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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing April 2023
Learning to read, poems by Noel Monahan
Learning to read
It rained cats and dogs
Outside in the farmyard.
A downpour of red, orange, yellow, green, blue…
And I was tricking about in the sitting-room,
Taking books down from the shelves
Books the size of bibles:
Sunday At Home, Leisure Hour, Cassel’s Magazine …
My mother said the books were of little interest:
Who’d want to be reading about A Poultry Market in Paris?
Or looking at a picture of a wild cat with a dead bird?
I loved to colour in the black and white drawings
Of wings and tails of birds
And I wrote: CAT, AND DOG AND MOUSE
At the bottom of a page.
I imagined people sitting in chairs around the table,
All listening to me read out loud:
CAT AND MOUSE AND DOG …
I used to think I could hear the books read back to me
Long before I could really read,
Used to imagine their voices hesitating sometimes.
When I grew tired of reading
I started to draw and colour with crayons
A house on stilts with windows and a door
And when the rain stopped pelting down
I put the books back on the shelves
And headed outside
To read the colours of the rainbow.
A beautiful distraction
What inspired thought entered your head?
Drove you to look beyond yourself.
Was there some disaster, a disease spreading,
Famine in the long ago?
Did the sun set fire to your head?
Did you dream in the shadow of the moon?
Or were you utterly lost in a fog
Astray on the Corleck Hill?
Today onlookers stare in wonderment
At your empowering head with three faces
It’s that beautiful distraction
They tirelessly crave and love:
Something to think about,
Something to talk about.
© Noel Monahan
Noel Monahan is a native of Granard, Co. Longford, now living in Cavan. He has published seven collections of poetry with Salmon Poetry. An eight 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. 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. Recently, he edited “Chasing Shadows”, a miscellany of poetry for Creative Ireland. Noel adjudicated The Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award 2022. His ninth poetry collection, “Journey Upstream” will be published in 2023.