I am very far from an expert in poetry. Even in schooldays, I would not have learnt more than a few poems by rote for the exams. I suppose that observation above could support the contention of Gerrymandering.
“A Small Fat Boy Walking Backwards” was published in 1985. Before then I would have first heard the poem “Vision at Knock” – the image, if not the exact words did take up residence in my teenage brain, occasionally waking up to say hello.
In the summer of my Leaving Certificate, I went Interrailing through Europe with my cousin. One of the first stops was Lourdes – to purchase a gift for our Grandad – over thirty years later and I can still remember the gift.
An even stronger memory of that visit is the commercialism, the number of shops selling souvenirs – so many which were so plastic, so tatty and so off-putting. Back then I had already given up on Catholicism, was agnostic, but would have been somewhat anti-Catholic – a position from which I have mellowed slightly.
A few years after Lourdes, I visited Knock for the first time – on a busy Sunday morning and again was taken aback by the plastic commercialism and the sense of the many following blindly, or what I perceived as blindly.
Recently I have read ‘The Sign of the Cross’ by Colm Tóibín and Stephen Walsh’s ‘Faithful Departures’. Both similar in visiting sites of Catholic pilgrimage, in being written by one raised in the Catholic faith and in bringing me back to those experiences in Lourdes and Knock.
Last weekend I read a newspaper article about the Knock Novena.
“Upwards of 150,000 pilgrims — some of them from overseas — will descend on the small village to celebrate the annual Knock Novena. Annually, the shrine welcomes more than 1m visitors. It’s a curious thing about Knock that even those who don’t attend Mass regularly find something there.”
I spent a short while at the Shrine. There were not many there that Sunday night. I did have some down-time, some time for reflection and thought.
But sitting there Gerry Murphy woke from his slumber in the back alleys of my brain and the thought and image of the statue of Stalin laughing formed part of that me-time.