Angel Hill

Angel Hill

by Michael Longley


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2017 PEN Pinter Prize

A remote townland in County Mayo, Carrigskeewaun has been for nearly fifty years Michael Longley’s home-from-home, his soul-landscape. Its lakes and mountains, wild animals and flowers, its moody seas and skies have for decades lit up his poetry. Now they overflow into Angel Hill, his exuberant new collection. In addition, Longley has been exploring Lochalsh in the Western Highlands where his daughter the painter Sarah Longley now lives with her family. She has opened up for him her own soul-landscape with its peculiar shapes and intense colors. In Angel Hill the imaginations of poet and painter intermingle and two exacting wildernesses productively overlap. Love poems and elegies and heart-rending reflections on the Great War and the Northern Irish Troubles add further weight to Michael Longley’s outstanding eleventh collection. Angel Hill will undoubtedly delight this great poet’s many admirers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781930630819
Publisher: Wake Forest University Press
Publication date: 09/01/2017
Pages: 72
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Michael Longley was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1939. He was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and studied Classics at Trinity College. Strongly influenced by the classics, he has alluded to his love of Homer in many of his poems. He has received numerous other awards for his work, including the American Irish Foundation Award, the T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize, the Whitbread Prize, the Hawthornden Prize, the International Griffin Poetry Prize, and the Ulster Tatler Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.

Read an Excerpt



for Fleur Adcock at 80


You gave me a gilded magnifying glass For scrutinising the hearts of wild flowers
(Which I did, kneeling in water-meadows).
In the handle a paper-knife's concealed For opening occasional letters from you.
Now that we're both shortsighted, Fleur, the lens Enlarges your dwindling classicist's script.


Dear Fleur, over the years we have signed off Ornithologically: the East Finchley robins And wrens and blue tits significant news,
My census of whooper swans and waders From the wind and rain of Carrigskeewaun.
We've been out in the fields all our lives, heads Down, looking on the ground for larks' nests.


for Kathleen Jamie

I have seen your face Among the pebbles In a Highland pool.

Seeping into grass The sea at spring tide Leaves bladderwrack there.

You will have noticed A planetary rose-hip Hanging from the sky,

A slippery plank Bridging the inlet And the last of the sea,

A mussel shell Filling up with rain As you reach the pool.


after Winifred Nicholson: a found poem

Yesterday I set out To pick a yellow bunch To place as a lamp On my table in dull,
Rainy weather. I picked Iceland poppies, marigolds,
Yellow iris; my bunch Did not tell yellow. I Added sunflowers, canary Pansies, buttercups,
Dandelions; no yellower.
I added to my butter-
Like mass, two everlasting Peas, magenta pink,
And all my yellows broke Into luminosity.
Orange and gold And primrose each Singing its note.


haiku beginning with a line of Barbara Guest

The way a cowslip bends Recalls a cart track,
Crushed sunlight at my feet.


Let us follow Gwen John's Night-walk down the lanes Picking colourless flowers,
Our nosegay of shadows,

So that, come the morning,
We wake to the surprise Of light-painted flowers,
A field in a toothglass.


for Edna O'Brien

Who call yourself 'the other Edna',
Come visit me at Carrigskeewaun And help me count the barnacle geese And whooper swans. Take my hand,
Balance on slippery stepping-stones Across the channel at Thallabaun,
Walk with me along the yellow strand Looking out for dolphins in Clew Bay
(A bitch otter may lope from the waves,
Her whiskers glittering with sea water),
Over the stile in your green wellies Follow me to the helleborines At Dooaghtry. Later at Corragaun We'll make a moth-trap for tiger moths And cinnabars and wait in darkness For inspiring wings. I imagine For you, dear Edna, 'the other Edna',
This inglenook in my landscape.


I have got to know the fawn's Salt-marsh skeleton, abstract Vertebrae and white ribs In a puddle jellyfish fill At spring tide, ghost-circles Close to the sea asters'
Purple golden-hearted Scruffy loveliness.


