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A January Haircut

By Thomas McCarthy -

With songs we come into this world and my own

Best memories are my mother’s attempts to sing:

My shrivelled hair falls on the black cape

Of a barber’s shop, wiry silver and grey of time

That has passed over the top of my dry head

To fall now, as leaves devoid of sap escape

From the embrace of an otherwise sound Eglantine

Or Willow; except that after leaves have fled

From the modest tree that first gave them life

They at least contain the hope of another Spring.

We are humans with one Spring and one

Increasingly stretched-out Autumn. Here, this young

Armenian barber is the one true Spring

I can offer at this hour in late January –

Father of two, one child with a gift of poetry,

The other learning Irish songs, and willing to sing.


Thomas McCarthy is an Irish poet, novelist, and critic, born in Cappoquin, County Waterford, Ireland. He attended University College Cork where he was part of a resurgence of literary activity under Sean Lucy and John Montague. He worked at Cork City Libraries for many years. He was a Fellow of the International Writing Program, University of Iowa in 1978-79, and International Professor of English at Macalester College, Minnesota, in 1994-95. He has edited The Cork Review and Poetry Ireland Review, and has published seven collections of poetry with Anvil Press Poetry, London, including The Sorrow Garden, The Lost Province, Mr Dineen's Careful Parade, The Last Geraldine Officer, and Merchant Prince.

His last two collections, Pandemonium (2016) and Prophecy (2019), were published by Carcanet Press, UK. The main themes of his poetry are Southern Irish politics, love, and memory. He is also the author of two novels; Without Power and Asya and Christine. He won the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award, The Alice Hunt Bartlett, The O'Shaughnessy Award, and the Annual Literary Award of The Ireland Funds. His monograph "Rising from the Ashes" tells the story of the burning of the Carnegie Free Library in Cork City by crown forces in 1920 and the subsequent efforts to rebuild the collection with the help of donors from all over the world. His prose-book, Poetry, Memory and the Party, was published by Gallery Press in early 2022.


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