Poem of the Week: John Montague’s “At Last”

We are drawn to John Montague’s poem “At Last” for its tale of reunion and the sense of readjustment to what once was familiar, which the speaker suggests through the images of Ireland and the relationship between the father and son. It’s a nice, quiet homecoming story.

At Last

A small sad man with a hat
he came through the Customs at Cobh
carrying a roped suitcase and
something in me began to contract

but also to expand. We stood,
his grown sons, seeking for words
which under the clouding mist
turn to clumsy, laughing gestures.

At the mouth of the harbour lay
the squat shape of the liner
hooting farewell, with the waves
striking against Spike Island’s grey.

We drove across Ireland that day,
lush river valleys of Cork, russet
of the Central Plain, landscapes
exotic to us Northerners, halting

only in a snug beyond Athlone
to hear a broadcast I had done.
How strange in that cramped room
my disembodied voice, the silence

after, as we looked at each other!
Slowly, our eyes managed recognition.
‘Not bad,’ he said, and raised his glass:
Father and son, at ease, at last.

-John Montague from Collected Poems (1995)

Spike Island at the waterway entrance to County Cork

Posted in Ireland, Irish Poetry, John Montague, Poem of the Week, Poetry | Leave a comment

A festive celebration for WFU Press

In the U.S., there’s no better day to celebrate Irish heritage and our connections with Ireland than St. Patrick’s Day. Green rivers, cheesy shamrock hats, and buckets o’ Guinness aside, we’re always happy to advocate for the rich Irish culture that exists in our country.

This year, we’ve been celebrating with the publication of a very special and unique book for WFU Press, The Shack: Irish Poets in the Foothills and Mountains of the Blue Ridge. Last week we had a launch party, and as promised, we’re sharing some of those pictures with you today. We hope you enjoy, and we wish you all a very festive St. Patty’s.

Posted in Arts and Culture, Conor O'Callaghan, Ireland, Irish Poetry, Irish Women's Poetry, Poetry, Publishing, WFU Press | Leave a comment

The secret is out… Announcing our latest book, The Shack.

Today’s the day! It’s finally here!

We’ve been waiting so long to tell you about our newest book, The Shack: Irish Poets in the Foothills and Mountains of the Blue Ridge, that it’s hard to believe we can finally talk about it.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 2.17.26 PMIn The Shack, contemporary Irish poets reflect on their time in the foothills and mountains that straddle North Carolina and Virginia. The volume is a conversation in poetry and prose across a wide array of circumstances and decades that was generated by WFU Press founder and long-time director Dillon Johnston’s bold venture in launching an Irish poetry press at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It’s an unusual volume for us, a labor of love that grew from both personal and regional origins.

The book is dedicated to Johnston and his wife and co-publisher Guinn Batten. Today, we’re gathering with friends and family of the Press to surprise Dillon and Guinn with the book, hence why we’ve kept the book a secret until now.

We’ll post pictures from the book launch soon, but in the meantime, you can enjoy the title poem by Michael Longley. As Longley writes in the commentary he wrote to accompany the poem, “Wherever we are—in North Carolina or Missouri, in Belfast or County Mayo—we talk about the inner adventure of poetry.” We are so happy to finally share this particular adventure with you today.

The Shack

     for Dillon & Guinn

I lie awake between the two sleeping couples.
Their careful breathing in the Blue Ridge Mountains
Disturbs me more than the engine ticking over
At the end of the lane, the repetitive whippoorwill,
The downpour’s crescendo on corrugated iron.
Though there are no doors between them and me, perhaps
They will risk making love like embarrassed parents
While I remain motionless on my creaking divan.
They have shown me a copperhead, indian fire pinks
And buzzards like mobiles where the storm clouds hang.
I might as well be outside in the steamy field
Interrupting again the opossums’ courtship,
Paralysing with torchlight pink noses, naked tails
Just beyond the shithouse where, like a fall of snow,
The equalising lime has covered our excrement.
Tomorrow when we pass the Pentecostal church
The wayside pulpit will read ‘Thanks, Lord, for the rain.’

Michael Longley, from The Shack (2015)

Posted in Book of the Month, Ciaran Carson, Conor O'Callaghan, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Irish Poetry, John Montague, Medbh McGuckian, Michael Longley, Paul Muldoon, Poem of the Week, Poetry, Vona Groarke, WFU Press | Leave a comment