Tim Dwyer: Early Irish Poetry

The High Window

irish ms

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SCRIBES IN THE WOODS
Early Irish Monastic Poetry
by Tim Dwyer

Irish poetry has been considered the earliest vernacular poetry written in Europe – that is, poetry written in a native language. A number of these poems have been compared by Meyer (1913/1994) with haiku, having an unforced immediacy, and blending of the spirit of nature and humanity. As in haiku and early Chinese poetry, this is conveyed through essential, brief impressions, centered on words and phrases more than sentences. More than a thousand years ago, these scribes discovered a key to great poetry- essential words to reflect experience difficult to convey through language. If one elaborates with unnecessary and distracting words to try to pin down experience, then the experience is lost. As Emily Dickinson noted, poetry conveys Life at a slant.

Although not all early Irish poems are brief, many of them are ten lines or less…

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