it.”
The list includes Tynan, Heaney, Boland, and more than one Kinsella including the author of “Shoeless Joe” which was the inspiration for the movie “Field of Dreams” and all that has and will likely follow. If you’re interested in learning more about them, check the library or google Irish poets.
In a lighter vein, there are the playful and sometimes ribald little rhymes we know as limericks.
Some believe that they originated in the town of Limerick, but that’s hard to prove. We know, for certain, that they have been a form of audience-participation entertainment in Irish pubs for a very long time, and that they echo the form and cadence of the song “Will You Go Down to Limerick?” These little five-line jingles follow a pattern where the first two and last lines rhyme and have the same number of beats and the third and fourth lines have a different rhyme and are shorter. Limericks are seldom given titles, are usually humorous, often rowdy, playfully insulting, sometimes political and almost always spontaneous.
Anybody can write a limerick – some of the best ones are really awful as far as being “good poetry” goes. Having a little Irish in my DNA and a lot in my soul, I’m sharing a few of my own limericks here and hope they make you smile.
A snappy young bowler from Solon
was truly immersed in his rollin’
His sweetheart once said,
“We shall never be wed,
for he simply won’t pause in his bowlin’”
A fellow once banged on my gate
livid with anger and hate
when asked to be terse
he recited this verse
“I wait for my mate and she’s late.”
A toddler was kicking his pappy
and clearly was very unhappy.
When asked to inform
on the cause of the storm,
said his pappy, ”His nappy is crappy.”
A mother of twins in Miami
engaged a professional nanny,
When asked for their names,
she replied, “They’re the same,
so I just named the both of them Danny.”
The actor was no Richard Burton
his diction and syntax were hurtin’.
When a nasty sour note
escaped from his throat
they rapidly dropped the last curtain.
You might want to try writing a limerick yourself, and St. Pat’s Day is a good time to do it. Remember; you don’t have to be Irish.