Friday, May 31, 2019

Transition Year English Evening 2019

Tuesday evening saw the 26th annual TY English Evening, the longest-established Transition Year event in the school's calendar. It was presented by the Head of Department, the Sub-Warden, who welcomed his predecessor, Mr John Fanagan, as the guest speaker. He also remembered with fondness Professor Terry Dolan, who died recently, and who for so long was an established visitor at the Evening.

A variety of writing was heard, and afterwards Mr Fanagan commented on the pieces: Aiyuni O'Grady's personal piece looked back at holiday experiences on Lough Corrib ('a vivid sense of place'), Maybelle Rainey read 'The Silver Night' (with 'excellent pace and strong voice'), Éile Ní Chianáin's 'Learning to Dance' about a young puffin was 'a beautiful observation of nature', Gioia Doenhoff's 'Being Underwater' 'got across a sense of tension in a very creative way', Oscar Yan's 'The Wells of Silence' from the eco-fiction module was 'very thoughtful and philosophical', Ellen Homan's entertaining 'Day in the Life of the Person Beside You' achieved humorous effects with 'a light touch', Raphaela Ihuoma's 'A Casket with John and Me' was 'very different and very controlled', Eva Dillenberger's 'Perfect' on images of the female body was a strong piece, and finally Sinéad Cleary's piece on Ted Bundy and 'murder-chic' was 'really effective, and very hard-hitting.'

Finally, Mr Fanagan announced winners of the Premier awards: Imogen Casey, Éile Ní Chianáin, Sinéad Cleary, Gioia Doenhoff, Raphaela Ihumoma, Charlotte Moffitt, Oscar Yan.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Voices of Poetry 2019

That lovely late-season annual event, Voices of Poetry, took place on Sunday evening in the Big Schoolroom. It is a fine pause in the maelstrom of the ending of the school year, just before examinations start: listening to great verse in many languages is balm for the soul.

Again Mr Swift co-ordinated with his characteristic skill and lightness of touch. Helen Crampton started with a reading of the first poem she had learned as a child, Wordsworth's 'I wandered lonely as a cloud' (aka 'Daffodils'), followed by Mr Finn's strong recital of D.H. Lawrence's evocative 'Piano' ('Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me'). He was followed by Iona Chavasse's 'Wild Like the Sea That Raised Her', composed in the Poetry Slam in March, a haunting incantatory piece.

Then it was on to other languages, including Spanish (Anna Laurenceau with Neruda), French (David White with Baudelaire), Sicilian dialect (for the first time, from Ms Pirrone), Latin (Tania Stokes with Horace), Turkish (Liz Kolat), Mexican dialect (Camilla Garcia), Ukrainian (Dmytro Kasienenko), Dutch (Cato Oldenburg), German (Tatiana Hopkins), Igbo (Sarah Maduwuba), Irish (Naoise Murray), Cantonese (Sinéad Cleary) and Mandarin (Zong Yuan Kou).

In English we also heard Stella Jacobs with Whitman's 'O Captain, My Captain!' and Ms Morley with Liz Lochhead's thought-provoking 'The Choosing'. The Warden recited Newbolt's 'Vitaï Lampada', and Mr Swift paid tribute to his late brother in his reading of John Updike's 'Perfection Wasted' (here read by Garrison Keillor). Senior Prefect Harry Oke-Osanyintolu gave us Brendan Kennelly's optimistic 'Begin' from the Leaving Certificate poetry course.

Two highlights were readings by this year's winners of the poetry prizes, Emma Hinde (junior, with 'Tree-maker') and Tania Stokes (senior, with her sonnet 'Seeing Tunnels').

No better way to finish it all off than with William Carlos Williams's 'This Is Just to Say', read by Daniel Murray:

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Monday, May 27, 2019

Senior Poetry Prize 2019

Last night at Voices of Poetry (a report comes shortly), Tania Stokes was named as the winner of this year's Peter Dix Memorial Prize for Poetry, and she read out 'Seeing Tunnels', a sonnet. Also here are two other poems in her winning portfolio, 'Friend in Waiting' and 'The Edge of the Woods'.

Seeing Tunnels
I hear it whispered love can make you soar
On ruby wings or diamonds of delight.
What I have found must be the rough-hewn ore –
It glitters crudely, underground – at night.
And should I toil away within the mines,
With instruments in stubborn mettle bound?
I pry my gems from rock in these confines,
No surface trace of slaving to be found.
But just how fine a cut can I perfect
When tunnels, low and dim, are all I see?
Will he, when I present the jewels, reject
My imitation of identity?
  So maybe love’s not solely in the mined.
  It shines with Sun and grit of hearts combined.

