James Joyce's Birthday - Poetry

 On 2/2/22 we celebrate the arrival of the first copy of Ulysses100 years later .

Selected Poems from James Joyce and Me.

Happy 140th Birthday Mr Joyce. 2/2/22.

Joyce received his great novel Ulysses         on 


The novel arrived from the Swiss publishers in his prearranged cover colouring and specified typeface.

Love Loves to Love Love.

2nd. February 2021

If Joyce were still alive he would be 139 years old today. Born 1882 died 13/01/1941.

I would like to feature a poem written by Joyce entitled "Gas from a Burner".

14 September 1912:  Joyce started writing the poem Gas from a Burner’ in the railway station waiting room in Flushing (Vlissingen) in the Netherlands on his way from Dublin to Trieste, and he completed it between there and Salzburg. 

He had it printed in Trieste and sent copies to Dublin. The poem was a broadside against his Dublin Publisher George Roberts of the firm Maunsel and Company who had turned him down over a ten year period.

James Joyce composed ‘Gas from a Burner’ in response to learning that the printed sheets of his short story collection Dubliners had been destroyed by the printer John Falconer. The collection had already been rejected for publication on several occasions. After the incident, Joyce left Dublin on 12 September 1912 for Trieste, Italy, never to set foot in Ireland again. En route, he began to compose this cutting satirical poem at Flushing railway station in the Netherlands.

In Trieste, Joyce had the poem printed as a broadside – a large sheet of paper printed on one side. He sent copies to his brother Charles in Dublin to circulate among friends and enemies.

Who, why and what does ‘Gas from a Burner’ target?

‘Gas from a Burner’ is written from the dual perspective of John Falconer, the printer who burnt the sheets (as alluded to in the title), and George Roberts, manager at the publishers Maunsel and Company. The ‘Irish writer in foreign parts’ with ‘foul intent’, therefore, is Joyce.

Joyce focusses in on the fact that Maunsel and Company, after agreeing to publish Dubliners, rejected it for being ‘anti-Irish’. Refuting the accusation, Joyce follows in the footsteps of the great 18th-century Irish satirist Jonathan Swift, drawing on all the powers of satire. He paints Falconer/Roberts as false, cowardly and hypocritical, listing Maunsel and Company’s previously published authors whose works feature sex, obscenities and had even caused riots (i.e. The Playboy of the Western World by John Millington Synge).

Going further, Joyce attacks Irish culture at large – ‘This lovely land that always sent / Her writers and artists to banishment’. He implies that his ‘writing of Dublin, dirty and dear’ merely depicts the city as it truly is: ‘the foreigner learns the gift of the gab / From the drunken draggletail Dublin drab’.

Joyce does not cower to the accusation of indecency against Dubliners: ‘Gas from a Burner’ is full of uncensored, inflammatory content. It contains swearing, sex, references to farts and arses (rhyming ‘arse’ with ‘verse’), and blasphemies that culminate in the closing image of Falconer/Roberts’s assistant making the sign of the cross ‘upon my bum’ with the ashes of Dubliners.

"Gas from a Burner"

by James Joyce, 1912

Ladies and gents, you are here assembled

To hear why earth and heaven trembled

Because of the black and sinister arts

Of an Irish writer in foreign parts.

He sent me a book ten years ago

I read it a hundred times or so,

Backwards and forwards, down and up,

Through both the ends of a telescope.

I printed it all to the very last word

But by the mercy of the Lord

The darkness of my mind was rent

And I saw the writer's foul intent.

But I owe a duty to Ireland:

I held her honour in my hand,

This lovely land that always sent

Her writers and artists to banishment

And in a spirit of Irish fun

Betrayed her own leaders, one by one.

'Twas Irish humour, wet and dry,

Flung quicklime into Parnell's eye;

'Tis Irish brains that save from doom

The leaky barge of the Bishop of Rome

For everyone knows the Pope can't belch

Without the consent of Billy Walsh.

O Ireland my first and only love

Where Christ and Caesar are hand and glove!

O lovely land where the shamrock grows!

(Allow me, ladies, to blow my nose)

To show you for strictures I don't care a button

I printed the poems of Mountainy Mutton

And a play he wrote (you've read it I'm sure)

Where they talk of bastard, bugger and whore

And a play on the Word and Holy Paul

And some woman's legs that I can't recall

Written by Moore, a genuine gent

That lives on his property's ten per cent:

I printed mystical books in dozens:

I printed the table-book of Cousins

Though (asking your pardon) as for the verse

'Twould give you a heartburn on your arse:

I printed folklore from North and South

By Gregory of the Golden Mouth:

I printed poets, sad, silly and solemn:

I printed Patrick What-do-you-Colm:

I printed the great John Milicent Synge

Who soars above on an angel's wing

In the playboy shift that he pinched as swag

From Maunsel's manager's travelling-bag.

