Thomas McCarthy









(‘Cuireadh Do Mhuire’ by Máirtín O Direáin, 1942)


And do you know, Mother of God,

Where you will be going this year

Searching for your shelter,

Even for a Blessed Child,

When every door in the world

Is slammed in the face of you

By all the contempt and pride

Of this human world?


And would you accept from me

This true invitation

To an island in the seas

Of the far and remote West:

There candles will glow brightly

In every candle-lit window,

And every hearthstone will be kindled

With the blaze of turf fires.






(‘Súile Donna’  by  Seán O Ríordáin, 1971)


Hers are the eyes I see

In this little skull of a boy –

It was an epiphany of beauty

To have her eyes upon you then;


An intimate encounter it was

With her body and her mind,

A thousand years would pass in seconds

With eyes like those upon you.


Those eyes were hers alone,

Now strange to see them in her son,

Embarrassing now to think of her,

Her brown eyes inside a man.


To see eyes equalled in time

Barely causes tears to flow,

Now that a boy has eyes to speak

To me of such a womanhood –


What poet could make

A greater lapse of taste than this?

Should I alter all my text to fit

This new arrangement in a boy?


She was not the first one

To look upon them in a male,

Nor is his the very last face

To host such eyes, I think.


Is that all there is of immortality

That some essence of our eyes

Through motherhood and fatherhood

Survives perfectly inside a son?






( ‘Do Shiúlaigh Mise An Mhumhain Mhín’ by Aogán O Rathaille  c1670-1726)


I walked all over the deep mild South,

From an oak-wood shelter to the fort of Kings,

My anxiety unrelieved, though I thought

Of past blessings, ‘til I reached Tadhg’s mansion.


It pleased my mind and also my heart

To see the dead Irish walking again,

Youngsters feasting on meat and wine,

Punch being shared and brandy too.


Meat from the cleaver, birds of the sea,

Music and singing, a craving for whiskey,

Sweet roasts and combs of honey,

Packs of hounds, dogs having their fill,


Hunters leaving and hunters’ arrival,

Friends pleasantly chatting, all hanging on,

The devout praying on clean slates;

Such meekness to melt God’s heaven –


Until one of the dead reminded me

It was Lord Warner now resided there

Instead of an ancient, famous Gael,

A prince ever kind to the wanderer.


Oh God Who created this world of war,

Who gave meat and mansions to the Irish dead,

To scribes and priests, to gifted poets, give us

Back our great, our true-hearted Tadgh.






( ‘Cré na Mná Tí’ by Máire Mhac an tSaoí, 1973)


See, I maintain the brightest household

And a whole family disciplined –

in washing and scrubbing and cleaning,

Preparing dinners, milking the cows,

Even turning mattresses, beating rugs.

But, in the manner of Sheherzade, you

Must succumb, also, to my gifted poems.












Thomas McCarthy is an Irish poet, novelist, and critic, born in Cappoquin, County Waterford, and educated at University College, Cork. Along with Maurice Riordan, Gregory O’Donoghue, Theo Dorgan, William Wall, Gerry Murphy, and Greg Delanty, he was part of a resurgence of literary activity under the inspiration of Sean Lucy and John Montague.

He has published eight poetry collections, seven of them with Anvil Press Poetry, including The Sorrow Garden, The Lost Province, Mr Dineen’s Careful Parade, The Last Geraldine Officer (“a major achievement”, in the view of academic and poet Maurice Harmon) and Merchant Prince, a combination of poems and a novella recounting the story of a Cork merchant, described as “an ambitious and substantive book” in Poetry Ireland Review. His new book, PANDEMONIUM, is published by Carcanet.


McCarthy won the Patrick Kavanagh Award for his first book when he was 24. Two years later he was selected for the International Writers Program in Iowa. His many awards include the Alice Hunt Bartlett Prize (1981); the American-Irish Foundation’s Literary Award (1984); and the O’Shaughnessy Poetry Award, Irish-American Cultural Institute (1991). His fiction includes two novels, Without Power, and Asya and Christine. He has also published a memoir, The Garden of Remembrance.

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