To Put the Soul Right – A Poem (plus two others) by Caitlin Maude, With Thanks to Ilya Kaminsky for Sharing It

Irish poet Caitlín Maude (1941-1982)

I Long For the Rhyme of Health

I long for the rhyme of health
a small fresh syllable
a poultice of words
to put the soul right
and make the body strong.

I long for a rhyme
to put the soul right.

Caitlín Maude, trans. from the Gaelic by Pearse Hutchinson from a Facebook post by American Ukrainian poet Ilya Kaminsky

Call this my daily pandemic task, cleaning up the books and papers off the floor of my library! And call this poem by Caitlín Maude, featured above, an unexpected gift from that challenging task. I found it in a print out of poems and quotes posted by Ilya Kaminsky on Facebook before Christmas. That man is a treasure trove of great lines and quotes. Wise snippets.

In the first reading I had missed the Maude poem but in today’s circumstances it stuck out.  When I thought of the vitamins and such I am taking to boost my immune systen against Covid-19 I was forcefully reminded that perhaps an under-rated boost to my spiritual and physical immunity is the thing I love and cherish – poetry!

Oh how this wee poem sings out its heart to me! To put the soul right! To put the world right!  So apt for today. And I know as Keats knew that poetry has a lot to do with the soul! And if this poem isn’t some kind of deep soul-speak I don’t know what is.

I searched and searched for this poem online and couldn’t find it. But I found a few other poems by Caitlín Maude and somethings about her. She was a beloved singer abnd poet who wrote her poems in Gaelic and she died far too early in Ireland aged 41 from cancer. Knowing she had died from cancer I couldn’t help but wonder if there isn’t an echo of this in the poem. A prayer:

I long for the rhyme of health

a small fresh syllable
a poultice of words
to put the soul right
and make the body strong.

And how I hope for all of us in the world at the mercy of an invisible and sometimes deadly enemy that we may find the rhymes of health that keep us strong and healthy and that if friends or loved ones die at the hands of this enemy that we might find rhymes to keep our souls right. And that those who have already lost friends and loved ones may be finding their healing rhymes in whatever form they take.

The tone of Maude’s poem above is poignant, serious. Very different from the tone of this poem below that echoes for me a line from a favorite poem by Micheline Maylor former Poet Laureate of Calgary: Rabbit, you fucker! I love the irreverance of Maude’s surprising line which I share happily with my poet friends: and now he’s a poet// the poor fucker.

One Day

One day
the typist was sick

the company director
had to take the typewriter
into his office

the letters
so disgusted him
that he tore them up
and wrote a poem

shortly after that
he left his job
and after that
his house
his wife
his kids

and now he’s a poet

the poor fucker.

Caitlín Maude, trans. Michael Hartnett from A Translation of a Selection of Poems, edited by Pura López Colomé and Enrique Alda, March, 2019

Again I love the irreverant voice of this poem. This other voice of Caitlín Maude. What a range of poem ideas in the poem below as we approach National Poetry Month tomorrow! A poem to break your heart, a slut of a poem, a poem that gives bad thoughts to the bishop!

It’s Time to Write a Poem

It’s time to write a poem
a poem like the best most modern machine
every thought stored up inside it
a poem like a book
one need not read
like a dictionary
with one page
with one language
like a picture
of Paradise after Eve’s sin

a telly-poem with daily news
a poem to break your heart
your eggshell heart
your egg of putty heart
on the spot

a longtailed poem
thousands of pretty poemlets
at the edge of the picture
a love poem “with true emotion”

a shop poem 29/11
a poem for tourists
that gives them tropical diseases
and money
that gives bad thoughts to the bishop
who has to write an extra sermon for the diocese

a stylish poem
a half-stylish poem
a slut of a poem
a poem for women and children
a totally useless poem

Caitlín Maude, trans. Michael Hartnett, ibid

If anyone know more about maude or about any books of hers in english please let me know. And thank you Ilya!

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