Poetry Ireland Day
“What’s with W. B. Yeats, Leonard Cohen and Omar Khayyam.”
I have just returned from India with Nuala O’ Connells’s, Crosshaven based “Street Children” charity. While there I wrote a poetry review for a friends facebook page – I’m reposting today to mark Ireland’s Poetry Day.
While I am not a poet but a mere medic (www.dunphymedicalcarrigaline.com) been Irish poetry is in blood.
I love the “live enhancing” poetry of the 11th century Persian poet, mathematician and astronomer, Omar Khayyan, who wrote enthusiastically of “Wine, Women & Song”. Many historians have argued through the ages that he must be an amalgamation of many poets as Islamic leaders would not have tolerated such “outrageous “ poetry –but one historian argued against – explaining that while the Islamic leaders of the day “never forgave their horses or their wives, but they always forgave their poets”
“Be Happy for this moment. This moment is your life”. Was his philosophy. 11 Thousand Books have been written about his poetry. One Hindu scholar collected 1300 versions of his “Rubayyet”.
He was working at the time of the first crusade – which sent shock waves through the Islamic world, rather like 9/11 did in the USA- shifting politics to far right fundamentalism. Whereas he was a rational thinker, a passionate defender of the golden age of the Islamic science, art, medicine and scholarship which was despised by the fundamentalists.
In his poems, he poked fun at the fundamentalists, whose concept of paradise was of virgins and fountains flowing with wine- if that was good enough for heaven why not here on earth!
Tradition has it when drinking a glass of wine you should spill a little in his honour.
I am also impressed by Carla Bruni’s idea of putting her favourite poems to music by simply repeating the last two lines of each stanza, to form a chorus. Carla was an Italian model who married Sarkozy while he was president of France and caused a sensation by releasing her album “No promises” which the tabloid press interpreted as proclaiming an “open marriage”
My interest in this album was triggered by the first two poems which were by the Irish Poet W B Yeats (Nobel Prizes 1923)”Your dancing days are done” and “before the world was made” (YouTube Carla Bruni – No Promises)
W B Yeats defined education as “not the filling of a pail, but rather the lighting of a fire “he is said to have written his best work between the age of 50 and 70 years. His influence was global during his life time and even to the present day. Another group called “the water boys “produce a lovely album exclusively of his poems set to music. Yeats focused on lost youth, virility etc which was echo by Leonard Cohen, a Canadian academic poet who Cork wits nicknamed Leonard Moan, I suspect spotted his fellow Jewish Bard, Bob Dylan putting words to music and so Cohen with his deep melancholic voice did likewise. To mark his passing Canadian singers created a great farewell concert. (You Tube “Tower of song”). Cohen was influences by the other poets also eg. His beautiful song “Alexander Leaving” was inspired by a poem describing Anthony and Cleopatra’s last night in Alexandria before facing their final battle.
Another of his poems that blew me away was “Joan of Arc” (on Jennifer Warnes album “Famous Blue Rain Coat”) where he manages a conversation between the flames and Joan of Arc as she is being burnt at the stake as a witch.
Could I enlist your readership in a project – to volunteer one hour per week or per month to schools that lack an English teacher. In Ireland we resisted and resented English imperialism for 800 years- but did benefit by acquiring the English language, which allowed the poorest in our country to gain work in the USA, Australia, etc. The Victorian boast that “the sun never sets on the British Empire” is explained Irish style “because god would not trust the Brits in the dark”
The teaching of English has been a passport out of poverty for many. I am familiar with one School in Bangaluru which could do with help! Founded by a wonderful lady and her father to educate street children- “S. A. Nermala and her father S. G. Anthony- started with five children and grown to 700 with only limited support of benefactors.
I.e. “Stella Mary School” K.S. Layout, Bangaluru-78, Phone 26 66 32 37.
But there are many other such school needing your help, e.g. Edith Wilkins Street Children School in Dargeeling which she established 30 years ago, students from UCC do internships there every year.

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