Biography of Paula Meehan
Paula Meehan is an Irish poet and playwright. Born in Dublin in 1955, Meehan studied at Trinity College, Dublin,and at Eastern Washington University.
Paula Meehan was born in Dublin in 1955, the eldest of six children. She started school at St. Elizabeth's in Kingston upon Thames, England, where her parents had travelled to find work. She subsequently attended a number of primary schools around Dublin. She finished her primary education at the Central Model Girls' School in Gardiner Street.
She began her secondary education at St. Michael's Holy Faith Covent in Finglas but was expelled for organising a protest march against the regime of the school. She studied for her Intermediate Certificate on her own and then went to Whitehall House Senior School, a vocational school, to study for her Leaving Certificate. Outside school she was a member of a dance drama group, became involved in band culture and, around 1970, began to write lyrics. Gradually composing song lyrics would give way to writing poetry.
At Trinity College, Dublin, (1972–77) she studied English, History and Classical Civilization, taking five years to complete her Bachelor of Arts degree. This included one year off, spent travelling through Europe. While a student she was involved in street theatre and various kinds of performance.
After college she travelled again, spending long stretches in Greece, Germany, Scotland and England. She was offered a teaching fellowship at Eastern Washington University where she studied (1981–83) with James J. McAuley in a two-year programme which led to a Master of Fine Arts degree in Poetry. Gary Snyder & Carolyn Kizer were among the distinguished visiting writers to have a profound influence on her work and on her thought. She returned to Dublin in the mid-eighties. Her poem "Seed" was used in the 2010 Leaving Certificate examination as the unseen poem, although (critically) the department misprinted 'useful' as 'useless' which somewhat diminished the meaning of the poem. In September 2013, Meehan was awarded the Chair of Irish Poetry, Professor of Poetry, by President Michael D. Higgins.
Paula Meehan Poems
OLD SKIN -new-
staggering towards me I've cast you off years ago shrugged you off left you, put you down at the side of the road for ravening by any passing predator old skin - when your face splits open in recognition - you know me now but not what bar you left me in - what else would you say but ‘how're ya, me oul skin'
Like a knitted Dutch mitten found in a patch of snow I pull the word for little house over my frozen fingers - crawling in sunlight over my own shadow dragging my bundle of hides my bundle of skins towards the door and in to the stink of sleep my hand thawed at last from its carapace of ice.
DEATH OF A FIELD -new-
The field itself is lost the morning it becomes a site When the Notice goes up: Fingal County Council - 44 houses The memory of the field is lost with the loss of its herbs Though the woodpigeons in the willow And the finches in what's left of the hawthorn hedge And the wagtail in the elder Sing on their hungry summer song The magpies sound like flying castanets And the memory of the field disappears with its flora: Who can know the yearning of yarrow Or the plight of the scarlet pimpernel Whose true colour is orange? And the end of the field is the end of the hidey holes Where first smokes, first tokes, first gropes Were had to the scentless mayweed The end of the field as we know it is the start of the estate The site to be planted with houses each two or three bedroom Nest of sorrow and chemical, cargo of joy The end of dandelion is the start of Flash The end of dock is the start of Pledge The end of teazel is the start of Ariel The end of primrose is the start of Brillo The end of thistle is the start of Bounce The end of sloe is the start of Oxyaction The end of herb robert is the start of Brasso The end of eyebright is the start of Fairy Who amongst us is able to number the end of grasses To number the losses of each seeding head? I'll walk out once Barefoot under the moon to know the field Through the soles of my feet to hear The myriad leaf lives green and singing The million million cycles of being in wing That - before the field become solely map memory In some archive of some architect's screen I might possess it or it possess me Through its night dew, its moon white caul Its slick and shine and its prolifigacy In every wingbeat in every beat of time
A STRAY DREAM -new-
