Notre Dame de Bon Voyage
I heard Paul Durcan read his poetry four years ago at Fighting Words the Creative Writing Centre in Dublin established by Roddy Doyle and Sean Love. It was an inspirational evening for me listening to his use of language, his imagery, his different forms and methods of expression. I laughed at his Raymond of the Rooftops. It could have been my story. His beautiful poem Going Home to Mayo, Winter,1949 brought me on a journey that night and each time I read it since. They are both in his collection A Snail In My Prime.
I fell in love with his poetry that night and I suppose it is not surprising therefore, that I eventually wrote my own poem about Paul Durcan. I had taken his poetry book to France with me. I didn’t intend to write a poem about him. It simply unfolded as I think most poems do. The title of the poem Is Bringing Paul Durcan to Mass and this year The Fermoy International Poetry Festival honoured it as the Irish winning poem in the Festival, which allowed me to spend two lovely days in Fermoy reading and listening to poetry.
Bringing Paul Durcan to Mass
I went to half ten mass, la grande messe.
Grand in every sense.
Sunday morning sitting in sweltering heat
Listening to a sermon I couldn’t understand
Didn’t seem to be my cup of tea.
I said some silent prayers for everyone
I could think of, and anyone I had forgotten,
But the French priest was loud
And eventually silenced my silent prayers.
Well, I had Paul Durcan in my handbag,
And when I went to get some money for the collection
He tempted me to read.
Was it blasphemy, I wondered,
To read Paul Durcan
In the middle of la grand messe,
Or any other mass for that matter?
But it was my personal bible,
The book I opened to find inspiring words,
Words of wisdom, playful words – prayerful words,
A bible that could bring to mind
My mother, my father–
That I needed to get the roof fixed when I got home –
That I was far from home.
I will never bring Paul Durcan to mass again
Have you ever tuned into the voice of a Mayoman? He asked,
And instantly, I tuned out from the voice of the Frenchman.
(c) Eithne Reynolds