Wake: Up to Poetry
Poem of the Week: “Birthday Party” by Michael Longley
This week’s poem is selected from Michael Longley’s new volume The Candlelight Master to celebrate its publication in North America this December. “Birthday Party” recalls the narrator’s eightieth birthday and explores the passage of time by juxtaposing renewal and age, birth and death. It references Carrigskeewaun, a rural town in Ireland whose landscape has inspired Longley’s writing throughout his life.
I turned eighty at Carrigskeewaun
With grandchildren at the table
And in the townland around us
Wheatears and dapper stonechats
And far more lapwings and curlews
Than I expected, a snipe or two,
Ringed-plovers in the middle
Distance on Thallabaun strand
And, where the Owenadornaun
Used to meander, sandpipers
Nervously warming their four eggs.
Wind removed the swallows’ nest.
We shall walk hand in hand beyond
Where the burial mound once was.