From the Archives: Nigel McLoughlin – Songs For No Voices

Songs For No Voices, the second collection of poet Nigel McLoughlin, consolidates and deepens the achievement of his critically well-received debut, At the Waters’ Clearing (2001). Strongly rooted in the Donegal / Fermanagh hinterland, the 2004 poems explore ideas of place and belonging. The collection is remarkable for the allying of an acute analytical intelligence with an astute understanding of the traditions and fault-lines of modern Irish poetry.

Nigel McLoughlin was born in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, in 1968. He was educated at St Michael’s College, Enniskillen, the University of London and the University of Ulster. In 2000, he was awarded an MA in Creative writing and in 2004 a PhD in Creative Writing – both from Lancaster University. His poetry has been shortlisted for the Hennessy Award, the Kavanagh Awards and the New Writer Poetry Prizes. Nigel is currently the editor of literary magazine Iota and Professor of Creativity & Poetics at the University of Gloucestershire.

Butterfly’s Bones

Mostly, they are hardly noticed
for they are too small or soft
to demand notice. They seem
to hide, shying from the gaze,
shrinking from touch. Their recoil
is instinctive. Yet their small voices
roaring from the invisible are enough
to turn or cock a head like scent
in the breeze or an aftertaste.

Mostly, we don’t look hard enough
or tight enough to see them,
our forked-ways vision dims
them to denials, myths, lies.
Yet God is full of them, these
tiny poems, and if we could only
tune ourselves to hear the rattle
that photons make, taste heat
on the moving air, find the subtle
scent of iron, see the spinning
electron dance everywhere
and nowhere simultaneously,

or if we could touch, gently
gently, the insignificant
butterfly’s bones, then maybe
maybe we’d understand,
as children do, the last faith
and distant echoes of the voice
of our once-thundering God.


A New Language

I can hear it in my voice,
like a cold or laryngitis;
a new dis-ease – ceasefire.
A broken flow of words
shyly stammered by
an adolescent, uncomfortable
with my new tone.

An alien voice forced
down familiar throats;
it sounds like ice breaking,
or the voices of my generation,
trying, self-consciously,
to circumnavigate this
new language of peace.

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