'It's a threshold for stepping into something new and unknown'
“But it is a struggle. It’s almost like learning a new language; for example, speaking about the earth from a human-only point of view is no longer appropriate. For me every day is a new beginning. Of course there are particular times when we stop and look more deeply at the darkness in our lives. I think the image of the light coming into Newgrange has a very powerful effect.”
Any suggestions as to where people might look for inspiration?“There is a green force,” says Devine, “a current, almost, underneath our visible current affairs that’s working very peacefully and in solidarity, and ready to do without, in order to bring about change. There was a time when there was concern about upsetting the apple cart and worrying about what people in power thought. I think that day has gone.
“The powers that be will continue. Most likely our patriarchal system will continue, but that doesn’t mean that we’re hopeless or helpless.
“For me it begins with the way I relate to myself and to those around me, and to the earth that nourishes me, and the biodiversity of that earth. If we all took that on board I do believe we would have a peace that is not economic-based; and if we could change our economic base, I believe we could change reality.”
Iggy McGovern is a lecturer at the department of physics at Trinity College, Dublin; he is also a poet, and editor of the book 20/12, in which 20 Irish poets respond to science in 12 lines.
Do you look forward to 2013 with dread or delight?“For me the word should be ‘challenge’. This will be my last year as a lecturer at Trinity, and I really don’t know what retirement will do to me. And the wider situation in the country is a challenge as well.”
How do you spend New Year’s Eve?“We usually have dinner with friends. They always have an interesting mix of people, and not the same crowd, and there’s a great sense of occasion. We’re hopeful of our invitation again this year!”
At this time of year, do you find yourself thinking about new beginnings? Do you find it difficult?“I’ve always liked the ‘new year’ idea, I must say. I’m from the north coast, and in that part of Ireland the boundaries are very fluid. It’s Scotland as much as Ireland, and I always felt I had the benefit of the two worlds. So where we had Halloween, we also had Guy Fawkes; and while Christmas was our central feast, there was also first-footing and all that stuff.
“My friends were all from the other community, and we ran free between the two. Perhaps that gave me an interest in boundaries and in the liminal – in science and poetry, for instance.
“I’ve often been surprised at how permeable the boundary becomes. I’m currently finishing a sonnet sequence based around the life of the mathematician William Rowan Hamilton, who was also a poet and a great friend of Wordsworth and Coleridge. That will come out in 2013, so that will buoy me up and keep me busy.”
Any suggestions as to where people might look for inspiration?“I would advise people to think small, and to think different. Don’t do the resolutions and things they’ve said they’ll do every year – which are always very big, such as, ‘I’ll walk 10km a day’ – and then by the end of January they’re back on the couch. And of course I’d be advising people who’ve always said that poetry isn’t their thing to maybe take a little quantum leap into poetry. Or into science.
“There’s some great science writing now and some fantastic television programmes. Two poems people might read are Miroslav Holub’s What else – it might frighten the readers and have people writing in about cruelty to dogs, but it’s a cracker – and Begin, by the evergreen Brendan Kennelly, which ends with the lines: