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Revisiting Yeats

I am re-reading Richard Ellman's fine biography of W. B. Yeats. Unlike so many biographies, even by Ellmann (see Joyce and Wilde), this one is fairly short. But even so, I can conclude that Yeats was a very curious man (in the many senses of the word), and probably my favorite poet. My favorite poem of his likely changes each time I read him. But here is today's:


That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees,
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.



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LandSea Divide

I can be drawn as an inkblacked vein on a map

I can be a healed scar where land once bled

I can be a seawashedoasiswhere a universe of imagination dwells.

I can be a space of sorrow where the ocean’s solemn sighs prevail. 

I can hold countless grains of sand, an earthly echo of countless celestial stars

I can convey feelings of wonder, or despair

I can be a purepoint of pilgrimage where exuberance of youth can be found

I can speak to your inner soul

I can take your breath away

I can be the divide whereshadows of history play on by the water’s edge.

I can be a whispered promise in the lightof dawn

I can be a refuge for those fortunate to escape life’s relentless fray

I can be the fracture in time’s fragile spectrum

I can be the end of somethinga start of everything

I can receiveyour footprint in my softness for a spell,yet all must fade away

I can be a haven of peace, harmony, heaven

I can be hell, an inferno of war, discord 

I can be a sanctuary from life’s bitter sword

I can be a pulsing border where dreams and nightmares collide 

Salt waters, the feet of many, ideas have crossed over me

I can be barren, and forbidding

I can be bursting with vibrant liferhythm, and welcoming

I can be a windswept landmark to the continuance of being

I can vanish in an instant beneath the fury of apocalyptic storms

I can be rebornfrom seagouged rocks,almighty forces punishing my imperfections

I can be an endless smoothness of strand stretching back to childhood

I can be a citadel with a lighthouse and those entrusted to watch over us nearby

I can recall thunderous war cries of Romans, Vikings, Saxons and Normans striding through

I can be a resting place for shipwrecks, poor sods drowned and even buried treasure

like to weave an aura of hope around all those seeking solace 

I can be open to elemental dramas,a theatre of waves and living things

I can be witness tochippedaway secrets of the past

I have remained a sacred narrow strip fusingfluid motion of the ocean withhardfixed energy of earthly land

What am I?

I am the coast.


A poem by Nicholas Mackey

London, U.K.

1.42pm, Tuesday 26th September 2023

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1 Comment

Upwards And Onwards

Hello Gr8worders/Green Roomers

Over the past 2-3 years, I've been labouring away on a book. It's been a struggle. At first it was just a mass of scribbles in a notebook following a memorable trip to south-east Turkey - now officially designated as Türkiye. Then during Covid Times (remember that?) the thought took hold that perhaps, just perhaps there was a book to be had from the 50 pages of handwritten notes I had taken while travelling through a region once known as Northern Mesopotamia. I had also taken nearly 6,000 photos when visiting places such as Antakya (Antioch), Gaziantep, Urfa, Diyarbakir, Dara, Harran, Mardin and Göbeklitepe.

So, I began writing. And writing. And writing. Eventually I had chalked up 65,000 words (chiselled away from an original verbose manuscript of 130,000 words) and what had started out as a description of the journey travelled, morphed into something much more. It became a blend of travelogue, memoir, history, archaeology, poetry, prose, and memorable imagery – evocative of my coming of age in Ireland with an unquenchable desire to travel, ‘to seek and find’ (Whitman).

Some words of credit: I cannot thank my dear wife enough for her starring role as editor of the initial draft I completed and subsequent versions while keeping my nose to the grindstone. Without her gentle but persistent chivvying this book might never have seen the light of day. I am eternally grateful for her positive energy, her endearing smile and her sensitive encouragement when I thought I was losing my way.

Then, the soul-destroying journey of trying to find an agent or a publisher; and even peeping into the world of self-publishing. What an experience that has been. I could write a book about it! But wait ...

But I did have a bona fide book on my hands of my own creation and I yearned to get it published. The title of my book: 'An Irishman In Northern Mesopotamia'. I was tenacious in my search for a publisher but those dispiriting letters of rejection became my regular reading fare. It was a depressing experience where I began to doubt so much about myself. Then, one day, somebody must have liked what they read and I received a 'come on down and talk to us' letter. I couldn't believe it. My wife noted at the time that I appeared to be floating on Cloud 9.

