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Noel Monahan – Pile of stones

Profile Monahan LE P&W July 2021

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing July 2021

Noel Monahan has published seven collections of poetry with Salmon Poetry, Ireland. An eighth collection, Celui Qui Porte Un Veau, a selection of French translations of his work was published in France by Alidades, in 2014. A selection of Italian translations of his poetry was published in Milan by Guanda in November 2015: “Tra Una Vita E L’Altra”. His poetry was prescribed text for the Leaving Certificate English, 2011- 2012. In the past Noel has toured in England, Italy and America giving readings and delivering literary papers on Irish literature. His play: “Broken Cups” won the RTE P.J. O’Connor award in 2001and Chalk Dust, a long poem of his, was adapted for stage and directed by Padraic McIntyre, Ramor Theatre, 2019. During the Covid-19 lockdown, Noel had to reinvent his poetry readings and he produced a selection of Short Films: “Isolation & Creativity”, “Still Life”, “Tolle Lege” and A Poetry Day Ireland Reading for Cavan Library,2021. The filming and editing of the same was by Pádraig Conaty, Niall Monahan and Jago Studio, Cavan. Noel is presently working on his memoirs and the opening chapters will be published by New Hibernia Review, Center for Irish Studies, University of St. Thomas, Saint Paul, Minnesota. A number of his most recent poems have been translated into German and will appear later this summer.

Pile of Stones

It was a world of stones and stories,
A mound of earth at the edge of a ditch,
At the bottom of Dagger’s Hill.

Dandelions and daisies grew alongside it,
Stone ornaments adorned it:
A cross of pebbles,
A heart of tiny red stones,
A brown gravel trout.

I can still hear our voices
Tell a variety of stories
About some unbaptised child buried there,

Others said: a grey bearded man,
Life frozen out of him, died by the roadside
And lay buried in the snow.

A man set fire to himself
And ever since, the mound bursts into flames by night,
Smoke Figures: arms, legs and heads on fire,
Walk around the stones. When dawn breaks,
The fire returns to clay and stone.

A Croppy Boy was hanged here by Yeomen,
And everyone throws a stone to his memory
As they pass by. It’s what we do.

And every time we climbed the mound
We climbed beyond ourselves.
Each of us felt part of some great need
To speak and think as one.


Is mise an chailleach ó Lough an Leagh
Do chara ó bhreith go bás
Ag síor cogaint gairleoige
Mo phráiscín lán de giuirléidi
Eolas na treibhe im chuimhne
Banríon Óiríon um gheimhridh.

Ach! Ag teacht an earraigh
Bainim díom caille de sioc is sneachta
Athraím cruth:
Ó fheannóg dhubh go lasair coille
Ó bhean chríonna go cailín óg
I’m chráinbheach na maidine
Iomas gréine im shúile.

The Hag From Lough An Leagh

I’m the hag from Lough an Leagh
Your friend from cradle to grave
Forever chewing garlic
My apron full of knick-knacks
My memory with recall for the tribe.
I’m Queen Óiríon of winter nights.

But! When Spring arrives
I remove my shawl of frost and snow.
I metamorphose:
From hooded-crow to golden finch
From old age to youth
I’m the Queen bee of the morning
Eyes sparkling with sunlight.


© Noel Monahan