Ciaran Carson

Poet and novelist Ciaran Carson was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1948. After graduating from Queen's University, Belfast, he worked for the Arts Council of Northern Ireland until 1998. He won an Eric Gregory Award in 1978.

His collections of poetry include The Irish for No (1987), winner of the Alice Hunt Bartlett Award; Belfast Confetti(1990), which won the Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for Poetry; and First Language: Poems (1993), winner of the T. S. Eliot Prize. His prose includes The Star Factory (1997) and Fishing for Amber (1999). His most recent novel,Shamrock Tea (2001), explores themes present in Jan van Eyck's painting The Arnolfini Marriage. His translation of Dante's Inferno was published in November 2002. Breaking News (2003), won the Forward Poetry Prize (Best Poetry Collection of the Year). His poetry collection For All We Know (2008), was shortlisted for both the 2008 T. S. Eliot Prize and the Costa Poetry Award. His latest collection is On the Night Watch (2009). 
Ciaran Carson is also an accomplished musician, and is the author of Last Night's Fun: About Time, Food and Music (1996), a study of Irish traditional music. He lives in Belfast.

 

 

The Poems

 

Home

from the ridge 
of the plateau 
my eye zooms

into the city 
of Belfast 
streets

shipyards 
domes 
theatres

British Army 
helicopter 
poised

motionless 
at last

I see everything

 

Exile

Sevastopol 
Crimea

Inkerman 
Odessa

Balkan 
Lucknow [.]

all lie / in ruins,

and
it is

as much 
as I can do

to save 
even one

from oblivion [.]

 

Belfast Confetti

Suddenly as the riot squad moved in, it was raining
    exclamation marks, 
Nuts, bolts, nails, car-keys. A fount of broken type. And the
    explosion.
Itself - an askerisk on the map. This hyphenated line, a burst 
of rapid fire...
I was trying to complete a sentence in my head but it kept 
    stuttering, 
All the alleyways and side streets blocked with stops and 
    colons.

I know this labyrinth so well - Balaclava, Raglan, Inkerman,
    Odessa Street - 
Why can’t I escape? Every move is punctuated. Crimea 
Street. Dead end again.
A Saracen, Kremlin-2 mesh. Makrolon face-shields. Walkie-
    talkies. What is 
My name? Where am I coming from? Where am I going? A 
    fusillade of question- marks.

 

Fear

I fear the vast dimensions of eternity.
I fear the gap between the platform and the train.
I fear the onset of a murderous campaign.
1 fear the palpitations caused by too much tea.

I fear the drawn pistol of a rapparee.
I fear the 
books
 will not survive the acid rain.
I fear the ruler and the blackboard and the cane.
I fear the Jabberwock, whatever it might be.

I fear the bad decisions of a referee.
I fear the only recourse is to plead insane.
I fear the implications of a lawyer's fee.

I fear the gremlins that have colonized my brain.
I fear to read the small print of the guarantee.
And what else do I fear? Let me begin again. 
 

 

Tib's Eve

There is a green hill far away, without a city wall,
Where cows have longer horns than any that we know;
Where daylight hours behold a moon of indigo,
And fairy cobblers operate without an awl.

There, ghostly galleons plough the shady Woods of True,
And schools of fishes fly among the spars and shrouds;
Rivers run uphill to spill into the starry clouds,
And beds of strawberries grow in the ocean blue.

This is the land of the green rose and the lion lily,
Ruled by Zeno’s eternal tortoises and hares,
Where everything is metaphor and simile:

Somnambulists, we stumble through this paradise
From time to time, like words repeated in our prayers,
Or storytellers who convince themselves that truths are lies.

 

Source: British Council: http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth231