Paddy Bushe’s latest collection of poems opens with a stirring suite on music and art, seeing them not as rarefied experiences but as fundamental and nourishing encounters for both their makers and their audience. The distinction between here and elsewhere is blurred, and the playing of an Irish piper seems echoed by that of other musicians in far-flung parts where the poet’s enthusiasm for travel and hill-walking takes him.
The transition from such open, light-filled spaces to the more uncertain areas of Irish political life makes perfect sense in Bushe’s work, the poet’s freedom bringing with it a responsibility to engage. And Bushe’s defence of a local arts centre is lifted far above what might have been a parochial dispute into a passionate argument for access to the arts beyond favouritism or political interference.
On a Turning Wing contains some of Bushe’s finest sketches of the natural world, as well as touching lyrics on the birth of a grandchild and the joy and consolation of companionship and love.
for Ciairín, three months pregnant
The scissoring blades had come so close
That I almost sliced the nest and its three
Speckled blue eggs, suddenly and brutally
Exposed, balanced, on a few new shoots
Of the hedge I was cutting. And I thought
She would never return, that the nest
And eggs would shrivel away into a sad
Might have been. But less than an hour
Saw her brown tail again cocked over the nest,
Her yellow beak and accusing eye willing me
Not to betray her again, willing the wind
Not to capsize her world, willing the blades
To hold off awhile. And now a gale has come
And gone, and she is still sitting on the eggs,
And I am holding my breath day after day,
Willing her just a few more weeks of grace.