Friday, May 8, 2009

At the Seminar, a poem by Dennis O’Driscoll.

Dennis O’Driscoll was born in Thurles, County Tipperary, Ireland in 1954. He has written eight books of poetry. His awards include a Lannan Literary Award in 1999, the 2005 E.M. Forster Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the 2006 O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry from the Center for Irish Studies in Minnesota. A member of Aosdána, the Irish Academy of Artists, and an Honorary Member of the Royal Hibernian Academy, he works for Irish Customs and has worked as a civil servant since the age of 16.

In a recent interview, O'Driscoll said, "Having spent over thirty years in busy full-time jobs, I have more recently - thanks to the generosity and encouragement of the Lannan Foundation - been experiencing the luxury of a part-time working routine; achieving at last the perfect balance between life and art, between my Customs desk with its reams of laws, tariffs, regulations and instructions and my poetry desk where the pages are blank, instructions are irrelevant and every new poem is a law unto itself."

At the Seminar by Dennis O’Driscoll

An electronic blip from house-martins as they pass
an open window at the conference centre; frantic birds,
on errands of mercy, transporting relief supplies to tricorn beaks.
We sneak a glance at our mobiles for text messages.

Crawling across the hotel lawn, sun puts mist in the shade:
a transparent morning now, our vision unhindered for miles.
A golfing party, armed with a quiver of clubs, aims
for the bull's-eye of the first hole; others, near a pool
blue as our EU flag with its water sparkle of stars, dry off:
shrink-wrapped in towels, they sink back into resort chairs.

For serious objective reasons, we are informed, our keynote
speaker is delayed; the Chairman's interpreted words
are relayed simultaneously through headphones:
In order to proceed to a profitable guidance for our work
which will be carried out with a feature of continuity and priority . . .

I see the lake basking in its own reflected glory, self-absorbed,
imagine turquoise dragonflies, wings wide as wedding hats,
fish with scarlet fins, water-walking insects.

I intervene. I associate myself with the previous speaker's views.
Discussions go on in all our languages at once, as we unscrew
still mineral water, bottled at some local beauty spot.
Certain administrations suffered cuts as they weren't entrusted
with new attributions likely to fill in the logistical gap
resulting from the inference of the frontierless economic area . .

In two hours (less, if – with luck – that stupid clock has stopped)
our final workshops will convene in the break-out rooms.
Then it will be time to draw conclusions at the plenary,
to score evaluation forms, return to our respective floors
to dress down for the bus tour of the Old Town.

Now the rapporteurs start synopsizing
the workshop findings on felt-tip flip-charts.
The Chairman is summing up: New challenges
overlook the world scenery in our global stance . . .

Lily pads strut across the lake like stepping stones;
fish risk an upward plunge; martins – plucking
sustenance from thick air – lunge at their mud nests.
Hold the world right there. Don't move a single thing.


Unknown said...

I like all the observations. Very good find!

john cotter said...

Thank you. There's a lot of really interesting new Irish poetry available.