Seán ó Ríordáin

Tuesday 1 January 2013 09:08

Seán Ó Ríordáin (1916-1977) was born in the west Cork village of Baile Mhúirne. Although English was his first language, he chose to write in Irish. Among Irish language writers of his time he was regarded as a poet of European scope and a moderniser of poetic expression in that language. His work is profoundly influenced, on the one hand by Blaise Pascal’s Pensées and on the other by the existentialists, perhaps most controversially by Søren Kierkegaard.


in your head

alter the form of a cat

to the form of a woman

& see that she is a fine woman

to a tomcat

‘Aistriú’, Seán Ó Ríordáin

These brown eyes

these brown eyes are hers

I see them in her son

it was brightness

when you looked into them

a private room

her mind and body

a year in brief

while they saw you

those eyes that once were hers

are strange to me

I am ashamed to look at her

since she became a man

while they were hers

I little knew

the feminine that called to me

could be in her son

there is no confusion

worse than this

I must reverse the dialogue

I practised once

she was not the first

that watched with them

nor is her son the last

& this is eternity

that a smut of ash

retains the best of  us

reinventing itself

between mother and son

‘Súile Donna’, Seán Ó Ríordáin

Dead On Her Feet

she took her death

since last year

I saw it in her face

after the men no more

but something grave she

surrendered to

‘Bás Beo’, Seán Ó Ríordáin


darkness came stripe by stripe

until things were extinguished

night made black of white

chairs became shades

the room declined

& shadow swallowed it

the belly of night is empty

I can feel it under my hand

only memory has the will

to reconstitute the past

a light and at once

a room emerges

the chairs are restored

when I go out eventually

I will leave the world to itself

I will leave in the dark

‘Solas’, Seán Ó Ríordáin

The translations are Creative Commons