Sunday 25 September 2016

Poetry - Ulick O'Connor: Beckett's devotion to his mother in verse

Published 28/08/2016 | 02:30

All-rounder: Samuel Beckett was an accomplished cricketer
All-rounder: Samuel Beckett was an accomplished cricketer

This year is the 110th anniversary of Samuel Beckett's birth.

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In the 1980s, I met Beckett in Paris and learned that his favourite actor was Jackie MacGowran who had introduced me to him. Both had been champion sportsmen. Jackie, in the high jump, won an Irish title, while Beckett appears in Wisden, the bible of cricket, both as a bat and bowler.

I told Beckett this was a sports background which surprised many and told him of a four liner I had heard in Dublin:

'Feck it'

Said Samuel Beckett

I get a glow

From saying 'No'

I thought I had offended him. He didn't seem to have got the point. Then he laughed. Point made.

His accent was very much a Dublin one of a special kind.

He spoke with what was called at that time, "the Trinity drawl". It was a Dublin accent spoken with a pronounced emphasis on each word.

Apart from his plays, Beckett was a good enough poet to have had a poem in the Oxford Book of English Verse.

Our Nobel Prize winner has held the fort and still remains at the top of 20th century dramatists.

Here is a poem in Beckett style which he wrote to his mother to whom he was devoted.

from... AND MY MOTHER'S FACE

... And my mother's face I see it from below it's like nothing I ever saw

we are on a veranda smothered in verbena the scented sun

dapples the red tiles yes I assure you

the huge head hatted with birds and flowers is bowed down

over my curls the eyes burn with severe love I offer her mine

pale upcast to the sky … …. … … …

she stops her eyes burn down on me again I cast up mine in

haste and repeat awry

the air thrills with hum of insects

that's all it goes out like a lamp blown out.

Samuel Beckett 1906-1989

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