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Temperatures soar in Durcan's love poem to the weather women


Jean Byrne

Jean Byrne

Jean Byrne

The country's most popular contemporary poet, Paul Durcan, is to release a new collection which will have Met Éireann's weather women blushing.

In a new collection of poetry, Durcan has a poem called 'The Azores High', which is a steamy paean to the women who bring us the forecasts.

A cross between a send-up and a love poem, it celebrates the special allure of the weather women, particularly of Jean Byrne, who the 70-year-old poet describes as "the doyenne" of them all, "in her body-hugging, all-black, belted silk dress, slit with a slash of lavender-pink".

Durcan pays homage to Ms Byrne and her colleagues, Evelyn Cusack, Siobhán Ryan and Nuala Carey.

In the poem, Durcan imagines her loyal followers watching Ms Byrne "perform her latest forecast": "Revealing to you - and you alone - the state of the cosmos, its innermost secrets, its most intimate details."

"She bats her eyelashes and she splashes you,

"With mascara and eyeliner," he adds.

But Ms Byrne is not the only one who has caught Durcan's eye. He also praises the attractions of Ms Ryan who, "in her short-sleeve scarlet frock" gives Ms Byrne "a close run for starry mystique" with her "pigtail drooling down one bare left shoulder".

Of course, it's all very tongue in cheek, even though, like all Durcan's work this poem and the rest of his new collection, is a telling commentary on today's Irish society and sensibilities.

He claims "men as well as women race home from work" to catch Ms Byrne's forecast. Ms Byrne's wardrobe choices are celebrated and a frequent talking point arising from the forecasts.

The accessibility of Durcan's poetry, the way he revels in words, and his special combination of humour and insight have made him both a star of the Irish literary world and the best loved living poet in the country.

His work has huge appeal even to people who don't read much verse and his electric readings are always a sellout.

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He is also extremely popular among his peers and got a tumultuous standing ovation at the recent Irish Book Awards where he was given the Lifetime Achievement prize.

His new collection titled 'The Days of Surprise' is published in hardback by Harvill & Secker on March 12 and has some 70 poems.

The publicity for the collection says: "Paul Durcan never imagined he would be clasped by a woman again, but life is full of surprises! After all, would it surprise you to learn that at the US Ambassador's Residence in Dublin his libido almost destroyed the Peace Process? There is a new Pope, too, a 'man of constant surprise', although in St Peter's Square Durcan encounters a monk wholly lacking in the Holy Spirit."

"Perhaps the greatest surprise is the voice of the late Seamus Heaney coming down his chimney: 'Are you all right down there, Poet Durcan?'"

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