We are nearing the start of the Poetry Swindon Festival. Hilda Sheehan makes the Festival happen every year. The rest of us are acolytes, bag carriers – fans of course as Hilda is a great poet, a captivating poet.
I was in Dublin Airport a while back when Ryanair shepherded us into the stairwell while they deplaned the incoming flight. I was reading and chuckling away when someone further down the stairwell said: “That book is amusing you. What are you reading?”
I told him I was reading When my Sister went to Hollywood, poems by Hilda Sheehan. “Go on,” he said, “read one for us.”
I did and they loved it. So we interacted about the context and the imagery and all the feelings that Hilda’s poetry can release. I read several more before Ryanair took over and smiling faces boarded the plane. I could’ve been the poet-laureate of stairwells but Ryanair never got back.
Here is one of Hilda’s poems, “The Parting”.
He was an old bloke. Not a bloke
looking young for his age, or one
to hide lovers in the village
away from a kitchen wife, or make
up stories down the local pub
to a crowd of mates. He was alone;
you don’t dress in green crimplene
trousers with off-white grubby
shirt for anyone else. His parting
of coarse grey hair was the first thing
that struck me; how it split him
right down the middle: two parts,
symmetrical (half sad, half sad).
I’d a vision of him as a boy,
his mother combing him in two,
expecting he would stay like that.