Terry Gifford’s eighth poetry collection is A Feast of Fools (Cinnamon Press 2018) and he is author/editor of seven books on Ted Hughes. He is Visiting Research Fellow in Environmental Humanities at Bath Spa University, Profesor Honorifico at the University of Alicante and Chair of the Ted Hughes Society. In recent years he has been a regular pilgrim on MacDara’s Day to Macdara’s Island as a guest at Doonreagan, Cashel, where Ted Hughes once lived, hoping to settle close to the poet Richard Murphy.


MacDara’s Day 2019

Fuchsias fulminated in the hedgerows,
Heli Hansen yellow ebbed in the tide,
and the bay wrinkled its reflection
of fast-scudded ever-changing sky.

The Bens were receding behind us
as we found ourselves in a shoal of craft
all pointing towards the island like
multi-coloured mackerel; black ribs,

green curraghs, launches and fishing boats,
even a car ferry full of standing souls
seeking something in the strong sun
from the gravitas of island granite

in the form of MacDara’s offertory,
its steep roof, simple room, small windows
the very challenge of austerity
above the pincers of a white beach

where English voices crossed a cloth
spread with a simple beach picnic
of red lobsters, salad and champagne
whilst above the strimmed leaves of flags

white robed priests spoke a mass
in Irish and red-faced men with
huge hands like claws stood in line
to take the wafer and the wine.


Before the billowing breath of God leans
the Truelight, her bloody sails strong in their healing
of the landsmen, their great darkness of getting
and spending gone before the lit word
upon the waters of the deep, cresting silver.
The straining on tiller and tack, as on rope
and oar like their ancestors who worked this sea,
the balance of wood cutting wave is fine-tuned
in the old language of urgency and finesse,
of silent feuding and of lonely grieving,
of the communal recognition of the Truelight,
deep keeled and hard tacked from Crompán Bay:
A glory full of grace and truth.