Belfast Telegraph

Damian’s love poem for his troubled home

Acclaimed poet Damian Gorman has penned a work to mark 50 years since the start of the Troubles.

The award-winning poet, filmmaker and playwright was asked by the reconciliation groups Towards Understanding And Healing and The Junction to engage with a wide range of people about the anniversary.

"I was then to go away, let the hare sit, and come back with a piece of writing; a new piece that said something new, and held out "at least the possibility of healing". No pressure there then," he said.

"This is the poem I came back with, Field Notes."

Gorman said there that there are "people of the word" and "people of the fist". "And while, for me, that's just a bit too clear-cut to be true, I have certainly inclined towards words, growing up in a time where their relevance was constantly challenged," he said.

"Words matter to me - not because I admire them from afar, but because of the redress I believe they can afford. Words give me solace and delight and, yes, I believe they can also be instruments of peace.

"Having said that, I'm not stupid altogether. I know that words cannot wipe away tears or put their arms around someone. But they can, surely, stand for something; and can even stand beside people in some way." The poem was commissioned as part of a process of engagement with people in Londonderry, many of them critically affected by living through the Troubles, others not even born until this century. The poet said that many of the people he met with had had "more than their fair share" of the Troubles.

"I shared it first with the people who had shared their stories with me," he said. "Before I said it to them I joked, 'As we all know, what Northern Ireland needs more than anything else right now is… a new poem!'

"But this is what I do. Whatever you make of this poem, can I say that I had no idea it would be the one I'd end up writing; that it is meant as a kind of love poem for Northern Ireland this Easter time; and that I mean every word of it."

Field notes: 50 short lines, 50 years since the start of the ‘Troubles’

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there." RUMI

Poet Damian Gorman
Poet Damian Gorman

What could make a difference?

What would matter a damn?

What could change the course of us

In the long run?

 

What have we put in the way of rolling

Once more over the cliff?

What have we never tried,

Or never enough?

 

What could heal our politics?

What could ring the bells?

Bring us to the table as more

Than furniture ourselves?

 

I am trying to avoid the word love

As something much too vague.

I am trying to avoid the word love

Like the plague.

 

What could take us to that place

Where grief is like the sea

To ask if there is anything

We can do?

 

What could bring us to those people

Hungering for right

To listen to their stories

Through the night?

 

What could place us near to someone

Driven from their mind

By hurt or fear, in order

To be kind?

 

I am trying to avoid the word love

So as not to be laughed out of sight.

I am trying to avoid that word

With all my might.

 

What could make us leave the tracks

That are already laid

And pin us down, like things

Already said?

 

I am trying to avoid the word love

Like a fully-loaded trap.

I am trying to avoid the word love,

But why would you do that?

 

For love is thought which has a bit of thought;

Is feeling with an inkling what to do;

Is something in us knows within its heart

That there are hearts in other people too.

It stands for something clearly, like a whinbush on the road

Beautifully resolute and gold.

And is the fulsome, real love - love enough -

Could keep us going when the going's tough:

 

A love that is magnificent, or mild;

Love like Solomon's, reaching for the child...

  • Video of the poem being read by Damian Gorman and filmed by Jack Gorman can be seen at belfasttelegraph.co.uk

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