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Poet Micheal O'Siadhail at Cambridge. // Photo by Pilar Timpane.

Poet Micheal O'Siadhail at Trinity College Cambridge with Dr. Ellen Davis during Holy Week 2012. // Photo by Pilar Timpane

Another favourite poem by Micheal O’Siadhail

March 3, 2014 — 

Everyone knows that our president loves poetry. In light of Micheal O’Siadhail’s arrival at the university for the President and the Poet event this coming Wednesday, March 5, UM Today asked President and Vice-Chancellor David Barnard to read us a couple of his favourite poems by the Irish poet. We also asked him to explain his choices.

“While You Are Talking” is the second of two he chose. You can hear President Barnard read the poem by clicking on the orange Soundcloud play arrow below.


David Barnard

David Barnard.

President Barnard: One of the recurring themes in O’Siadhail’s body of work is married love. He has written many poems with this focus. His Collected Works are dedicated in memoriam to his recently deceased wife, Brid. It has been said of her that she is the most written about woman in Ireland. Fortunately for all of us who want to express the aspects and turns of relationships but find ourselves struggling to find words sufficient to express what we feel, O’Siadhail has provided much for us to appropriate. In this delightful piece, a man offers a kind of pseudo-apology for not paying attention to his lover’s words, offering as an excuse that he is taken up with the wonder of her many ways of being in relationship to him.


While You Are Talking

Micheal O’Siadhail


While you are talking, though I seem all ears,
Forgive me if you notice a stray see-through
Look; on tiptoe behind the eyes’ frontiers
I am spying, wondering at this mobile you.
Sometimes nurturer, praise-giver to the male,
Caresser of failures, mother earth, breakwater
To my vessel, suddenly you’ll appear frail –
In my arms I’ll cradle you like a daughter.
Now soul-pilot and I confess redemptress,
Turner of new leaves, reshaper of a history;
Then the spirit turns flesh – playful temptress
I untie again ribbons of your mystery.
You shift and travel as only a lover can;
One woman and all things to this one man.

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