In 2008 and 2009, I spent two full winters writing in my ‘frillies’, in Murroe, County Limerick and the words that came, screamed out from somewhere deep inside. They had a life of their own. Every night, I sat on my bed (in my best nightie of course), furiously typing until finally, it was done. I didn’t write ‘Ode to Coumeenole” as much as I penned it if you know what I mean. It came through me with its own energy.
Now, when I read the verses, it’s like I’m looking back in on the tales of another soul.
Having wandered and wondered for a decade it’s now time to focus. I plan to write every day for a while and see what comes of it. Since I met Amanda, I’m becoming grounded again, I’m investing myself in love for the first time since 1968. I tried so many times before but strange as it may seem, I failed unknown to myself! It does me good and gives me the strength and vulnerability I need to get focused and actually ‘get more done’, as it were! People ask, “Are you happier since you changed your life?” I reply, “I don’t know but I’m definitely more alive!”
But all that was seven years ago!
Where does the time go? Oh, how subtle the powers of our cherished denial! I’ve just spent another seven years talking about it! Time to walk the walk! The truth is, most of the time, I don’t want to write at all. I feel stuck and invariably, find an excuse to do something else. Anything else!
But ‘a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do’ Right?
I had never written poetry or song before, but in 2006, two days after my mother passed away, I was down at Coumeenole beach, in West Kerry, just beyond Slea Head. These words flew at me from out of nowhere! They landed in my head and would not fly away! Who knows how the infinite beyond our known world, may be organised, but I spent the next two days writing, splurging and scribbling and the result was the verse ‘Ode to Coumeenole’ which I would eventually place beside a picture of my mother, in what would become my first poetry book ‘Ode to Coumeenole’.
I was now, back up in Ma’s house as we called it. It overlooked Coumeenole Beach and was the perfect place to write. I couldn’t help but feel my mother’s words whispering in my ear “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration”
I felt a great need, or more precisely, a ‘screaming desperation’ to get something finished, to take those first words “You give me the courage to have no courage at all” and to make something of them.
I spent two full days writing and staring out at the Great Blasket Islands. Writing, staring, writing, staring until it was done! I looked up dictionaries and consulted the wise thesaurus in an effort to dispel and express the madness. I scribbled and scribbled until finally, the energy stopped. It just simply stopped, as quickly as it had started. I welled up and cried inside and I knew it was done! I had no idea if it was good or bad or if such a distinction even mattered but I did know for certain, it was done! (any attempt to alter it afterwards always failed).
In fact, with every other verse that I ever wrote since, I knew it was done because I welled up and cried inside (and sometimes outside too). I didn’t quite realise at the time, how great a gift I’d been given both in the verse and in the crying. On that day, I remembered how it had taken me thirty years to cry after the death of my father and like the poetry on this day, that too was a beautiful gift.
Now, no matter what I’m working on, I listen closely to that inner crying, that welling up and choking up inside. Or at least I try to, when I remember! It may not be everybody’s Truth Barometer but it is mine! It shows me my passion and leads me to my bliss … and way beyond!
Here’s to the power of remembering!
I had no idea what I was writing until it was done and that’s how it should be, I think. If you knew how it was to be shaped in advance it would hardly be creative? And yet you must work through some structure or all would return to the ‘Cosmic Soup’ in no time at all! Poetry mingles your personality with your passion and what comes out, comes out, as it were and as it is when you’re being true, and that’s the beauty of it!
Until that day, I had always thought there was “a right way to write poetry”!
This verse speaks of how I was at the time – maybe intense, maybe confused, definitely ‘frilly’ and wonderfully emotional but above all, free – free to follow whatever it was or whomever it was, that called me that day! I hope this verse speaks to you today about whatever it is that matters to you right now! Whatever it is that makes your life worthwhile not just for you but for us and for everybody who would dare to listen.
For in Truth, what else is there?
Ma always loved Coumeenole and she always loved the people there. When Da was alive we took trips to the other peninsula in Kerry, the Beara peninsula, a great beauty in itself. It was only after he died that Ma ventured onto the Dingle peninsula. There as she rounded the tip of Slea Head, she caught sight of Coumeenole for the first time and everything changed forever!
I dare you to round Slea Head yourself and remain unchanged!
Something tells me it was Da who guided her that day. Coumeenole would become a second home for us all. I remember my first glimpse of the beach, in 1969 when the great movie Ryan’s Daughter was being shot there. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a long and wonderful relationship, that would shape my life, in oh so many ways.
I have a deep love of Coumeenole, as do all my siblings and all those, no doubt, that have ever dared to round the tip of Slea Head.
In my heart, Coumeenole and Ma, are of course, synonymous.
Ode to Coumeenole
Your wild and crashing waves roar filled with passion wrought
Onto salted shifting sands, soothing shouted sounds thought
Your jagged pointing rocks stand sentinel black knights
Your powerful gusting wind reassures and delights
* * *
Rapt in your presence watching sun setting West
Your primal antiquity arraigns comfort and rest
I gently close my eyes and sensing tacit hue
I blissfully surrender to merge as one with you
* * *
You give me the strength to be humble and small
You give me the courage to have no courage at all
You give me the wisdom of Great Sage, Coumeenole
You give me myself, my heart and my soul
* * *
And granting repose in anxiety’s strife
You give me Great Love, you give me Great Life!
The Manse, Derry, March 24th, 2020