Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

A heart beat away


Drawing by Hatto Fischer, colours by Maya Fischer (eight years old at that time)


Poetic Well-Wishes from the Touch Stone group of poets in Athens to Brendan Kennelly


University of Dublin

School of English

Arts Building, Trinity College

Dublin 2


                                                                                      16, October 1996

Dear Dr. Fischer,

I wish to apologise for the delay in acknowledging your recent fax. Unfortunately, Professor Kennelly is unwell. After preliminary tests, he was admitted to hospital on Monday of this week. It now seems more than likely that he will have to undergo heart surgery. The commitment, enthusiasm and energy which he devotes to everything he undertakes has at last taken its toll.

I am sorry to be the bearer of this news. May I assure you, however, that Prof. , despite everything, is in good form and cheery, determined to get really well again. He knows that he is surrounded by the prayers and good wishes of so many.

I expect that I should know by the beginning of next week if and when he will have his operation. Please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely

Geraldine M. Mangan



Dr. Hatto Fischer

Touch Stone Group


                                                                                Athens, 26.11.1996

Dear Brendan,


ever since I have heard through your secretary that you needed to undergo tests to be followed by likely heart surgery, we have been thinking of you, that is all of us who journeyed with you through Crete in September 1995. That conference was the outcome of our first meeting in Dublin and ever since hear your hearty laugh, listen to the more serious tones in your voice and cherish a sign of life from a poet who gives others the strength to question themselves a bit more than they normally do. Out of these thoughts accompanying you, there developed the desire to give you these poetic well wishes for the heart is too serious a matter to be left only to the surgeons and nurses. I find it amazing how everyone started to contribute beginning with Anne Born and then ending with Robert Crist, whom you have not met but belongs to our Touch Stone group of poets living here in Athens. Of course, the little painting up front was done by me together with Maya who did the colouring after I had completed my computer drawing. There are some interesting symbols. The photos bring also back memories of your reading at the library of Athens College whose librarian sends you also her best regards as well as Angela Adams who wanted all along you to have that lecture by Bertrand Russell because it reminded her so much of what you present to her, namely the 'will to doubt'. In short, Brendan, here in Athens you have many friends who wish you a good recovery from a not very easy operation. But knowing your humour and what Yannis Phyllis said at the outset of these poetic well wishes, poets are tough enough to remain gentle in words and movements, alive in their ability to appreciate life. I want to add personally many thoughts, but most important is that you become a source of inspiration for so many people and poets for which I just add a humble thanks.

One of our first tasks will be produce a CD Rom to facilitate the teaching of poetry at university level. Perhaps you can give us your valuable advice.

Furthermore, the CIED project has been accepted by the EU and we are awaiting when we begin, including the preparations for the conference in Galway, Ireland. I shall let you know how things develop.

At home, Maya is now happy with two fishes, one hamster and a cat called Minoas, the latter two of the same rusty colours but not necessarily friends. The cat is quite young but Maya keeps saying thanks for the gift. She had to wait one week until the surprise arrived last Friday when friends brought the kitten to our house. It is interesting to see her grow up in the new school surroundings. Last September we changed school from a Greek public one to a Greek-Germany private one, the latter important since she now learns German on a regular basis. Yesterday she had stomach aches and Anna and I decied to keep her at home. It was wonderful to have her close by, making drawings and seeing her eager reading steps while playing afterwards with the cat. We often talk about you and she smiles at the mentioning of your name when I tell her that you were amazed on how Maya would crawl all over me. She still does only now her body has become much more athletic due to the sports she does at school. Often she would come home exhausted and I have not on those days the car with me when picking her up from the school bus who drops off at some distance from our house, then it happens that she rides home on the back of my shoulders, her hands in the air.

So take care and enjoy the poems, one of the most amazing ones being that of Katerina Anghelaki Rooke and Liana Sakelliou Schultz who nearly came to Ireland this month due to a conference on Women Studies in Cork. She would have loved to see you and bring you the poems personally with the well wishes of everyone in the group. However Mister Postman will do since after all he shall bring you one day the news of having won the Nobel prize for truly deserve it as man of both poetry and people because you speak from the heart to the heart.

All the best,



                                                                           Chania 29/10/96

Prof. Yannis Phillis

Technical University of Crete

Ag. Markou St.

73132 – Chania, Greece


Dear Brendan,

I am sure you will pull through unscathed.