Just before Christmas 2023 Unicorn Publishing Group agreed to publish 'An Irishman In Northern Mesopotamia' in October 2024. After what appeared to be an enormous unwinnable struggle in getting to the publishing finishing line was at last turning into a reality. But my goodness, did I have to work at it. In some ways, the pathway to securing publication is so much more time-consuming and taxing on the spirit than the task of authorship. Writing is a doddle in comparison to all the rest of the shebang in trying to get one's magnum opus into print.

But I have to give full credit to Unicorn Publishing - they have been incredibly supportive the whole way through. I have learnt so much and I cannot thank them enough. 

And lo and behold, the official launch date was arranged: Thursday, 10th October 2024. Venue: Sandfords Bookstore in Covent Garden, London WC2, UK; time: 7.00pm where 'An Irishman In Northern Mesopotamia' will be unleashed on an unsuspecting world! As fellow Gr8worders/Green Roomers, you are warmly invited to attend my book launch if you can make it to the London location on the given day at the given time.

I would like to thank Rosy Cole and everyone at Gr8word/Green Room most sincerely for kindly permitting me to avail of this marvellous website to help publicise my new book. Thank you very much indeed. Imagine, 'An Irishman In Northern Mesopotamia', my first book published and I a mere whippersnapper of 69 - still waiting to grow up! Whatever next?

Please see attached

Onwards and upwards.

Best wishes to everyone in the Gr8word/Green Room family.

Slán agus beannacht,

Nicholas Mackey

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It's a Theory

Grand thoughts, (and Shakespeare must often have sighed over this truth) as they are most naturally and most fitly conceived in solitude, so can they not be brought forth in the midst of plaudits without some violation of their sanctity...the qualities which dazzle at first sight, and kindle the admiration of the multitude, are essentially different from those by which permanent influence is secured. Let us not shrink from following up these principles as far as they will carry us.


William Wordsworth

Essay of 1815

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The Breath and Finer Spirit


Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge; it is the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all Science. Emphatically may it be said of the Poet, as Shakespeare hath said of man, ‘that he looks before and after.’ He is the rock of defence for human nature; an upholder and preserver, carrying everywhere with him relationship and love. In spite of difference of soil and climate, of language and manners, of laws and customs: in spite of things silently gone out of mind, and things violently destroyed; the Poet binds together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over all time. The objects of the Poet’s thoughts are everywhere; though the eyes and senses of man are, it is true, his favourite guides, yet he will follow wheresoever he can find an atmosphere of sensation in which to move his wings. Poetry is the first and last of all knowledge—it is as immortal as the heart of man. If the labours of Men of science should ever create any material revolution, direct or indirect, in our condition, and in the impressions which we habitually receive, the Poet will sleep then no more than at present; he will be ready to follow the steps of the Man of science, not only in those general indirect effects, but he will be at his side, carrying sensation into the midst of the objects of the science itself. The remotest discoveries of the Chemist, the Botanist, or Mineralogist, will be as proper objects of the Poet’s art as any upon which it can be employed, if the time should ever come when these things shall be familiar to us, and the relations under which they are contemplated by the followers of these respective sciences shall be manifestly and palpably material to us as enjoying and suffering beings. If the time should ever come when what is now called science, thus familiarized to men, shall be ready to put on, as it were, a form of flesh and blood, the Poet will lend his divine spirit to aid the transfiguration, and will welcome the Being thus produced, as a dear and genuine inmate of the household of man.


William Wordsworth

Preface to the Lyrical Ballads

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Latest Comments

Stephen Evans Revisiting Yeats
02 June 2024
I suspect Yeats would have agreed with you, though in his poetry his beliefs survived as images and ...
Rosy Cole Revisiting Yeats
02 June 2024
Thomas Gray's poem is beautiful. Strangely, I don't find his 'Elegy' depressing. Just reflective and...
Stephen Evans Revisiting Yeats
02 June 2024
We don't need Thomas Gray to write it - we have you!
Rosy Cole Revisiting Yeats
02 June 2024
What if only God is listening? Thomas Gray should have said: Full many a flower is born to blush un...
Stephen Evans Revisiting Yeats
01 June 2024
No doubt What an image of the afterlife for a poet though - set upon a golden bough to sing. that i...