Amelia is making up her own tunes By first light, a shrew and field-mouse Aubade, a cradle-song for nestlings That escape the green woodpecker,
Her improvisations a mist-net That entangles John Campbell's ghost Who lived here years ago and fed The pine martens and walked depressed Down the burnside boreen in his socks To Lochalsh and drowned himself there,
Her notes lamentation and welcome For punctual pine martens scratching The kitchen window for bread and jam.


You have buried me up to my shins In autumn leaves. I am taking root.
My arms are turning into branches.
My head fills with chestnuts and acorns.


We have been travelling across Scotland All day, from one daughter to another:
After Achnashellach comes Achnasheen,
Sheep grazing among molehills, seaweedy Breakwaters, two stags watching us pass,
A rainbow mirrored where a heron stands.


Your subject matter is sheep in a field Foraging for grass among the rushes.
Can they hear you opening the wattle byre?
They run towards you (one is black) as you Carry an armful of hay across the snow.


Hoping for otter-encounters I walk without grandchildren Into the Lochalsh silence,
The puddle-lit salt-marsh,
But curlews give me away And I concentrate instead On the low sun as it frays Through a tree-creeper's useful Fan-tail (unlike the nuthatch It can climb only upwards In spirals, bark-mouse, crevice-
Snoozer), before I turn to face My elongated shadow With its walking stick, and The cottage where grandchildren Draw in closer to the stove On the shortest day, above them Bracken-rusty Angel Hill.


I took the ferry to Inishbofin When corncrakes were calling in couplets And bouncing their voices off drystone walls.
I became an insomniac islander.

I never saw one, but imagine them Skulking among nettles, in holes and chinks,
Their ratchety presence going quiet As I approach, then disappearing.


From their precarious nest-cup The swallows whitewash our turf-stack.
When we set fire to their excrement They will be crossing the Sahara.



Have the donkeys abandoned Connemara And hobbled away on painful slippers?
We used to converse with their heavy heads On the way to Leenane, the Famine Road.
Rosemary Garvey, blind and in her eighties,
Cared for two donkeys at Dadreen, Harriet And Josie, patient in their bumpy field.
She had memorised the path and brought them Carrots with the tops on, wrinkled apples.


Homer compares Ajax to a donkey Hoodwinking inexperienced farm-hands And — obstinate, immune to wallopings —
Kicking up his heels and gobbling barley While feebly they lambast his back and fail To budge him till he's had his bellyful.


Of all young animals the loveliest,
Rosemary said, especially their woolly ears.
Her coffin has become a jennet's creel.


for Bob Kennedy

Thank you for the trilobite,
Its four hundred million years
(Approximately) parcelled With tissue paper and two Elastic bands, carefully.
Set free by your hammer blow From the muddy blackness Of deep Ordovician seas,
It finds its way in sunlight To Carrigskeewaun, eyeless At the fireside among bleached Bones and raven feathers.


My friend the ornithologist Fits barnacle geese with trackers
(Powered by the sun) fastening them Between the wings with old-fashioned Knicker-elastic that ties goose To satellite — and to memories Of handstands in the playground — June,
Helen, Mina (in spectacles) — skirts Tucked into bulging bloomers —
For this Greenland odyssey Until, alarmed by ash and steam From Eyjafjallajökull,
Way up in the sky they hesitate.
From what Hebridean island Do they scrutinise the plume,
Barnacle geese with girls' names,
Girls who kick up their sunny heels?



Because they cannot make their mud And spittle nest adhere, he Nails a board to the porch wall And lives beside the swallows' home.

He has placed on the canopy Above the stove a barn owl That supervises from its case Our shrew and field-mouse suppers.

From the wardrobe barnacle geese Look down on his bed, two birds.
There's room enough in the glass case For swallows to swoop and feed.


He has studied barnacle geese For fifty years, netting and ringing,
Tracking in his imagination Their return to Greenland's cliff face.

He stays with them on Inishkea Stormbound, counting and re-counting The generations, listening For their messages on the wind.

