Turn Stones into Altars and Everything Is Going to Be All Right – The Wisdom of Irish Poets, Pádraig Ó Tuama and Derek Mahon

Irish poet, community leader and theologian, Pádraig Ó Tuama

So let us pick up the stones over which we stumble, friends, and build altars. Let us listen to the sound of breath in our bodies. let us listen to the sounds of our own voices, of our own names, of our own fears. Let us name the harsh light and soft darkness that surround us. Let’s claw ourselves out of the graves we’ve dug, let’s lick the earth from our fingers. Let us look up, and out, and around. the world is big, and wide, and wild and wonderful and wicked, and our lives are murky, magnificent, malleable and full of meaning. Oremus. Let us pray.

Pádraig Ó Tuama from Daily Prayers with the Corrymeela Community, Church House Publishing, 2017

What a meditation to close out 2020 from the poet, curator of Poetry Unbound podcast and theologian, Pádraig Ó Tuama! To make altars of the trials and tribulations that trip us up! To listen to ourselves starting with our breath! To name our fears! And then his huge call out for us to claw ourselves out of the graves we’ve dug! And this: let’s lick the earth from our fingers! And to remember in spite of a wicked world it is wide and wonderful and we are murky, magnificent, malleable and full of meaning. Yes and yes and yes! Thank you Padraig for being such a light during a murky year!

Padraig who lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is becoming one of the more prominent spiritual leaders and poetry supporters in the English speaking world. He is currently the poet-in-residence for The Church of Heavenly Rest in New York where he has been leading remarkable seminars and workshops and he is the voice and commentator for the On Being’s poetry podcast Poetry Unbound! He was also a featured panelist with Marie Howe during the 2020 Collective Trauma Summit in October that drew more than 80,000 participants.

What ever it is we pray or don’t I am so grabbed by Padraig’s invocation and call out. And I hope it grabs you too! Let us celebrate our humanity and not only look for meaning in 2021 but be a source of constructive and life-giving meaning in the lives of others especially through our writing. especially through our poetry!

Irish poet Derek Mahon R.I.P. (1941-2020)

And I want to end the New year’s Eve shout-out with a well-known poem by the great Irish poet Derek Mahon who died this year! A praise poem in spite of everything and also a wonderful reference to the alchemy of poetry: “The poems come from the hand unbidden/ and the secret source is a watchful heart.” I also take such comfort from the title! Yes, he says, there will dying, but no need to go into that! “Everything is going to be all right!” My hope and prayer for 2021! Blessings to you all!

Everything Is Going to Be All Right

How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.

Derek Mahon from Collected Poems – Derek Mahon, Gallery Books, 2000


  1. Allan Briesmaster
    Posted December 31, 2020 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Happy New Year, Richard, and thank you for this timely post. Blessings to you, with appreciation for all you do.

  2. Richard Osler
    Posted January 1, 2021 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Dear Allan: So chuffed to hear from you this way! It encourages me to keep on. Less posts this year. About 40 or so instead of up to 60! Lots else going on but these posts to buoy me and comments like yours buoy me even more. Blessing to you in 2021! ANd thank you for all you do!

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