The Edge of the Woods

We stretched ourselves upon the grass,
Backs dappled with cautious shadows;
Beech and horse chestnut trees restless
And snickering, wind winnowing
Soft through the blades of forest glades.
The stand seemed to bow and recede –
The recoiling of a snail’s eye.
Stalks of wild rye murmured below.

Right then, at the edge of the woods,
The gate lodge of the wilderness,
Time stopped. We both waited, bodies
Against the earth, the warmth and weight
Of soil beneath us as we breathed.
We may never have been worthy.
But nature offered us a glimpse,
A fleeting glimmer of forgiveness:

A rabbit, winking in the grass.
The sun sparkled between two clouds
And golden light licked the whiskers
On the twitching head. A white tail
Arced silently over the ground,
Ears swivelled, catching heaven’s glow
And blushing like fugitive gems.
We were close enough to see veins.

Friend in Waiting

A daily face, pale and interesting –
Introspective when its gaze is resting.
His features, white and frail,
Are veiled, celestial:

There's a delicate wisdom – about
The downturned corners of his frozen mouth –
And downy wisps of hair
Fall roundabout.

I've never seen him whisper or confide.
He has a depth that silence kept provides;
Whatever rests unsaid
Matures inside.

Yet when I spy him drifting on his way
I wonder if appearances betray
The person underneath
This soft array.

Like those who yearn on Keats’s Grecian Urn,
I hope his ghostly image is eternal.
We can't be friends
For fear of what I'd learn.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Junior Poetry Prize 2

Another fine entry for the recent Junior Poetry Prize comes from Iona Chavasse:

All We Could See for Miles

The large waves bashed against us,
As we rose up,
And dropped down,
Sending cold white spray over us.
All we could see for miles was the sea,
Deep blue, shining. 
Was the shining blue a mask?
A mask that hid its cold dark depths,
A mask that hid its cold stone heart,
A mask that hid the power to swallow us at any second.
Dragging us down, 
Pulling at our arms,
Our legs,
Our souls. 
Pulling the air out of our lungs,
The life out of our bodies,
Love out of our hearts.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Junior Poetry Prize 2018

Congratulations to Emma Hinde, Third Form, who has been awarded this year's Junior Poetry Prize. Here are three of her winning poems:-


One day a billion years ago,
An old mage said to me
“I have created a new word.”
And I think that word was Tree. 

“Tree?” I asked. “Now what’s a tree?”
Said he: “I was hoping you’d tell me.”
So after ten days deep in thought
To him a finished tree I brought. 

It grew up from a little seed,
I went a bit mad with the leaves,
And twigs to let the song-birds nest;
They put the trunk-strength to the test.

The roots dug deep and moisture found
Beneath the barren, rocky ground 
And when the snow fell down in patches,
All the leaves fell off the branches.

Soon with these trees obsessed I came
And filled the world with different names:
Birch and maple; oak and elm,
They slowly crowded all the realm.

And in the mornings out did come
A chorus of the greatest song;
For all the birds that there did sleep
Came out into the forest deep. 


When the clouds look like a painting,
And the light streams through the trees,
All the little song-birds sit there;
Chirping in the breeze.

When the daffodils are blooming
You hear the buzzing of the bees
And the little boy with hay fever
Lets out a great big sneeze.

When the water’s so inviting 
That the masses flock to seas
The general feeling in the air
Is that it’s almost a disease.

When the snow has finished melting
And you’ve put away your skis
It’s like Spring’s pulled the lever;
Winter’s falling to his knees.  

When the Vikings ruled the Seas

When the Vikings ruled the Seas
Horns blowed
And fires glowed
When the Vikings ruled the seas.

Cockerels crowed
And mead flowed
When the Vikings ruled the seas.

But beware;
For as the gods watch over you
They may choose you for their games. 

One day a man went sailing;
Sailing out to meat his fate,
And when he saw the dragon
He looked down at his bait.

“Not big enough.” He said.
“I’ll have to sit and wait.
“I’m sure that Thor’ll come quite soon
“With a bigger piece of bait.”

So wait he did, with baited breath
For Thor to turn up to his test
But where he was he didn’t know;
He’d gone to watch another show.