Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Seán Lysaght: A Jay Feather

A Jay Feather 

                      —for Lynda

I know of a wood that hangs
like a heavy drape
flung over a hill in the midlands.

You can hear jays deep in its folds
tearing like engines
at the fabric of a winter’s day.

Way down in the leaf litter,
beyond where it is normal
or decent for a walker to go,

there must be a fragment of that blue,
that eye through which you dive on a thread,
taking the whole day with you.

--Seán Lysaght, with permission

Some years ago, I happened upon a copy of Erris, by Seán Lysaght, in Kenny's Bookshop in Galway, Ireland. I was looking for a gift to bring home to my stepson, and this fit the bill nicely. Of course, I read it cover to cover on the plane back to Seattle, and was dismayed that I hadn't had the foresight to get a copy for myself.

Upon returning to Ireland the next year, I picked up Scarecrow, and was delighted to discover that Seán lived in Westport, a seaside town in County Mayo in the West of Ireland, which also happened to be my own home port in Ireland. We struck up an acquaintance, and I had the good fortune to be in Westport for the launch of Venetian Epigrams.

In poetry, I am especially interested in how a single poem intersects with life and poets off the page. When I queried Seán about featuring here, he sent me three poems for consideration, and "A Jay Feather" immediately leaped out as the obvious choice.

In my own work in glass art, we've been experimenting with new combinations of blue oil paints to apply to sand-blasted glass, with accompanying discussions on the nature of the color blue, all the while entertained just outside the windows by the Stellar's jays on the suet feeder — jays whose ephemeral feather-presence leave suggestions of blue in their wake.

I've spent hours blending blues in an attempt to replicate the light that shimmers off a blue feather. Seán Lysaght's last three lines embody that quest, captures an entire world in "a fragment of that blue."
The synchronicity of receiving this poem with the ongoing blue-blending struck me as an instance of poetry slipping in its magic, without fanfare, unannounced. Poetry does that, doesn't it? Comes at us from a new angle of light, illuminates our consciousness, brushes a feather across our cheek and if we're lucky, we notice. 
Stellar's jay feathers

Seán Lysaght was born in 1957 and grew up in Limerick. He was educated at UCD where he received a BA and an MA in Anglo-Irish Literature. He subsequently spent several years abroad, in Switzerland and Germany, before teaching at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. He now lectures at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and lives with his wife Jessica in Westport, County Mayo.
His first collection of poetry, Noah’s Irish Ark was published in 1989, followed by The Clare Island Survey (Gallery, 1991).

Between 1990 and 1994 he lectured in English at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. His work on the life and writings of Robert Lloyd Praeger: The Life of a Naturalist  was published by Four Courts Press in 1998. His verse narrative of the life of Edmund Spenser was published under his own imprint in 2011.

His subsequent collections, Scarecrow (1998), Erris (2002), The Mouth of a River (2007), his translations after Goethe, Venetian Epigrams and Selected Poems are published by The Gallery Press. Carnival Masks will be published in 2013.

In 2007 he received the O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry.

Seán Lysaght

This week's curator, T. Clear, lives in Seattle, where she curates an open-mic series, Easy Speak Seattle. Her work has appeared in many literary magazines, including Poetry Northwest, The Moth, Cascadia Review, Atlanta Review, and Hobble Creek Review. She blogs here.


Melissa Green said...

Oh, T., what an utterly gorgeous poem, it lies so lightly on the page as if it were a feather itself. And the wonderful and moving synchronicity of your being there when he was there, and of your striking up a friendship. And the quest for that elusive blue. How amazing. xo

Kathleen Jones said...

How come I've never encountered this wonderful Irish poet before? Thank you T. I love this.

Harvey Molloy said...

A remarkable, direct, wonderful poem. Great choice.

Helen Lowe said...

I love the way the poem brings the day, the woods, the jay to life so vividly for readers.

Mary Mac said...

Thank you T - and thank you to the poet, too - what a wonderfully unexpected place this poem takes you. That blue ... and your lovely story about blue, T, and the Jay feathers. A great post on a day when I didn't notice the day outside so much as the day within ... xx

Micropoetry said...

I love finding new poetry. How wonderful and beautiful. Thank you.

Mark said...

Those metaphors make it work,appreciated this being a walker.www.mark-poems.blogspot.co.uk