Dermot Healy - Irish Mentor, Friend
















Dermot Healy, poet, novelist, dramatist, actor, died suddenly in June 2014. He was one of the lions of Irish writing.  We met in 1998 at Ellen's Pub, in the windswept wilds of Ballyconnell, Sligo, where he lived in a house he built with his wife Helen on the back of a cliff leanng over the sea.


Dermot became both friend and mentor to me in my poetry. He - as well as another splendid mentor and friend, acclaimed American poet Terence Winch -  gave me extraodinary feedback and insightful critique as I worked on After God.


Dermot also created my first impromptu public reading of poems from the collection.  It happened one early evening, after working wih me at some ending edits of the After God poems, sitting at bar Ellen's Pub, a rough-tough place that had imaginations of its patrons coming at you in all directions.  In its isolated spot on a hill down the windy road from Healy's home near the coast,  Ellen's could well qualify as a "last pub in Ireland before Boston." 


As we finished our editing, a session of traditional Irish music started up in the low-roofed room. The players sat in an open circle close to the bar. They began to play. The setting sun came through small windows in a mystical stream.  The music and the room became a surreal.


When the players paused for a first break between pieces, Dermot called out, "Michael, give us one of your poems!"  I read the poem on which we had last worked, Exit Prayer, a "prayer" to God to help me kill God.  A tough player with a pint in her hand and a fiddle in her lap called out when I ended it, " I love that poem!" All the nicer to hear from one who looked so worn and hard with life. 


Then, more music, and at the next break Dermot called out again, "Give us another poem, Michael!"  I did.  More muscic followed.  


At third pause.  And Dermot again, "Give us one more poem." I replied that I had only two with me (the two we edited at the bar).  He answered, " Then give us a reprise of the first!"

















Healy at Work as Poet Mentor

Below is the original draft of one of my ealry poems .

To hear Healy reading it aloud and offering close poetic adivce, cick the red audio link .


(Suggested: read the poem before you click the audio, so that you can then follow better when he references lines and phases in the text.)



Original Version of Poem



oven-hot under august saturday      


black ladies, two, shade under

straw hats, one turquoise


one cream

as up and down under

treeshaded streets

people come lazy and go lazy


cars move like church whispers

black fenders sparkle silences

soupcon of breeze

undulates lazy


under blackgreen shade

of mega caféumbrellas


empty tables


x-ers gone to laborday


commerce gone fishin

rush gone to sleep


even reality

unflinching hardnosed



lost down a daytrip

to a long forgotten





mirror to the moment

just before


the Spirit stirred

              the primal



Michael Whelan












Revised Poem: After Healy's Touch




black ladies, two, under

August-Sunday straw

hats, one turquoise

one cream


slow walk

tree canopied down vacant

Labor Day streets


cars move like church whispers

black fenders flick silences

soupcons of breeze laze


under blackgreen shadows

of mega caféumbrellas

tenting empty tables


commerce gone fishin'

rush gone to sleep

reality gone



                             a day trip

Audio: Healy - Mentoring "GONE" - Unknown Artist