The Birds I Know
In the ditch
the grasses collect in families
while the thin conductor, fast asleep,
waves, ready to begin againin a light wind
as the sheep
cross the field
in a wandering line,while the birds I know
as their numbers
multiplyround a bare tree trunk
with the apron strings of ivy
tied at the waist
The Birds I Know’ from Collected Poems (2019) by kind permission of the author’s Estate and The Gallery Press. www.gallerypress.com
Dermot Healy was born in 1947 in Finea, Co Westmeath, Ireland. Known for his novels A Goat’s Song (1994) and Long Time, No See (2011), as well as for his poetry collection A Fool’s Errand, Healy was a two-time recipient of the Hennessy Award and a winner of both the Tom Gallon Award and the Encore Award. He died June 29, 2014.
Though Dermot Healy’s first collection, The Ballyconnell Colours, appeared in 1992 his first poems dated from twenty years earlier and were published and singled out for praise by Seamus Heaney.
In ‘The Off-button’ he writes, ‘the ordinary . . . I understand’ and his plainsong distilled ordinary experience — existence, resilience, moments of tenderness and absurdity.
For him the whole world was a neighbourhood and his engagement with it — its people, places, flora, fauna, weathers and oceans — prompted moments of epiphany. A true original, his lyric poems have moved, intrigued and entertained readers and listeners. Collected Poems is a harvest of almost half a century’s remarkable work — a book rich in imaginative reach and empathy.