National Poetry Day 2017: Honest Ulsterman

To mark National Poetry Day UK, we’re highlighting some of the best poems from our sister site, The Honest Ulsterman. The HU was revived by Verbal Arts Centre in early 2014, with the aim to “showcase work that is eclectic and irreverent, surreal over genteel, work that demonstrates the power of writing to stop time and travel within it, to conjure up impossible images, enchant readers with music, raise boils on targets and appear to transcend mortality.” Below are twelve of our favourite poems from the archives, but we could have easily selected dozens others, such is the quality of writing that HU showcases.

We split the photos, the phantom booties,
one blue, one pink –
and never spoke of things again.

Read Going Dutch by Stephanie Conn, May 2014

He said instead we should hit the town,
but the Ulster girl in me declined,
didn’t go out, a foreign country,
a different language, a strange man.

How did Aphrodite feel, naked in the sea?
Did she hesitate, or take command?

Read Aphrodite’s Rock by Paula Matthews, July 2014

with brother after brother marshalled south

houses ransacked
weavers on the run
countrymen hung by the heels and spun
whipped to unravelling

Read Kilmainham letters by Ruth Carr, June 2015

As we are shuffled from work to rest,
Tomasz, Jakub and I mould to each other
in corrugated buildings.
New forms are filed when others expire.
Juda slipped from the pack, later found
wound in his own binding

Read Divine Image Bearers by Glen Wilson, June 2015

On the Lough’s shore it is possible to find partially knapped flints,
rejected as arrow heads when the line of fracture
was not right -a misjudged strike by the knapping stone.

Read Beyond the Mussel Banks by Emma McKervey, June 2015

The farmer hacked and hammered it between harder tasks:
five planks crossed by three,
an hour’s work he’d be surprised would last,

its rusting nails outseeing eyes
closed in foreign fields. And still it creaks on its hinge,
waiting, it seems, for me to leave. Or worse

Read The Byre Door by Peter Adair, October 2015

Somewhere between Dundalk and Castleblaney
there’s a field of corn the colour of nostalgia.
I found it once, in the middle of July,
on one of those days you wish you had a camera

but don’t, so all you can do is park the car
and dander through a golden landscape, dreaming
of Francis Ledwidge, that summer before the War,
musing on butterflies, transience and women

Read A Field in Mid-Summer by Francis O’Hare, October 2015

the brokenness
of the world is one broken person
seeking another broken person
and what exists between them.

a tableaux of fuck ups,
you walk around

half-stupid with fear,
the letters of loneliness
spelt out
across your body

Read i will die afraid but i do not want to die alone by Anna Walsh, February 2016

On the road outside Kinsale there is a sign
that marks the end of the Wild Atlantic Way.
If only Canute had known it would be so easy
to hold back the tide, a red line
through squiggles of blue and there you have it,
a convenient fold in the map

Read East Meets West by Maurice Devitt, February 2016

he told me the pouch must never
be opened nor can the stones
ever be looked upon or counted.
The pouch of cure-stones
was given to him by his father
as were the words of the cure

Read Tom’s Pouch of Cure-Stones by Paul McMahon, June 2016

The Head, so called because he has no heart,
regards it like a man checking for dirt
beneath his nails. Puffed up like a bullfrog
with a hernia, he shifts his weight, clocks

me with a dead-eyed stare, and coldly says,
“What did he die of, exactly?” The way
he e-nun-ci-ates each last syllable
has the charm of an arsenic popsicle.

Read The Headmaster’s Office by Ross Thompson, June 2016

Latterly, my mother’s silent complaint,
the mute argument of her life

articulates itself inside her body
each unspoken tirade

eventually rendered in flesh
scratched into synapse

Read Dispute by Rachel Coventry, October 2016

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