Four Cormorants, a poem by Doireann Ní Ghríofa on the centenary of women’s suffrage
Special poetry reading in Seanad Éireann hosted by Olivia O’Leary to mark anniversary
Doireann Ní Ghríofa in Trinity College Dublin after winning the Rooney Prize. Photograph: Aidan Crawley
On Heuston Bridge, our tram pauses,
dawdling us a moment over those slow waters.
Everybody seeks their screens.
Only the stranger’s baby by my knee turns
and gurgles milkily; her smile leads me to see
a cormorant landing on the quay. Glossy, sleek
as a black brolly blustered up by some sudden gust,
she will not nod to us, but from her perch,
she extends webbed feet, snapping her beak
as if to speak. We can’t hear her or her three sisters,
shades of those who once sauntered here,
day-dreaming of our sunlit futures.
The tram jolts on. The baby burble-shrieks.
No-one sees the cormorants but her and me.
Beyond the balustrade, the Liffey – clouded,
gaudy – advances inaudibly.
Doireann Ní Ghríofa
This Culture Night, Poetry Ireland and the National Museum of Ireland celebrate 100 years of women’s suffrage with Gold Air and the Blue, a very special poetry reading at Seanad Éireann, presented in collaboration with the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Hosted by broadcaster and journalist Olivia O’Leary, the event features readings from Doireann Ní Ghríofa, Moya Cannon and Martina Evans, undoubtedly three of Ireland’s finest poets.
Gold Air and the Blue, the title of this event, is a line from Women’s Rights, a poem by the poet, dramatist and committed suffragist Eva Gore-Booth (1870-1926). The event will include a reading of Gore-Booth’s poem alongside a new poem by Doireann Ní Ghríofa, specially commissioned for the occasion.
Visitors to Seanad Éireann on Culture Night will also be able to view two small coloured pastels by WB Yeats which will be on long-term loan to Poetry Ireland from the Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Foundation. This is part of a recent generous grant to Poetry Ireland from the Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Fund of the Sidney E Frank Foundation for their Poetry Ireland Centre capital project and the paintings will eventually hang in the new centre at 11 Parnell Square once it is fully renovated. The display of the paintings on Culture Night has been made possible by the generosity of the Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Foundation with the support of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Houses of the Oireachtas.
The poetry reading forms part of a landmark programme of events produced by the National Museum of Ireland and the Houses of the Oireachtas which runs across 2018 to mark the centenary of suffrage. In May, Senator Ivana Bacik hosted a panel discussion on the topics of suffrage and the evolving role of museums in contemporary society. This summer, a public exhibition was opened in Leinster House, Votes for Women: Suffrage and Citizenship. In November, there will be a performance event to celebrate the legacy of women composers in Ireland.
Welcoming the initiative, Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann, Denis O’Donovan, said today, “As a committed suffragist, Eva Gore Booth played a key role in the struggle for women’s rights. It is fitting that her poetry should be recited in the Seanad Chamber during this year in which the Houses of the Oireachtas - under the banner, Vótáil100 - has been celebrating women winning the right to vote. W.B Yeats was himself a Member of the first Seanad and the fact that two of his paintings will also be on display in the Seanad on Culture Night will be a creative representation of the lasting legacy he left on Irish politics and culture.”
Director of Poetry Ireland, Maureen Kennelly, said: “This event offers an opportunity to reflect on the extraordinarily rich heritage of writing by women poets in Ireland, through the voices of three of our finest contemporary poets.”
Lynn Scarff, Director of the National Museum, added, “Throughout 2018, the National Museum is marking the centenary of women’s suffrage. We are delighted to partner with Poetry Ireland and the Houses of the Oireachtas on this special event which will literally give voice to the Irish women of both 1918 and 2018.”
Poets Moya Cannon, Martina Evans and Julie Morrissy will also read their work in Seanad Éireann throughout the evening on Culture Night, as part of the Houses of the Oireachtas escorted tours to view the chambers of Dáil and Seanad Éireann and visit an exhibition on Women’s Suffrage under the banner of Vótáil 100.
For further information on this event, visit museum.ie or poetryireland.ie