This morning at Carrigskeewaun He identifies a chiffchaff In flight and, no more than a peep,
A sandpiper in marram grass.

At the channel I take his arm.
I don't want him to walk away.
I'll follow him to the Saltees.
We'll ring all the cormorants there.


Remembering Dorothy Molloy I returned to the holly bush,
My symbol for her genius,
And discovered honeysuckle Decorating the prickly leaves.
I gazed at the convolutions And thought about her poetry,
But then the blueness of harebells Was all I wanted to behold —
Until a fox's white tail-tip Flashed from among the irises And I started to worry so About the mallard's deep nest-well,
As Dorothy Molloy would worry.



Jeffrey Morgan has painted me again.
I left that waistcoat somewhere years ago But I seem to be wearing it today.
The wren has settled on my hand at last —
Shh! — I hold sea pinks in the other hand.

The climate is changing behind my eyes
(A rainbow at my shoulder suggests this).
The lost burial mound has been restored.
Jeffrey Morgan represents himself Standing out of sight in the same weather.


I am holding as well as sea pinks
(That wag on the draughty otters' rock And symbolise in the artist's mind Michael Viney counting porpoises At Allaran Point) another flower That turned up near the Cliffs of Moher Interspersed with sea pinks, bloody Cranesbill, Raymond Piper's emblem
(Though he might have preferred an orchid).


Colin Middleton led two young painters
(Flanagan and Blackshaw) up the mountain And made them stand on Napoleon's Nose,
Backs to the drop, heads between their legs Taking in the city upside down, then Straighten up — eyeball-bursting dizziness,
Different patterns of shipyard and back street.
Colin Middleton, a damask designer,
Had begun with graph-paper, little squares.


In the Falls Road's Gerard Dillon Gallery Jeffrey Morgan's passion of fifty years Adorns the long wall, forty portraits,
The love of his life, Patricia Craig.

Considering A Shed in Blackheath Village
I launch these words in that paper boat,
Inconsequential, yet emblematic Like the kites, sky-squiggles in another.

A beauty dressed in polka dots or stripes,
Arms folded, feathers in her hat, seated In Night and Day, she gazes into our eyes Out of the privacy of her single room.

On the far side of the Falls Road Conflict Resolution Services and Suicide Awareness & Support Group, and here One of the loveliest rooms in the world.


Mullan's in Royal Avenue, Erskine Mayne's Close to the City Hall, dusty corridors,
Aisles of books, elbow room and no more,
Our first pamphlets jostling for attention,

Then first slim volumes (if nobody's looking I'll move mine to the front. Nobody's looking).
Death of a Naturalist, Late but in Earnest,
Night-Crossing, No Continuing City

The terrible shock of our names and titles.
Each wee bookshop has closed, a lost cathedral With its stained-glass window that depicts A young poet opening his book of poems.


That time I shared a lobster with Heaney
(Boston? New York?) he took the bigger claw.
At this stove I cooked beans on toast for him And, later, for young Muldoon, scrambled eggs
(Such a serious dim sum connoisseur).
The poets of my youth gather round the hob.
Mahon was unimpressed by consommé:
'Proper soup has leeks and barley in it.'


I flourish between pleasure and pain.
Lovers make love during my season.
One of my names says breezy branches,
Another a young man's downy chin.
The third remains a thorny problem.
Farmers stamp on my feet for fodder.
Now I'm a chimney sweep, now a broom.


The mosquito steals my blood And leaves behind its poison.
The ingenious spider Wraps the mosquito in silk.
The window-fluttering wren Has its eye on the spider.
I make my contribution To wren-song, and then I scratch.


That image from the boar hunt Of how the sun picks out Each ploughland furrow Reminds me of lazybeds So brought to life in Mayo By evening sun that two Connemara ponies appear.
Odysseus gives them names.
I comb their shaggy manes.


I dream I am swimming With a horse, tail and mane Seaweedy, fetlocks Blossoming in the depths.


My eyeball's frozen. I lie At the bottom of a well.
Leaves decorate the ice.