Poets are the hardiest of species. Be well and strong and don't forget to intimidate your doctors.

Yannis Phillis



Poetic wishes




Just a heart beat away

I don't want him to cry

but crush that winter ice

before islands go astray

in a moody summer full

of winds hustling the leaves

too early for autumn to begin.


Soft by nature, life

tunes up to the moonlight

like the Blues recalling

what wailing electric guitars

do to city walls in Harlem

once dreams shatter

when run out of luck.


This is how all things

are kept afloat, cities

at the same level with water,

or chimneys swept clean

while harbours no longer

drift in man's dream,

but there in reality.


Written on waste paper

poetry is hunger reaching out

with grace to man

to ensure he is no skeleton

nor a skinny hand waving

to the crowd to graze the land

nor a priest touching the forehead

to keep down the fever

in a world of clenched fists.


In this life it figures: still other tunes

whistle down rivers, over roof tops,

through the streets of Dublin or wherever

Brendan walks using Joyce's maps

every day since he cherishes to be

with the street kids living in cardboard boxes

or with others, may they be taxi drivers

or mighty pocket men having for a dollar

a stare at some bare skin back there.


Many things have gone astray,

Judas the betrayal of our dreams,

the 20th century like a hanging rope

for all music since Christ was born,

he as king not seen although clothed,

but without the aura a snobbish press needs

to report stories about to unfold,

so as to keep fanning royalist notions

about deeper commotions touching the heart.


About him little scandals are told every day

and secret notes cast in a whirlpool of gossips

verifying the axiom, 'but you can never win',

especially if he tries to whistle a different tune.


Many say, love life, don't hide but seek

her after closing hours in the parking lot,

for she shall sing for you whilst asking

why the river is soaked with your blood

when running underneath bridges and arches

no longer swaying back an forth in Dublin

because too stable to endure human flesh

and lice and masters amidst crowds of people

spilling into the streets every day of a 'frantic life'

as if liberation has come to give them a boast.


Still half asleep I stagger across the street

to discover where that lovely tune

comes from, the tune he equates with 'voice'

and not easy to whistle safe by those street kids

for they know straight lines do not give directions

once all have gone ashore like wrecked ships

along stony cliffs biting their teeth into the coldness

of silence, just to be present in his poems.


They say a heart implant is like an obstinate mule

not giving up on you and wishing you do different things

under other circumstances, that is morally speaking.


No one knows the attitude of others until confronted by love,

but what if wisdom could council us to do the same thing?


Hatto Fischer

Berlin / Athens 19.10.96






No rag and bone shop yours

but an emporium of goods:

a good for poets, lots of students,

many for the sad and stricken -

a supershop of gifts

given and never charged for:

we love you for it, it's our favourite place

for stocking up the warmth we need,

filling our empty shelves

from your huge wordhoard,

your hearthoard.


Give yourself a holiday now

before you spend yourself again

on all of us.


With love and best wishes from

Anne Born

South Devon, England

21. October 1996

(The first line above is from Yeats)





Things fall apart: I hear you are ill,

fighting a lonely struggle to survive but you will

emerge victoriously and stride

Dublin's rainy roads again and write your poems,

muse about Chania and Kamilari where we

spent some wild poetic days.


Remember the Lammergeyer lingering dance

it also fights its struggle to survive


Call to our talks while the bus was winding its way

through dazzling hills and forlorn mountain peaks

Greece and Ireland, two countries immensely alive

with poetry, goddesses, myth, longing, love and strife

you're part of both now, Brendan

Greece won't let you go you know


Get better soon for I want to hear you recite again

poems by my beloved W.B. Yeats;

the true “lieu poetique”

you seem to know them all by heart and make them sing

and bring to life my past Dublin days,

Dublin, where I first learned to love poetry

through Yeats and you and all the Irish people

with their songs and tales and kindness.


We need you and won't let you go you know


Andriette Stathi

Athens 2.November 1996




        Brendan Kennelly and Katerina Anghelaki Rooke in Chania 1995




For Brendan Kennelly


Who knows what nature plans for us

how it thinks to finish us

or even risks to have us feel reborn...


It is like those landscapes you contemplate

where everything seems in its right place

pine trees and olive groves

the small cauldrons full of blood

that tiny organisms carry around

without ever running out of breath...


And how come everything is where it is

- this root, this man's long ear -

how today's sun set

like a mute child falling off its chair

and this dry limb of a tree I call my body

how did it catch fire?


