Sunday, December 31, 2006


Carrigskeewaun in County Mayo is a key landscape for the poet Michael Longley. There is a page on the Teachnet Ireland site that includes his poem 'Carrigskeewaun' and some teacher's notes explaining how it contrasts 'wild natural scenery and the domestic images of picnics, children at play by the sea and boiling kettles'. The site also has a long list of Michael Longley links and some quotes from the poet, including this justification for his landscape poetry: 'The most urgent political problems are ecological: how we share the planet with the plants and the other animals. My nature writing is my most political. In my Mayo poems I am not trying to escape from political violence. I want the light from Carrigskeewaun to irradiate the northern darkness. Describing the world in a meticulous way is a consecration and a stay against damaging dogmatism.'

There is another site for 'Carrigskeewaun' here and a further poem inspired by the landscape, 'Remembering Carrigskeewaun', is at the Poetry Archive.

Postscript: 2011

With the publication of his new collection, Kate Kellaway in The Guardian interviewed Michael Longley.  He told her "I don't go to Carrigskeewaun for escapist reasons. I want the beauty, the psychedelic wild flowers, the calls of the wild birds. I want all of that shimmering beauty to illuminate the northern darkness. We have peace of a kind, but no cultural resolution – the tensions which produced the Troubles are still there. It is important for me to see beautiful Carrigskeewaun as part of the same island as Belfast. I might be most a Belfast man when I am in Carrigskeewaun."  And then a bit later, in the same interview, he envisaged his own death.  "There is a headland as you approach Carrigskeewaun and that is where I want my ashes scattered. And I just want one little stone, with my name on it, to be blown around by the wind and to mingle with the sand grains."

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