Galway Poetry Trail

Walking around Galway you might notice a series of plaques at various strategic locations, each of which has a poem inscribed on it, usually with a theme relating to the city. Together they comprise the Galway Poetry Trail which has been created in conjunction with the the Cúirt International Festival of Literature, an annual literature festival that’s been held in Galway since 1985.

During my latest visit I tried to find some time to visit some of the plaques. A number of the poems are by well known authors, including Seamus Heaney, James Joyce and W B Yeats, but others are by poets I didn’t know, so following the trail introduced me to their work. Here’s a few of them. 

This one, featuring the poem Bright City by Moya Cannon is on the bridge overlooking the harbour and the Cladagh, to which it refers.

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It’s a little tricky to read from the photo, so here it is

Bright City 

I follow the light down the canal path,
across the road and on to the Claddagh.
In a blast of morning light which has turned
canal, river and estuary to mercury,
even the cars on the Long Walk are transfigured.

Five swans beat their way in across the bay,
heavy, sounding their own clarion,
as though carrying the world’s beauty
in on their strong white backs this Saturday morning.”

(Moya Cannon)

Here’s one by Gerry Hanbury on the wall of a pub on the corner of Quay Street

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The Tribune by Gerald Dawe can be found on the wall of the building belonging to the very newspaper it refers to

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Rita Ann HigginsMen With Tired Hair can be found on the wall of Richardson’s Pub

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A tasting plate of Oysters

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Monday evening during my short stay in Galway, I went out for a meal with a friend who lives in the town to Morans Oyster Cottage, a seafood restaurant in Kilcolgan, a short drive from the city.

For the first course, we both treated ourselves to a “taster plate” of Native and Pacific oysters. They’d come fresh from the Clarenbridge oyster bed, a short distance away. Delicious!

There were photographs on the wall of famous visitors who’d visited the restaurant, including a certain Seamus Heaney, who’d left his calling card

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a hand written note of his poem, Oysters.

A pity about the reflections in the photo which makes one of the  words (starlight) illegible – but if you want, you can read the poem here

A treat in more than one way!

Galway Poetry Wall – Home

Another of the Cúirt poetry walls in Galway


Home

 By Nikola Madzirov

I lived at the edge of the town
like a streetlamp whose light bulb
no one ever replaces.
Cobwebs held the walls together,
and sweat our clasped hands.
I hid my teddy bear
in holes in crudely built stone walls
saving him from dreams.

Day and night I made the threshold come alive
returning like a bee that
always returns to the previous flower.
It was a time of peace when I left home:
the bitten apple was not bruised,
on the letter a stamp with an old abandoned house.
From birth I’ve migrated to quiet places
and voids have clung beneath me
like snow that doesn’t know if it belongs
to the earth or to the air.
Nikola Madzirov is a Macedonian poet, editor, and translator

Galway Poetry Wall – The Mower

One of the Cúirt poetry walls in Galway
The Mower by Philip Larkin

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found

A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,

Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.

Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world

Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.

The first day after a death, the new absence

Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind

While there is still time.

 

Poetry Walls in Galway

While I was wandering around the centre of Galway, I spotted this mural painted on the side of a butcher’s shop opposite the St Nicholas Collegiate Church.

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Later, not far away I came across 3 more murals, clustered together

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two of them facing each other on walls flanking a car park.

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I was curious. They clearly had some connection with each other, but what? And the words painted as part of the murals clearly had some meaning. But there didn’t seem to be any information about them.

On returning home, some research on the web finally revealed the answer. They had been created last year as part of the annual Cúirt literary festival. The paintings are an interpretation of poems by Philip Larkin, Dermot Healy, Nikola Madzirov and Irvine Welsh by local street artist Finbar247. Originally, there were plaques with the poems installed on the walls next to the poems but, with the exception of one, they had been removed, presumably by vandals.

There are some videos showing the paintings being created by the artist on the Cúirt website.

9/11 Steel

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This exhibit in the Imperial War Museum North looks like an abstract sculpture. But closer inspection reveals that it’s a fragment from the Twin Towers. The columns, thought to be from the North Tower, formed part of a window section from an external wall.

The pet, Simon Armitage’s response to the exhibit articulate how I felt

‘To stand in front of that mangled and buckled section of steel is to feel bewildered and dumfounded. Pointlessness and poignancy seem to reside within that exhibit. I felt ashamed, angry, overwhelmed by the historical weight, and very small in its shadow. I felt wordless.’

His poem , The Convergence of Twain, is displayed beside the twisted metal

The Convergence of the Twain

I

Here is an architecture of air.
Where dust has cleared,
nothing stands but free sky, unlimited and sheer.

II

Smoke’s dark bruise
has paled, soothed
by wind, dabbed at and eased by rain, exposing the wound.

III

Over the spoil of junk,
rescuers prod and pick,
shout into tangled holes. What answers back is aftershock.

IV

All land lines are down.
Reports of mobile phones
are false. One half-excoriated Apple Mac still quotes the Dow Jones.

V

Shop windows are papered
with faces of the disappeared.
As if they might walk from the ruins – chosen, spared.

VI

With hindsight now we track
the vapour-trail of each flight-path
arcing through blue morning, like a curved thought.

VII

And in retrospect plot
the weird prospect
of a passenger plane beading an office-block.

VIII

But long before that dawn,
with those towers drawing
in worth and name to their full height, an opposite was forming,

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a force
still years and miles off,
yet moving headlong forwards, locked on a collision course.

X

Then time and space
contracted, so whatever distance
held those worlds apart thinned to an instant.

XI

During which, cameras framed
moments of grace
before the furious contact wherein earth and heaven fused.

Armitage’s poem is inspired by, and mimics, one with the same title by Thomas Hardy, written in response to another disaster which gripped the world – the sinking of the Titanic.