‘It predates the pyramids of Egypt and is considerably older than Newgrange or Stonehenge and to this day it is used for pagan worship and all sorts of people go there to get closer to nature.’ (John Keane, ‘Hidden Kilkenny’) We are not pagans, we are poets, and we have come to Knockroe Passage Tomb in the south-west of our county to read poetry and to get closer, not so much to nature, but to our past, our ancient DNA as etched on the megalithic slabs of Knockroe Passage Tomb. Megalithic! Great word that. Comes from the Greek ‘mega’ meaning large or great (kids know that even though they don’t know Greek!) and ‘lithos’ meaning stone. We, three poets, and an appreciative ‘audience’ of ten travelled in a mini-bus to see the great stones of Knockroe Tomb as part of the AKA (Alternative Kilkenny Arts) ‘Poetry in Motion’ initiative combining poetry with a visit to some of Kilkenny’s ancient monuments and historic sites. The concept (brain-child of Malcom Noonan and Nuala Roche) is simple – poets and punters travel by bus to the various historic locations where each poet reads a poem, or two, or more, if requested.
Our schedule on the tour included Knockroe Passage Tomb, Kilree High Cross and Kells Priory. We didn’t make it to Kilree High Cross because we dallied too long in Fennelly’s Café in Callan, a designated port of call on the tour, for some tea and coffee, served in a delightful, eclectic array of cups, accompanied by cream buns, brownies and lemon tarts to die for. It was here that Nora Brennan, kick-started the inaugural ‘Poetry in Motion’ tour as she read ‘Dandelion’ from her recent publication: ‘The Greening of Stubble Ground’. Nora, the poet, would later become Nora, the SatNav as she guided us to Knockroe; and, in fairness, you’d need a SatNav to get there. No wonder John (Seán to some) Keane called his book ‘Hidden Kilkenny’. Back in Fennelly’s, yours truly read ‘Lunch with My Sons’ and a little poem called ‘Lidl Poem’ while Alice Bennet, from KCAT, read a specially composed poem about Fennelly’s Café. And Fennelly’s deserves a poem, an epic even; formerly a pub cum undertakers, Etaoin Holahan & Co have transformed the premises (without altering the original) into something special and unique (there’s a small theatre cum cinema out the back!) My first time there, I loved the moody, sepia-like interior with its old Brasso tins juxtaposed beside modern art. A ‘historic’ monument in itself!
And the old pagan sun smiled benignly on us as we arrived at Knockroe where there were more readings by yours truly, Nuala Roche and Nora Brennan who read her poem, ‘Winter Solstice’ about Knockroe Passage Tomb. Finally, our last port of call - Kells Priory where I got lost! Or rather I lost the group (and it can easily happen among the ‘Seven Castles’) In short, I was taken short (too much tea in Fennelly’s!) and had to slip away. Back from ‘away’, the group had vanished though I eventually found them. And so I ended up reciting poetry, and piddling, in Kells Priory on the ‘Poetry in Motion’ tour. May the God of all things cultural, historical & archaeological forgive me. Homeward bound, the ‘craic’ was mighty in the back of the bus (it always was) where one Cathal McFarlane, Arthur Drohan, Nuala Roche and myself discussed post, post-modern poetry, the demise of the sonnet and the rise of the emoji. Get a grip. We had a right good natter about the need for a comprehensive archival library in Kilkenny to preserve the precious memories: documents, posters, photographs, films etc. that are out there, not just of major events but ordinary, everyday occurrences also before they vanish from sight. The chat was much enhanced, I should add, by Mr. Drohan’s quick wit and Mr. McFarlane’s jokes. And so ended this inaugural ‘Poetry in Motion’ tour which was thoroughly enjoyable, memorable and, dare I say, MEGA!