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Michèle Vassal

Updated: Sat, 24 Oct 2009 08:59 am

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My first language is French but because of a long love affair with Ireland, I prefer writing in English. My first collection, SANDGAMES (Salmon publishing Ireland ) is now sold out I believe. The second one, EARTHBOUND is also to be published by Salmon in 2010. Winning the Listowel's writers week (with my collection) and being short listed for the Tribune/Hennessy awards certainly galvanized me into writing and I have since, been published extensively in Ireland and France. Some of my short stories in both French and English, have been shortlisted by La Fureur du Noir and Fish crime writing. I have done readings in Ireland and France. I say reading because performance isn't something I feel very confident with. Recently in association with Brendan Ring (one of the top Irish pipers and harpers) we have been experimenting weaving poems with Irish music - uilleann pipes, bodhran and clairseach (early Irish harp). The audio clip "love in Corca Dhuibhne" is an example of this. I have two novels on which I should be working but my cats make it very difficult as they find nothing more comfortable to sleep on than my keyboard.


BECAUSE HE WAS MY ONLY SON I TOLD HIM - I gave you the blood of the heroes of Ulster redder than the heather on the Mount of Sorrows and I gave you the warring spirit of the Gallowglasses and their flaxen hair bleached by northern tides and at night when he slept I whispered in his ear - see the yarrow and the meadowsweet they’re yours to make a fragrant bed see the long horned cattle, white as milk they’re yours for the finding of a wife see the harp of willow and silver strings it is yours for the casting of spells see the harness and the foaming steed see the knave see the mail see the spear the skieve and the bow see the skene the axe and the claymor they’re yours for all your victories they’re yours for all my sorrows because he was my only son I didn’t tell him - I gave you Suibhne’s eyes that see only darkness in the crystal of the Swillly’s waters but are blind to the quicksilver leap of the salmon and I gave you Suibhne’s crazed mind more twisted than the blackthorn on the Hill of the Hag sadder than a mother mourning the death of her only child and I gave you Suibhne’s mouth that speaks only foolishness and is forever keening with hungry wolves and at night when he sleeps I whisper in his ear son of Ulster son of Suibhne son of mine see the yarrow in your flaxen hair see the hounds see the crow see the furrow on my brow they’re yours for all your victories they’re yours for all my sorrows LOVE IN CORCA DHUIBHNE That day, I woke up to an anise sky and your body was curled against mine like bracken fonds or newborn leaves in spring, soft and young in the crook of my belly. Through the sash window morning surged forward with its slate-blue sky scratched by seagulls with its strident scattering of houses yellows pinks and greens somersaulting down to the harbour. Slay Head the road... O the road... sometimes a stream more times just wishful thinking but always the dancer the acrobat dizzily leaning towards the Ocean as if wanting to slide to tumble down down down.....down down to rocks below down to where the waves foamed the souls of Silkies in the distance the Skellig's canines sharpened by time and the feet of monks snarled at an obsidian sky and my heart did back flips Ventry the memory of the sand a strand grained with ossicles of armies and wails of keening women Dunbeg a South-Westernly gale salted our kiss Kilmalkedar a fretwork of stone walls and fuchsias hemming in green saturated fields Dun an Oir you said 'Trust me I have an innate sense of direction when it comes to the West.' and we got lost for a lifetime between a brooding earth and a stone sky Glenn na-n-Gealt we looked in springs for the effervescence of watercress to cure our madness but only found in glaucous ponds a froth of clouds shifting on purple hills and so the madness remains. WE WOULD BE We would be spirits forever unravelling like the sands of night under the wing of a Tiger Moth like an August afternoon unfurls in curls of distorted light bleached white as bones of cuttlefish. We would be a frost in May biting black the budding hazel and the lark’s last sigh on the pale oyster of a kestrel’s underbelly and we would be the smoke lingering from the landfill to the thicket on a seagull’s back and the opium particles priming purple asymmetric lips for a bitter kiss. We would be the rejoicing of the failed prophet on finding on his tongue the subtle almond of cyanide peach kernel echoes in the green milk of an ultimate absinthe. We would be spirits had you only waited a while. All poems are copyright of the originating author. Permission must be obtained before using or performing others' poems.

All poems are copyright of the originating author. Permission must be obtained before using or performing others' poems.

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Steve Smith

Wed 26th Aug 2009 16:46

Thank an invented God for that, as I really like your style.
As far as I remember, Joyce thought himself too clever to rhyme, preferring assonance. Beckett didn't rhyme a lot...reading his poems are a penance for admiring 'Waiting for Godot'.
Steve Smith

Steve Smith

Mon 24th Aug 2009 16:04

Dear Michele,
I posed the question on Camus as a humorous allusion to which the importance of rhyme would maybe have been darkly appraised...I did not mean to offend..I speak fluent French and am a lover of French Literature and film ..I beg your pardon if my attempt at humour was maladroit. I appreciate your work and am amazed at your ear for tune in the English language.Pardonnez moi.
Steve Smith

Steve Smith

Mon 24th Aug 2009 09:26

Dear Michele,
Thank you for your comments on my work...I read 'Love in Corca Dhuibhne' and was moved by it -well-crafted too. As a french poetess , could you answer the question "if Camus had written poetry, would it have rhymed?"
Steve Smith

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Cate Greenlees

Fri 21st Aug 2009 11:29

Absolutely beautiful haunting work Michele. It interweaves so well with the Gaelic music which I love. I remember visiting Ireland many years ago in a folk band on tour, and we never paid for a drink all the time we were there!!..... the Irish so love their music and your poetry has the lilt and flow which this music accompanies so well. just love it.
Cate xx

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David Franks

Fri 21st Aug 2009 10:10

Hi Michele: I'd like to hear you READ your work, and the addition of pipes and harp would be a treat.
From David - poet and folkie

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Chris Dawson

Sun 16th Aug 2009 07:49

Hi Michelle,
Thanks for reading and commenting on Shhh - glad you liked it.
I do like 'We would be' - it's rather mournful. Look forward to reading more of your work.

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Dave Bradley

Tue 11th Aug 2009 13:23

Michèle, welcome. These are wonderful - they evoke different worlds so vividly and, as Steve says, with such richness. More, please!

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Graham Sherwood

Mon 10th Aug 2009 21:06

Michel, I think the sense of movement that you manage to sew into your work is a treasure worth keeping. Welcome, Graham.

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Dave Morgan

Mon 10th Aug 2009 18:21

Michel, thanks for the prescription, i'll be taking it twice a day from hereonin (which looks a bit too much like heroin for my liking and talking of liking, the Hennessy prize sounds well worth competing for, I hope it was a magnum, sorry that's a big ice-cream..well you know what I mean) Cheers


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