Leaning on my eyelid Simon Rankin breaks the surface And reaches into my mind.

He brings implements with him,
Curious geometry,
Blades that keep fading away.

He restores the world's colours.
He has discovered them In my own dark kaleidoscope.


A starring role without any words,
The Virgin Mary wearing specs,
Maisie, little flat-chested mother In your blue brushed-cotton robe,

The antique spongeware bowl you hold With its abstract leafy pattern
(A Scottish fir tree) is for washing The imaginary baby in.

In the darkness after the play You watch December's meteors
(The Geminids) over Angel Hill Coincide with the northern lights,

And carry home the spongeware bowl Very carefully, still unbroken After birth-pangs and stage-fright and Large enough to hold the whole world.


When poets compared the golden bough To mistletoe, had they heard about the thrush That eats the fruit and (the seeds passing through Undigested) wipes a sticky bum in the tree-tops And plants the mistletoe for next Christmas —
Shit on the branches, and then pale berries?


Not only has the hazel you gave me Grown as high as our bedroom window,
It now canopies a helleborine,
A wild orchid as unexpected as The pale yellow February catkins.


We walk to the waterfall And firefly memories On the longest day, past Elvira's weedy terrace And the dilapidated mill,
Through brambles and goosegrass Tangles, adder-alert, you
(Who as a child, you say,
Arranged in an egg cup Buttercups and daisies)
Too late for orchids now Picking angelica, cow Parsley, scabious, wild pea,
While I, too soon for sloes Or elderberries, gather Winter kindling, and you Offer me your nosegay and Egg cup like a chalice.



It is the nightingale's Mugello melody Above the parasol That brings us together,
Old friends and new, to dine On aubergines — perfect Circles — and zucchini,
Heidi's speciality.
A nervy doe steps out From the wood, then her fawn.


Lorenzo renovates His antique radios,
Tightening valves and fine-
Tuning signals world-wide From those who have dreamed here Beneath the elbow-shaped Roof-beams, honeymooners,
Weary farm-labourers,
The likes of me fiddling With childhood's crystal set.


We are too late, my love,
For the lizard orchids Already intertwined In Silvano's hay-bales.
But then you discover Survivors, harvest's soul,
Four under a hornbeam,
Other orchids as well Decorating the verge,
Pyramids, labia-pink.


Sunlight through chestnut leaves Conjures at the waterfall That jar of chestnut honey On the kitchen table And the griddle full of holes For roasting chestnuts — wet Towels around hands and shins —
Ember constellations Beside the waterfall,
The smoky chestnut pan.


In the bedroom above the Post Office
(Now demolished) on the Lisburn Road I wrote my first poem that was any good,
'Epithalamion', rhyme-words dancing Down the page ahead of the argument,
And the closing image of king and queen Inspired by you and me in Nassau Street Waiting for Kennedy's loud cavalcade —
Split seconds — Kennedy, de Valera.
I phoned you and recited my new poem.
Then I dined with my mother who had baked Cod in tomatoes, onions and breadcrumbs.
Was that the night I sat up late to hear Clay beating Liston on the radio?


Selenopeltis is even older than
Cnemidopyge, writes Bob Kennedy Who excavated it from a dingle Owned by White Witches (lucky spells)
In the tiny Shropshire hamlet of Hope After four hundred million summers.
He likes to think of it as feminine,
A golden-wedding gift for you (and me),
Its spines a protection as it swims In the oceans surrounding Gondwana.


You have walked with me again and again Up the stony path to Carrigskeewaun And paused among the fairy rings to pick Mushrooms for breakfast and for poetry.

You have pointed out, like a snail's shell Or a curlew feather or mermaid's purse,
The right word, silences and syllables Audible at the water's windy edge.

We have tracked otter prints to Allaran And waited for hours on our chilly throne,
For fifty years, man and wife, voices low,
Counting oystercatchers and sanderlings.


Excerpted from "Angel Hill"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Michael Longley.
Excerpted by permission of Wake Forest University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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