Paul Durcan - Personal Response
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Reading Paul Durcan’s poetry as part of the Leaving Certificate course was an insightful experience because his poems generally fall into three categories: 1) Personal, autobiographical poems in which he recounts and reflects on some of the more difficult experiences in his own life; 2) Social commentary on modern Ireland and events/periods of Irish history that resonate with him; and 3) Occasional hybrids of #1 and #2.
‘Nessa’ is perhaps Durcan’s most immediate poem. It was the first of his I’d read, and it prepared me to read more of his work through its direct simplicity, and its immediacy of language via repetition as well as imagery.
In the poem’s opening stanza, Durcan compares his future wife, ‘Nessa’, to a whirlpool: ‘… in her well. And that was a whirlpool, that was a whirlpool’. The image is quite simplistic, and as with so much love poetry, the narrator describes himself as being swept away by the early stages of the relationship. However, Durcan develops this image each time he repeats it in the poem’s subsequent stanzas, culminating in the last, where he employs direct address to tell his wife that she is ‘a whirlpool’, and that by her, he is ‘very nearly drowned’.
Another way in which ‘Nessa’ contradicts more conventional love poetry, such as that of Yeats or even Shakespeare, is through Durcan’s use of everyday objects as both met...