Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Writing in the Sky


I have just finished watching Garry Keane's documentary on the great Irish writer Dermot Healy. He seems to have found/formed an idyll wherein to write, in a small white cottage on the Sligo coast. A solitary writer, he is also knitted in to the local community, and wider webs of writers, wildlife, friends and family.

For six months of the year his days are marked by the thousands of Barnacle Geese who fly in from their island nesting place five minutes after the sun rises and return five minutes before the sun goes down. A clock in the sky. They spend the other six months in Greenland.

He has written a hundred page poem inspired by the geese and this forms the major migratory path of the documentary. The poem is called Fool's Errand, a typical Healy word association (Wild Goose Chase). The patterns and sounds of the geese in the sky provide the conversational and visual spines of the piece and help paint a vivid picture of a patient, observant man. One who feels a poem needs to be written in one sitting and then left to mature/fester for six months or more before it is reworked.

His poetry I am unfamiliar with but my interest is piqued. However I have read two novels -A Goat's Song (from Trag Oide, goat's song, root of the word tragedy) and Sudden Times; as well as his masterful memoirs The Bend for Home. All are referenced briefly but succinctly in this film and I strongly recommend them. He also plays the main part in I Could Read the Sky, one of the most evocative, beautiful and heartbreaking Irish films and this is also referenced.

The documentary is beautifully shot and constructed with many stunning images. I have included a picture from a brief scene of Dermot floating in a rock pool so clear as to make it appear that he is floating on air like a pale white Jesus. It is available (for residents of Ireland only, I think) on the RTE Player until Tuesday, January 25th. It's well worth watching.

We are told that we can expect his next novel, to be called Long Time No See, soon. After eleven years that will be an event.


  1. You can watch this at the following link - http://vimeo.com/20990435
    Editor Mick Mahon has been nominated for an IFTA (Irish Film and Television Awards)

  2. Winner of two Awards at the Irish Film & Television Awards - Best Director & Best Sound.