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Wake Forest
University Press

Wake Forest University Press

Dedicated to Irish Poetry

Wake: Up to Poetry

"The act of poetry is a rebel act."

Poem of the Week: “Water” by Dennis O’Driscoll

Photo courtesy of Melissa Libutti

As we approach the publication date for The Wake Forest Series of Irish Poetry, Volume IV, we’re taking a look back at some of the poets published in previous volumes from this series, which aims to introduce lesser-known Irish poets to an American audience. This week’s poet is Dennis O’Driscoll, whose work was included in Volume I. As the editor of this selection writes in the preface, in “Water,” O’Driscoll “ably shifts poetic register to broaden the scope of his ordinary subject.” Within a few short stanzas, he captures the all-encompassing notion of water with comic, aesthetic, political, scientific, sensual, and religious imagery.


The miracle of water
is that it tastes of nothing,
neither of chlorine nor peat,
not of old tap fittings or dead sheep.

Water was the first mirror,
drinking images of beauty,
showing their wrinkled future
in the mildest breeze.

Water clings to its neutrality,
changes state at boiling point,
finds the level at which
tensions cool, limbs relax.

It is the splinter of ice in the heart,
the white blood of the snowman,
the burst main flooding
from Christ’s frozen side.

–Dennis O’Driscoll, from The Wake Forest Series of Irish Poetry, Vol. I (2005)

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