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The Iron Age Boat at Caumatruish

Bernard O’Donoghue, 8 June 1995

... If you doubt, you can put your fingers In the holes where the oar-pegs went. If you doubt still, look past its deep mooring To the mountains that enfold the corrie’s Waterfall of lace through which, they say, You can see out but not in. If you doubt that, hear the falcon Crying down from Gneeves Bog Cut from the mountain-top. And if you doubt After all these witnesses, no boat Dredged back from the dead Could make you believe ...

Bona Fide Travellers

Bernard O’Donoghue, 4 December 2003

... For Eileen It meant you had to be from somewhere else To get a drink. But that was all right for us; We always were, whether travelling west Or east. The trouble came when, dozing On the boat, you half came round and saw The seabirds bathing, the gannet plunging Towards his bath, and battalions Of unknown children, speaking in accents Different from their parents ...


Bernard O’Donoghue, 2 January 1997

... For Eugene O’Connell Despite its soft ephemerality, They say the growth of elder is a sign Of age-long human habitation. Under the elders in our decaying farmyard Stands the last sugán chair, rotted at all Its skilfully carved joints, so the lightest Tenant would cause it to collapse. There’s one like it in the dying house Of Padraig O’Keeffe at Glounthane Cross: Not our Glounthane, but the one near Cordal Where my forebears came from ...

Two Poems

Bernard O’Donoghue, 22 March 2007

... Lady’s Smock Past the odour-of-sanctity primroses in their tight nests of wrinkle-green by the well, and the violets, hardly daring to breathe, on the ditch above them. On to the wet fields and the wiry filigree below the girl’s-dress mauve elegance of this flower, rooted amid rush-spires, just come out at the start of a new season. Farmers Cross My mother took to farming like a native, as if she’d not grown up by city light; she always said the front row in heaven would be filled exclusively by farmers ...

Who has the gall?

Frank Kermode: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, 8 March 2007

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 
translated by Bernard O’Donoghue.
Penguin, 94 pp., £8.99, August 2006, 0 14 042453 9
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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 
translated by Simon Armitage.
Faber, 114 pp., £12.99, January 2007, 978 0 571 22327 5
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... a good many useful translations, and now we have two more, both by established poets. One of them, Bernard O’Donoghue, is a professional medievalist as well. The other, Simon Armitage, a Northerner, claims the advantage of familiarity with dialect forms that linger in his part of the country. The first decision the translator must take is whether or not ...

A Bit Like Gulliver

Stephanie Burt: Seamus Heaney’s Seamus Heaney, 11 June 2009

Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney 
by Dennis O’Driscoll.
Faber, 524 pp., £22.50, November 2008, 978 0 571 24252 8
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The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney 
edited by Bernard O’Donoghue.
Cambridge, 239 pp., £45, December 2008, 978 0 521 54755 0
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... genres of poems about rural places – ‘pastoral, anti-pastoral, bucolic, eclogue, Doric’, as Bernard O’Donoghue writes in the Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney – and Heaney uses them all, though pastoral and georgic, visionary meadow and labour-intensive hay-baling to him seem complementary, even continuous. Mossbawn ‘sounds very ...

The Three Acts of Criticism

Helen Vendler, 26 May 1994

The Oxford Companion to 20th-Century Poetry in English 
edited by Ian Hamilton.
Oxford, 602 pp., £25, February 1994, 0 19 866147 9
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... a lot to say about powerful poetry, especially once the canon is complete (see Heaney on Lowell or Bernard O’Donoghue on Yeats or Nicholas Jenkins on Auden, all three pieces triumphs of compression and depth). Facing the work of a less accomplished writer, who really has done nothing technically or procedurally new, the commentator falls weakly back on ...

We did and we didn’t

Seamus Perry: Are yez civilised?, 6 May 2021

On Seamus Heaney 
by R.F. Foster.
Princeton, 228 pp., £14.99, September 2020, 978 0 691 17437 2
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... full of striking black and white images of their strange, patient faces – ‘Donatello-like’, Bernard O’Donoghue once said – the beauty of which Glob celebrated in what was in the English version slightly fruity prose: ‘Majesty and gentleness still stamp his features as they did when he was alive,’ he says of the Tollund Man. Their state of ...

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