It's a happy dream though in it you were Humping some dancer in a run down gaff A seafront hotel out of season where I'm in a kitchen on the single bed I've pulled from a drawer like the silk scarf Of the seafront carny man who's filling in for ManDuck The Magician star of stage and screen I saw earlier that day at the end of the pier I had sheets of Belfast linen but you Had the dancer. And had her again While the dawn struggled to break on the sea And break on the quick and the slow and the dead When I woke the next morning under the bed Dustdevils, feathers and some child's brown shoes
The Inscription -new-
‘Honour the dust …' wrote Gary Snyder in my old copy of No Nature before Bella, our beloved dog, got her teeth into it. Now dog eared, well chewed, much annotated, it sits on a bockety shelf right beside the well made box wherein lies her wag, her bark, her growl, her lick, her rapture of devotion — her dust we honour. from Geomantic, Dedalus Press, Dublin, 2016
A Sonnet for Gary Snyder on his 80th Bir... -new-
To sit an hour in gratitude, the heart opening to dustmote sunbeam deep shade in this sequoia grove the mind expands to the edge of the forest which is the edge of mind where I see the enchanted path in and through the teeming forest of childhood, your poetry written on my empty hands, the leaves, your pages dreaming a whole age: its mysteries writ clear as a star chart across the heavens — the trail you have blazed — O to be alive! The blest holy land beneath my bare feet, humble and privileged; to follow after, to walk the same earth, to get down and kiss the ground of your birth. 8th of May, 2010
The first warm day of spring and I step out into the garden from the gloom of a house where hope had died to tally the storm damage, to seek what may have survived. And finding some forgotten lupins I'd sown from seed last autumn holding in their fingers a raindrop each like a peace offering, or a promise, I am suddenly grateful and would offer a prayer if I believed in God. But not believing, I bless the power of seed, its casual, useful persistence, and bless the power of sun, its conspiracy with the underground, and thank my stars the winter's ended.
My Father Perceived as a Vision of St Fr... -new-
for Brendan Kennelly It was the piebald horse in next door's garden frightened me out of a dream with her dawn whinny. I was back in the boxroom of the house, my brother's room now, full of ties and sweaters and secrets. Bottles chinked on the doorstep, the first bus pulled up to the stop. The rest of the house slept except for my father. I heard him rake the ash from the grate, plug in the kettle, hum a snatch of a tune. Then he unlocked the back door and stepped out into the garden. Autumn was nearly done, the first frost whitened the slates of the estate. He was older than I had reckoned, his hair completely silver, and for the first time I saw the stoop of his shoulder, saw that his leg was stiff. What's he at? So early and still stars in the west? They came then: birds of every size, shape, colour; they came from the hedges and shrubs, from eaves and garden sheds, from the industrial estate, outlying fields, from Dubber Cross they came and the ditches of the North Road. The garden was a pandemonium when my father threw up his hands and tossed the crumbs to the air. The sun cleared O'Reilly's chimney and he was suddenly radiant, a perfect vision of St Francis, made whole, made young again, in a Finglas garden.
I know this path by magic not by sight. Behind me on the hillside the cottage light is like a star that's gone astray. The moon is waning fast, each blade of grass a rune inscribed by hoarfrost. This path's well worn. I lug a bucket by bramble and blossoming blackthorn. I know this path by magic not by sight. Next morning when I come home quite unkempt I cannot tell what happened at the well. You spurn my explanation of a sex spell cast by the spirit who guards the source that boils deep in the belly of the earth, even when I show you what lies strewn in my bucket — a golden waning moon, seven silver stars, our own porch light, your face at the window staring into the dark.
The Statue of the Virgin at Granard Spea...
It can be bitter here at times like this, November wind sweeping across the border. Its seeds of ice would cut you to the quick. The whole town tucked up safe and dreaming,
The first warm day of spring
and I step out into the garden from the gloom
of a house where hope had died
to tally the storm damage, to seek what may
have survived. And finding some forgotten
lupins I'd sown from seed last autumn
holding in their fingers a raindrop each
like a peace offering, or a promise,
I am suddenly grateful and would