The echo of well water

Thursday, 4 May, 2017

The Irish poet Thomas Kinsella was born in Dublin on this day in 1928. He was championed by the critics in the early 1960s, but it was the dying Kavanagh and the upcoming Heaney who became the poets of the people, ordinary and elite. Popular success evaded Kinsella and although he’s central to the Irish canon he has remained on the margins of the verse market all his life.

Talking of margins, the ancient Irish monks and scribes who filled the marginalia of their manuscripts with illuminations and glosses, offer a comparison with Kinsella. One can always discover some new scribbled clue in the texts that the medievalists annotated and it’s the same with Thomas Kinsella’s poems. There’s much more there than meets the eye. Rereading has its rewards.


He cleared the thorns
from the broken gate,
and held her hand
through the heart of the wood
to the holy well.

They revealed their names
and told their tales
as they said that they would
on that distant day
when their love began.

And hand in hand
they turned to leave.
When she stopped and whispered
a final secret
down to the water.

Thomas Kinsella

Saint Sedna's Well

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