“Blackbird over Lagan water”

On its fifth anniversary the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry has an exhibition of images of The Blackbird of Belfast Lough – poet Ciaran Carson explains why it’s the Centre’s emblem and the Guardian has some of the images from the exhibition whilst Ian Sansom, writing at the Guardian’s bookblog, claims responsibility. “This weird little scrap of Irish syllabic verse, probably from the 9th century, consists of just 24 syllables, broken up into eight short lines, which have somehow continued to echo in modern Irish verse: the little lyric seems to have stuck; it has proved itself, in Seamus Heaney’s words, to have “staying power”.”

Int én bec
ro léc feit
do rinn guip
glanbuidi

fo-ceird faíd
ós Loch Laíg,
lon do chraíb
charnbuidi

And from the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry website

The small bird
chirp-chirruped:
yellow neb,
a note-spurt.

Blackbird over
Lagan water.
Clumps of yellow
whin-burst!

Seamus Heaney

the little bird
that whistled shrill
from the nib of
its yellow bill:

a note let go
o’er Belfast Lough –
a blackbird from
a yellow whin

Ciaran Carson


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