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April 29, 2019


#Poetry Month Gerard Fanning (Irish)

by NancyElin



  1. Who was Gerard Fanning?
  2. You probably NEVER heard of him!
  3. Neither had I…
  4. While researching  Black Rock Baths in
  5. The IrishTimes I read an article:
  6. “Poet and Rooney Prize winner Gerard Fanning dies”.
  7. Who was this man?
  8. As soon as I opened the article
  9. …Fanning’s gaze stared past me
  10. without recognition.
  11. I looked again.
  12. There was a puzzling
  13. …melancholy in his eyes.
  14. Where was the Irish lilt?
  15. I knew I had to read his poems.



  1. The title Water & Power is from
  2. …one of Fanning’s  favorite films
  3. Chinatown.
  4. The cover of the book is …
  5. muted fungus-green water
  6. with a tugboat and a few ships
  7. on the far horizon.
  8. How bland can you make a book?
  9.  I found the link b/t  cover and poem  Water & Power.
  10. Fanning dives into the Merrimack River (USA)
  11. ..makes a splash (cover)...with an unexpected result!
  12. Niall Naessens (Irish artist)
  13. has made better paintings than this! (see fotos at end of review)
  14. The popular idiom is
  15. “Don’t judge a book by its cover,”
  16. …warns us to be objective….
  17. the vast majority of readers use the cover of a book
  18. …as a deciding factor in the decision to buy/read the book!
  19. Despite the cover design
  20. I dove into the murky water.

Poem: Offering The Light

  1. The first poem was frustrating
  2. …so not a good start.
  3. The only clue I had was the word scoreboard.
  4. After 2 attempts I finally discovered the poem is about cricket!
  5. to offer the light = take batsmen off the pitch b/c of fading daylight
  6. night watchman = rookie batsman sent out to finish the game by fading light
  7. silly point = field position
  8. bye = extra scored runs
  9. If you don’t know these words the poem makes no sense!


Poem: A Carol For Clare

  1. This is a haunting poem for a woman named Clare.
  2. Fanning dedicated the book to her
  3. but who is Clare?
  4. There is not much information about Gerard Fanning available.
  5. 47 words, 5 stanzas, rhyme (ab-ab-ab-ab-ab)
  6. The poem gives the reader clues…suburbs of Dublin
  7. Philboro, Portobello, Railto, Pimlico and Marino.
  8. It feels like Fanning is describing a life moving from
  9. one place to another with his beloved Clare.
  10. “Lie with your ghost in Marino…
  11. Shepherd the fading decibel.”


Poem: The Railway Guard

  1. This is a description of a walk
  2. from Drogheda…past the church to Marsh Road.
  3. Two young lovers….pause to kiss in the
  4. (lyrical descriptions of flowers) white eel grass,
  5. sea holly and sea lavender.
  6. But the young girl turns whiter than all
  7. the flowers when she meets the narrator’s
  8. grandfather…the railway guard.
  9. What is so fascinating about the poem?
  10. This line:
  11. “…but Clare smiles and whispers….”
  12. There she is again …Fanning’s mystery woman!
  13. Now we know
  14. …Clare must be Gerard Fanning’s mother.


Poems:  that brush at mortality:

The Cancer Bureau

  1. Images of the patient’s puffed belly  being painted with a
  2. “Load Line or the Plimsol mark.”
  3. (level reached when a ship is properly load
  4. “She (nurse) says it will rise and fall in salt water.”

Wide of the Mark

  1. Image of a nurse coaxing a mirror down throat
  2. “Pointing like an idot savant
  3. To the very heart of things.”

The Wards

  1. Images of patient in intensive care
  2. “…after the final blizzard…(stroke)
  3. head lying amongst the strings of the tent.” (oxygen tent)


Playful poems:

  1. Fanning  brings balance in the collection with
  2. …some very amusing poems!
  3. The Watcher’s House – a swallow guards his nest…his Alhambra!
  4. Moving a Garden Shed – describes this Herculean feat!
  5. Looking up – I’m learniing to read poems…”world of fleece’ = clouds!


Best quotes:

  1. These are found in the
  2. impressive last poem Canower Sound (pg 49-55)
  3. 40  couplets…snapshots of Ireland’s west coastline
  4. mixed with the poet’s thoughts that criss-cross
  5. with memories of Venice, Florence,
  6. Tall men like De Valera and De Gaulle,
  7. Western actor Jack Elam and Swedish director Bergman
  8. A poem that reflects changing times and places.



  1. “Waves danced arm in arm
  2. like a couple of swells,”
  3. (stylish grand men of high social status)


  1. Our tide comes and goes
  2. murmuring in the shag and slime of stones.”



  1. The poems are meditative, playful
  2. and some are haunting riddles.
  3. My only regret is I cannot find any biographical
  4. …material about the poet that might enrich my readings.
  5. There are many references to Canada:
  6. Vancouver, Pr. Edward Island, Cape Spear New Foundland
  7. Okanagan, British Columbia.
  8. Fanning must have had a
  9. …close connection to the country
  10. …but I’m clueless what the link was.
  11. Poem: Ludwig, Ruth and I is an other  example.
  12. It took a lot of investigating but I learned that
  13. ..Fanning refers to
  14. Ludwig Wittgenstein.
  15. I still don’t know who Ruth is!
  16. #PoemsArePuzzles
  17. Strong pointFanning is a wordsmith!
  18. He dazzled me with his rich vocabulary
  19. Strong point: Fanning does not go “mythical”
  20. …as many poets do to impress.
  21. It was a pleasent change with no references
  22. to the gods on Mount Olympus  “N”em ( …see post Jericho Brown!)



  1. Here is the audible essence of Gerard Fanning’s poems.
  2. He mentioned this classic
  3. piece of music in the last poem
  4. Canower Sound


Last thoughts:

  1. Don’t be fooled by Fanning’s
  2. …melancholy “baby-blues”.
  3. His poems are so rewarding for readers who are
  4. willing to do some work.
  5. Some of the poems were hard to read because
  6. I had to look up so many of the words,
  7. so there was quite a bit of learning involved!
  8. That is coming from someone that reads all the time
  9. …but I do like a good challenge!
  10. New rule: I put the poetry book under
  11. my pillow + magnifying glass. (..I can never find my glasses in the dark!)
  12. Now I can re-read a few poems in the morning…
  13. while the cat is purring …my brain is still fresh.
  14. Poems have to settle in my mind.


Paintings by  Niall Naessens 

  1. Look at the color!
  2. Why not use these colors for Water & Power?


Brandon Bay, Ireland


Good Morning, Mr Turner


Read more from Ireland, poetry

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