Tom Duddy was born near Shrule Co. Mayo in 1950, and died in Galway in 2012. He worked for over 30 years in the Department of Philosophy at NUI, Galway, where he authored A History of Irish Thought in 2002.
In 2006 a chapbook of his poems, The Small Hours, was published by HappenStance Press. His first full collection, The Hiding Place, published in 2011 by Arlen House, was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize and the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize.
A posthumous collection, The Years, was launched by HappenStance Press in March 2014. Here are two unpublished poems written by him, submitted to The Galway Review by his daughter Clare Duddy.
The Painting Class
The affable man knows what we want
as he glances with every teasing word
over the rims of his spectacles.
His features are set at a smile, his eyes
at a twinkle, though perhaps a shadow
visits each time he turns his back to us
to draw attention to all the soft greys
of the clouds or to find the horizon line
in the finished painting he has brought
for us to copy. Visual decisions
already made, he knows that two hours
is enough time for us to get a semblance
of it down on our own piece of canvas,
even with a coffee-break at eight or so.
In trepidation we dip and dab and mix
and swirl and tentatively apply, until,
to our childlike surprise, a small cottage
boasting a very yellow thatch appears
at the very edge of a deep blue lake,
then two red ochre cows lying at ease
on a flat-green, lawny expanse of meadow
in the foreground.
Our beginners’ classes
on Cezanne, Surrealism and the Russians
come to nothing as we, at ten to nine, complete
the picture by chucking in swathes of clovers
unknown to bee or botany, plus some 3s
at an angle – the distant essential birds
that take the bare look off the heavens.
The Canon always strode cheerfully
down the presbytery avenue and out
through the silver gates, briskly led
by two or three of his cocker spaniels.
He would sing out to us children
on our way to the school – ah, yes,
ha, ha, ha – tweaking a nose here
or an ear there (always a painful thing,
despite his high good humour). Then
he would continue, laughing as he went –
ah, yes, ha, ha, ha – on into the town
to collect his morning papers, while we
children dropped in to the church to pray
that we would not be slapped hard that day.