John Liddy – Travelogue

Liddy LE P&W 3 Nov-Dec 2023

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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Three Nov-Dec 2023.

Travelogue, poems by John Liddy.

These new poems are for a Travelogue in collaboration with Jim Burke.

Imaginary pages from a travelogue

The Lady of the Strand
I continued from where you left off, using a different coloured pen.
The gist of what you had been writing was easy enough to follow.
The problem was in the style, the tone, the voice, the actual words.
So, I side-stepped the clumps of seaweed on the strand and imagined
a local beauty out for a morning stroll, coming towards us to ask
if we wanted something to eat, a drink perhaps or even a swim.
When I read back what I had written, you took up your own pen
and continued: She had come from the sea and had shed the seaweed
on the strand from her long mane and was calling us to go with her,
to enter the water and dive down into the depths.

We could have gone on like this forever, finding harmony,
at one with the line of thought, no matter what the colour of pen
or syntactical differences, the pulse was the same. Needless to say,
we decided to go pubbing instead and toast the Lady of the Strand.

The gist of what Coogan and Ó hEithir told us that night
in a pub near the schoolhouse on Aran, consisted of an oft
repeated mantra to young, aspiring poets who may be
uncertain of their calling or the pitfalls that await them.

Brace yourselves for rejection, said one. Nothing matters
but the words, said the other. And we listened wide-eyed
to their advice as the pints and the music flowed, making
us giddy and less awkward with our Irish.

Filled with moon-struck inspiration on our way back
to the tent, we called on the ghosts of the famine dead
to abandon their graves and join us in a merry dance
around the schoolhouse field but no such luck prevailed.

Slumped in our sleeping bags we slept through the morning
and were lucky to catch the boat to Ros an Mhíl, where a cold
wind blew against us as we took the hill to Costelloe, bound
for Screebe, Cloonagleragh and Maam Cross.

Those words of wisdom on Aran fell by the wayside, with no
mood on us for updating the journal that day or the next, until
placenames began to hum on the page again, and in our heads
the advice from those two seasoned men of letters.

Verified in our belief that we were serving the ‘call’, the slog
through a summer hail made of us survivors of pitfall
and rejection, inextricably tied to our fervent belief
that we were living our words in body and soul.

Now I wonder what we would say to two young dreamers
come in from the cold to sit beside us, their talk of poems
in the making, not much to show for aspiration but enough
cop to see in our eyes the lived experience.



Was that a wild daisy, a sprig of heather
we just passed? A man scything in a field,
the scent of green to last a lifetime,
even as I write this now, touchable feather,
like turf smoke, straw, a scene painted
by Paul Henry, you and I going over
the hill to leave it all behind for others
to harvest what we reaped.


Maybe memories are made of this:
Illusions lived with a passion
last the longest, for better or worse,
steeped in possibility, reinvigoration.

Another deception, perhaps, or a hazy
recreation of part without parcel,
words borrowed from times once lived,
unfaithful servants of the echo-shell.

Viewed from isolation with pen in hand,
an act of mining the mind for the page,
memories still intact until memory itself
decides to no longer engage.

To catch a whiff again of odours
we thought lost to us, to have adored
that time in the fullness of limited
resources, to have left some record

For the poet O’Grady’s approval,
to have lived a writing exile
with its demands on tenacity,
silence, cunning and guile

Perceptibility of the tactile
in the leaf’s smooth underbelly,
awareness fine-tuned to sense
a cloud in the guise of Machiavelli

Lingering overhead to release
its almighty, unmerciful deluge.
The observant eye not caught
off-guard even in old age.

© John Liddy

John Liddy is from Limerick, Ireland and lives in Madrid, Spain, where he worked as a teacher/librarian. He has many collections published and his latest poetry book is Arias of Consolation, Revival Press (2022). He is the founding editor, along with Jim Burke, of The Stony Thursday Book (1975-), one of Ireland’s longest running literary reviews and is on the Advisory Board of The Hong Kong Review. Soon to be published Spanish Points, a bilingual anthology of his Spanish-related poems.

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