Poem introduction

My father died young, at 52, at a football match in Cork. I remember calculating the day I'd lived longer than him, and the complicated feelings that set up. Outliving meaning 'living longer' but also somehow 'surpassing,' like outplaying or outdoing, which adds to the sadness. "Mad Arnaut" at the end is the twelfth century Provençal poet, Arnaut Daniel, Dante and T.S. Eliot's 'miglior fabbro'. He wrote mostly love poems, but one great 'adynata' poem, the world upside-down, where you have rabbits hunting men, and the like.

The Day I Outlived My Father

Yet no-one sent me flowers, or even
Asked me out for a drink. If anything
It makes it worse, your early death, that
Having now at last outlived you, I too
Have broken ranks, lacking maybe
The imagination to follow you
In investigating that other, older world.

So I am in new territory from here on:
Must blaze my own trail, read alone
The hooftracks in the summer-powdered dust
And set a good face to the future:
At liberty at last like mad Arnaut
To cultivate the wind, to hunt the bull
On hare-back, to swim against the tide.


from Outliving (Chatto & Windus 2003), © Bernard O’Donoghue 2003, used by permission of the author.

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1The Iron Age Boat at Caumatruish

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2Ter Conatus

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3Westering Home

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4The Day I Outlived My Father

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5O'Reagan The Amateur Anatomist

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6In Millstreet Hospital

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7Alzheimer Fruit

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8A Candle for Dolly Duggan

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9A Nun Takes the Veil

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10Nel Mezzo del Cammin

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11Vanellus Vanellus

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12Munster Final

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13The Nuthatch

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14The State of the Nation

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15Metamorphosis

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16Christmas

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17The Fool in the Graveyard

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18Going Without Saying

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19Aine

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20Vanishing Points

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21History

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22The Definition of Love

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23The Faultline

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24Emigration

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25The Quiet Man

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26Tinkers

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27The Years Midnight

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28The Weakness

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29The Uvular 'r'

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30Crumpsall

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31Bona-Fide Travellers

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32The Cannon

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33Pencil It In

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34Farmers Cross

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35Nechtan

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36Two Fiddlers at Scullys

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37No More Bother to Him

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Books by Bernard O'Donoghue