Monday, 18 May 2009
It is a long journey to Liverpool by train (five and a half hours each way) so am pretty worn out now but am very glad I went. The large Unitarian Church was cold but the service was warm, tender and beautiful. Deryn read from Louise Glück's The Wild Iris, (see below) then we had a non-denominational prayer from Graham Murphy, who held the service together, then Judith Palmer and Michael's sister spoke, Eira read Muldoon's Why Brownlee Left and Maurice Riordan, one of the coffin bearers, read a late poem by Michael, his last poem, about both love of natural places and the process of dying as witnessed by his younger child, Felix. I hadn't realised Maurice and Michael had been working together on these late poems.
Then there was Schubert's An die Musik, sung by Philip Duffy; an eulogy from the Irish side of Michael's family, Paul Leahy; a silent prayer led by Graham Murphy; a performance of Debussy's Clair de Lune by David Walters and, finally, Eira and Felix's choice of reading: the last passage from Watership Down - Hazel's death - read by Bob Hornby.
Plenty of poets in the congregation: Maurice Riordan, Paul Farley, Michael Symmons Roberts, Vona Groarke, John McAuliffe, Matthew Welton and, of course, Matt Simpson and Liverpool poets such as Dave Ward as well as Liverpool academics, and just friends - a big congregation.
Then to the Wildflower Centre for drinks and talk. Gave Deryn another hug. Tears. Such days never seem quite real but we are all aware that everything that comes after assumes an extra reality. It was abundantly clear just how much Michael was held in people's affections.
The sun came and went and came again. Michael SR drove me to Lime Street just in time.
I record this because such things should be recorded. I will put a few more poems by Michael up here. Now at utter exhaustion with a PhD supervision to read up before 10.00 tomorrow morning.
The Wild Iris
At the end of my suffering
there was a door.
Hear me out: that which you call death
Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.
It is terrible to survive
buried in the dark earth.
Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.
You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:
from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure sea water.