Most of all, how does nature know

to include the arbitrary in its flawless desing

how do I succumb to my “tristia”

how did you rise from your bed

to fall upon yet another?


Katerina Anghelaki Rooke

translation from the Greek by the author

Athens 2. November 1996

(Odysseas Elytis birthday: Born 2/11/1911)






for Brendan Kennelly


There is always the noise of other lives

in the early autumn silence:

the wasps dying,

the apples bruising black,

the chiffon scarf snagged in a branch

swinging with the drift of thought.


He lives through immediacy,

unfolds layers of perception

that fuse his lighthouse

to explore some deepest relation.

He enters the garden laboring

the compressed violence of meanings.


He leaves behind the yellowing

indifference and high on music,

as the other side of language,

guides it from the nerve to the voice

chiselling its energy

with his restless equipment of love.


This generosity to the weight of living

comes late. The wasps, the apples,

the scarf arrive as a blue lyric.

He outlives the moment,

volatizes his urgency. He says to himself

good art does not oxidize.


Liana Sakelliou-Schultz

Athens 5. November 1996




...nobody missed you, nobody was even


and you're there, sometimes

in the middle of the fields

where flowers bloom and perish


melody of the flowers taking you





listen to it, feel it,

softing your senses

pinching your skin

pulling your bones

to the deep thrill


having met one another

for just one unsuspicious

moment -


having met each other

a glance and a glimpse -


having listened to

each other's heart



Hoping that you get well soon

Kind regards


Socrates Kabouropoulos

Athens 6.11.96






Milia * by candlelight, his body burns, surrenders to healing hands

Ceaselessly she kneads health through a soaring heat

renders him, sensuously, through chapters of a night


His pain asks how all his years never graced such love

She reads his thoughts, understands his soul. He studies her soft outline

sponging his burning flesh ignoring this manly eye,

Tepid water penetrates each follicle on his skin, cooling desire

Flames capture them, temperatures rise, they cross the threshold

of the night


At forty two centigrade he leaves his mind, wanders through childhood


She silences delirium, translates it into desire with force,

erases the memory of a generation old pain, allowing his touch

Waves of care take all night to arrive safely to dawn


By dawn, her worn body surrenders to his pillow, he gazes upon

pale silk with lace

This stranger, friend, nursed his ill boy, troubled soul that now yearns

for her touch

Hers, so tired, surrenders to healing hands,

Ceaselessly he kneads strength into her failing spirit,

rendering sensuously to dawn.


With embracing glances they awake to new selves,

brother, sister, lover, friend, armoured forever

An angel whispering, whilst talking quietly, heard a falling star

land softly unto earth

Milia, falling stars wish their destiny yours


Emer Ronan

Athens 3.11.96







I was ready to send you a rosebud

rosypink from the heart

Rosy pink, I had chosen the colour.

It's my favorite, makes me recall

cheeks of children in winter

a promise of dawn

or a balcony where we're cradling

something yet to be born,

just a smile

or a song

or a present

wrapping in glimpses of future



Then, I thought, you might not need a rosebud

But only the colour of love.


Sophia Yannatou

Athens 22.11.96





- for Brendan Kennelly -


C.S. Lewis limned

the pleasures of recuperation -

wandering in perfect eas

and gratitude through cantos

of The Faerie Queen.

Fair enough! Any 'balm

or beauty of the earth' will do

to savour the sweetness

of another blest return!

You, however, I see

putting down the book

rising for a quiet walk

in the air, the drift of sounds,

across the park, taking in

not tropes, but creatures

themselves – pigeons

waddling to peck crumbs,

the alert scramble of squirrels,

the supple rhythmic charge

of dogs in play – whatever

gives freely of itself,

like songs of birds

at the end of some hard day.

Keat's and Shelley's songsters

are all very well, but

it is veridical birds

who heal our lives;

they are always there

as light recedes or

mounts once more

we sleep to owls who

swirl their reedy vowels

on the velvet score of night -

wake to the sweet blips

of sparrow's syllabes

on the place screen of dawn;

in the hot expanse of noon, turn

to catch the gravel caws of crows -

we tune our minds to the high

pronouncement of flocks

wedging through the sky, and,

as dark comes down again,

the Gioni's hooo clears and floods

the paths of the heart.


Robert Crist

Athens 22.11.96

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