1 Greyness Run to Flower

In “The View from Here” (“An Radharc d’Anseo” in Irish) I’m writing about living in Ireland from the perspective of someone who has visited the island many times, taught Irish literature and history, helped countless friends plan their Irish trips, and led groups of students on study tours (eight so far), but never stayed longer than a few weeks at a time. I’m excited about the opportunity to see Ireland in a new way and expect everything I think I know to change during this year—to shift, deepen, flip-flop, or multiply. I take my inspiration from Belfast born poet Louis MacNeice (1907-1963), who talked about appreciating plurality and variousness in “Snow”:

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

I can’t tell you yet what I’ll write about—but it will come from that perspective, and it will draw on literature, history, and landscape, as well as on daily life in Dublin—where I’m based—and elsewhere in Ireland. There Will Be Poetry.

From close up, the yellow house is even more appealing.

From close up, the yellow house is even more appealing.

When I use the word view, I’m thinking of its many meanings: vista, sight, opinion, frame, perspective, belief, narrative stance, idea, and many more. The photograph with this post shows the actual “view from here,” or one of them—the view looking southwest from the living room window of the apartment my husband Ron and I have rented for the year in the Grand Canal Dock area of Dublin. Okay, so I have to stick my head and camera out the window to get that perfect vista, but my desk chair is positioned so I can see most of it when I look up, an image our tall windows break into planes as in a Cubist painting. Those are the Dublin Hills in the background, leading on to mountainous Wicklow beyond. The tall church is St. Mary’s Haddington Road, mentioned in their works by both James Joyce and Patrick Kavanagh. The parish was a scene of some action during the 1916 Rising, and Michael Collins and James Larkin lived nearby. As seen in the portrait photo, the DART passes within a hundred feet of us, and I’ve already gotten used to the clattering sound of wheels on tracks from about 6:00 a.m. to midnight. I admire the bold vision of whoever painted the yellow house in the middle of the picture, but the grey buildings with splashes of green and sometimes tubs or baskets of flowers make up the familiar Dublin of past and present, the “Dublin” of another MacNeice poem:

Fort of the Dane,
Garrison of the Saxon,
Augustan capital
Of a Gaelic nation,
Appropriating all
The alien brought,
You give me time for thought
And by a juggler’s trick
You poise the toppling hour—
O greyness run to flower,
Grey stone, grey water,
And brick upon grey brick.

(The complete poems “Snow” and “Dublin” can be found here.)

Taking a sabbatical, writing a blog, reading good writing—all can be viewed as different ways to “poise the toppling hour.” And I love the idea of “greyness run to flower,” as if it can’t help itself. Don’t most things usually “run” the other way? More on MacNeice, the Dublinness of Dublin, and the view from here in future posts.

"Grey brick upon grey brick...."

“Brick upon grey brick….”

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