Irish poets are coming together to ease lockdown stress one stanza at a time.
In a country synonymous with lyrical poetry and heartfelt expression, new and old poetry is being discovered, or rediscovered, for everyone stuck in lockdown.
Health officials used a classic poem by Michael D Higgins, to help reinforce physical distancing, while the Irish president also collaborates on a new poem with schoolchildren.
Stephen James Smith, Dublin’s unofficial poet laureate, noted: “I guess people find solace in it. People need poetry during big moments in life. And right now maybe they have more time to reflect. We’re seeing charts and statistics all the time and it can be disorientating, they’re not always tangible. The piece is sombre. I feel it’s the job of the poet to question, even if those questions are unanswered.”
Charities have asked Smith to publish new poems, one of which, Collectively Counting, was published as the accompaniment to a short, lyrical film of deserted Dublin streets, reflecting on isolation, anxiety, and solidarity.
The poets phoned on 30th of April – national poetry day in Ireland – to read selected poems, and the scheme is set to be repeated through May.
John Keane, 76, a farmer in County Offaly, requested William Butler Yeats’s Easter, 1916, about the Irish rising, for his renewed understanding for the lines: “All changed, changed utterly/A terrible beauty is born”.
Keane actually knew the whole poem off by heart so both gentlemen took turns to recite verses, and remarked after: “It was delightful. We both enjoyed the experience.”
Poet and children’s writer, Enda Wyley recited No Second Troy to a woman in Sligo. “She put me on speaker so the whole family listened. Poetry comes to the fore in moments of crisis, maybe because of the instant impact. It does offer solace and healing.”
Edna Wyley also read aloud a poem by Eavan Boland, who died on 27th of April. Poets mourned but were unfortunately unable to go to the funeral, “So what did we do? We turned to our poetry. Poets are beginning to write new stuff.”
A Zoom poetry meeting occurred recently, and was recorded for Dublin festival this weekend, said Wyley. “We’re finding different ways of getting poetry out there.”