Three poems by Hayden Murphy for Bloomsday

Today is Bloomsday and as promised, we have another small selection of poems to mark this occasion written by Hayden Murphy. Two Bloomsday poemshave already appeared on this site, but these three are of an altogether more personal import. ‘Telemachus’ was written to commemorate Bloomsday 100 in 2004 and has appeared in an eighteen poem sequence relating to Joyce’s Ulysses entitled Modalities (Roncadora Press, 2005). ‘A Modest Proposal’ was for Bloomsday 2008 and ‘Second Sight’ for Bloomsday 2013.

Here Hayden himself explains the poems for Bloomsday project which he has been engaged in for over fifty years:

Since June 16th 1969, in Paris, I have attempted to mark Bloomsday with a “word offering”, in a limited edition (50), for distribution among friends. I have always tried to collaborate with a visual artist in these publications. I have been fortunate since 1992 to work with the Scottish artist and publisher Hugh Bryden. In 2014, to mark the 110 commemoration of the events related in James Joyce’s Ulysses, The Consulate of Ireland to Scotland, in Edinburgh, mounted a retrospective exhibition of our work together and a selection of correspondence with recipients down the years including the poets Brendan Kennelly, Edwin Morgan and Seamus Heaney and the dramatist Brian Friel ( Bloomsdays Abroad: June 16th-21st, ).


Hayden Murphy

Edinburgh: April 2020.





In a bright silent instant

Stephen saw his own image in cheapdusty

Mourning between their gay attires.

–  It’s  a wonderful tale, Haines said,

– Bringing them to a halt again.



Wave shaves wave in the tower shadow. Let

Day begin on this watercolouring trampoline.

Razor sharp summersaulting sentences


Let loose their words. They walk the tight

Rope held by their circus animals half

Tamed. Associate with strangers. Press on.


Recite again.    Stop, be  slow.       Recite

Again until the wordweave’s right. Now

Abandon silence. Sea salmon sirens leap.


Now we are tenderly safe to declare love.




For Frances


Say a few simple words

he could twist how he liked

not acting with precipit

precipitancy with equal candour

the greatest earthly happiness

answer to a gentlemans proposal



Take this hand

To tongue and tell

Its palm to salt

The moment for all


It’s worth. A moment

Of much that stills

The mouth until, word

Wise, abandoned silence


Tells of the taste

Of love’s song

Flavouring the air’s

Rhodendron breath.


Grace note be born.


The watchman going about

serene with his lamp….

Oh and the sea the sea crimson

sometimes like fire

and the glorious sunsets..where

I was a flower of the mountain yes





The kind of understanding that consists in seeing connections.

                                                                                                Ludwig Wittgenstein


Holding fast to the tender contradiction

Between sight and vision. A voyage on water.

Only a heart-beat lies in the eye-blink. The pause.

I hold fast to the words treasured in my tender lies.


Confuse me with brightness, please. Preferably by water.


Now let me leave the Joycewords for another day.

Now let sight associate with sound.


The eyes become curator rather than narrator.


The heart’s perspective, the peripheral slight of echo

In the memory. Nuance’s imperative. The distracting line.

The bird flight heard but unseen. A ship drydocked.

A dream stranded in these nights when eyes are closed.


Sailing towards Ithaca my Third Eye blinked.


The seal cavorting on the seaside of my eyes became

The night’s bat fornicating with the abandoned owl of day.


Holding fast now to the inside vision in this dream

Of this voyage in a returning ship narrated not curated

By my crew composed of my internal bestiary:

Owls, dragons, belfry bats and The Yellow Bittern’s ghost.


I travel only by water.


Now as this poem is ending I am blind

                                      To all but the weight of this poem non-ending.


Two poems by Hayden Murphy

For many years, the Edinburgh-based Irish poet Hayden Murphy has been producing wonderful keepsake poems to mark Bloomsday and since 1992 he has been collaborating with the artist and publisher Hugh Bryden. Hayden himself will no doubt be known to many of you as not only a poet, but a fine critic and man-of-letters as well as the editor of the legendary literary periodical Broadsheet (1967-1978). These two examples of Hayden’s Bloomsday poems are part of a series I will be publishing on this site in the run-up to Bloomsday proper. The first poem here, an elegy for one of Scotland’s greatest poets, Hugh MacDiarmid, hails from 1992 and the second, a birthday celebration for the 80th birthday of another of Scotland’s finest poets, Edwin Morgan, is from 2000. The latter is particularly pertinent now, considering that 2020 marks Morgan’s centenary. In the photo below, taken in 2014 at the Irish consulate in Edinburgh, Hayden Murphy (left) drinks a jar of Guinness with Hugh Bryden, his collaborator.

Scan_H&H 20200605




I.M. Christopher Murray Grieve (1892-1978)


Eel nouns, crowned

Teeth, capped on Riding

Day with sombre headdress.


Handed over the grave,

Blown needle thin

Are tree-drawn wind

Flayed words

Into memory.


Testimony of tribe.

Scribe, chieftain

Of rock-hewn terms

Of agreement. Water

Gently marking



Woven into black

Meeting blue

Flat on the palm

Against the palm

Handing over the grave

A leaf grained feather.


Earthed. Against

Grey skin, the watching

Sky, a white veiled

Rose is worn. Stubborn

As black.


Pale, brave.


Mole verbs, tapped

Tongue , horse-drawn

Freeman crowned.





For Edwin Morgan beyond 80


Grey blue

                                  River laid against

The key stone polishes


Pebbles   sounding   out   an    eddy


              River fluid



Hymns the sentence

                                              Greek blue

River rhetoric

                                  Moves to whisper

Out a liquid line



Recalling crossing journeys

Greek blue

                               Waters tippling over

An untidy tale as two


To cojoin within

                              Loose pages


All memory meandering




                                                Greek blue.