But I draw the line at that bloody fellow

That was over here dressed in Austrian yellow,

Spouting Italian by the hour

To O'Leary Curtis and John Wyse Power

And writing of Dublin, dirty and dear,

In a manner no blackamoor printer could bear.

Shite and onions! Do you think I'll print

The name of the Wellington Monument,

Sydney Parade and Sandymount tram,

Downes's cakeshop and Williams's jam?

I'm damned if I do--I'm damned to blazes!

Talk about Irish Names of Places!

It's a wonder to me, upon my soul,

He forgot to mention Curly's Hole.

No, ladies, my press shall have no share in

So gross a libel on Stepmother Erin.

I pity the poor--that's why I took

A red-headed Scotchman to keep my book.

Poor sister Scotland! Her doom is fell;

She cannot find any more Stuarts to sell.

My conscience is fine as Chinese silk:

My heart is as soft as buttermilk.

Colm can tell you I made a rebate

Of one hundred pounds on the estimate

I gave him for his Irish Review.

I love my country--by herrings I do!

I wish you could see what tears I weep

When I think of the emigrant train and ship.

That's why I publish far and wide

My quite illegible railway guide,

In the porch of my printing institute

The poor and deserving prostitute

Plays every night at catch-as-catch-can

With her tight-breeched British artilleryman

And the foreigner learns the gift of the gab

From the drunken draggletail Dublin drab.

Who was it said: Resist not evil?

I'll burn that book, so help me devil.

I'll sing a psalm as I watch it burn

And the ashes I'll keep in a one-handled urn.

I'll penance do with farts and groans

Kneeling upon my marrowbones.

This very next lent I will unbare

My penitent buttocks to the air

And sobbing beside my printing press

My awful sin I will confess.

My Irish foreman from Bannockburn

Shall dip his right hand in the urn

And sign crisscross with reverent thumb

Memento homo upon my bum.

Under Construction 
by Roger Cummiskey 1998.

I am genius I am Joyce.

A Dubliner of some renown

Hated, reviled, admired;

Poet and critic.

Ten years I had to wait for

Dubliners to be published

For pittance

Because I’m genius

Because I’m Joyce.

Yes, James Jaysas Joyce.


A Portrait helped,

Years and years to complete Ulysses

The greatest daytime novel of all time.

Teaching English as a foreign language

In Trieste and Zurich.

Patronized by a woman of Faith

Though I had none, Harriet Weaver.

Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare in Paris

My office, my Publisher

And Nora my model, inseparable;

Hemingway carried me over his shoulder

Drunk, we sang, argued, danced,

Played the piano and guitar.


Dublin, my town, 1904 my year

And 16th June my day;

But all wanted to know, in their

Ignorance if they featured,

And did they what.

They suffered for their lack of faith

In James Jaysas Joyce

Because I’m genius because I’m Joyce.


Mine eyes are a bitch

I’ve moved and moved

Borrowed and borrowed

Written and written.

Blind Homer helped the plot

And Ibsen influenced

So did Gogarty ha! ha!

Beckett learned.

Wild geese abroad.

Bloom was Israelite

One for Molly.

Budgen my pal.


Chamber Music and Pomes Penyeach

Kept debtors at bay.

Then the greatest night time novel

Of all time got out of the Traps.

Anna Livia Plurabelle and H.C.Earwicker

Thought their way through the night

Towards the sea

Work in Progress.

Tim Finnegan had lived at Watling Street

Twins Shaun and Shem come into their own.

Because I’m genius because I’m Joyce.

Yes, James Jaysas Joyce.

© 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2021.


Love loves to love Love.

She Weeps over Rahoon 

by James Joyce. Trieste 1913

This is a poem written by James Joyce, as he was not too certain, at the time, whether his woman (later his wife), Nora Barnacle, still carried a gra for Michael Foley whom she had known in Galway before she met Joyce.
Michael died young and is buried in Rahoon cemetery in Galway.©

Rain on Rahoon falls softly, softly falling,

Where my dark lover lies.

Sad is his voice that calls me, sadly calling,

At grey moonrise.

Love, hear thou

How soft, how sad his voice is ever calling,

Ever unanswered, and the dark rain falling,

Then as now.

Dark too our hearts, O love, shall lie and cold

As his sad heart has lain

Under the moongrey nettles, the black mould

And muttering rain.

Trieste, 1913.©
ref: P94

Is Love Really in the Air?

by Roger Cummiskey


Love, I love you

I really love you

I really, really love you

I said I love you

Of course I love you

Sure, I love you

Believe me, I love you

Definitely, I love you

Yes, I love you

But, …do you love me?

© 2001

Mrkgnao! the cat cried.

by James Joyce, 1916, Zurich

The moon's greygolden meshes make

All night a veil,

The shorelamps in the sleeping lake

Laburnum tendrils trail.

The sly reeds whisper to the night

A name-- her name-

And all my soul is a delight,

A swoon of shame.

Zurich 1916 ©

Ecce Puer - It´s a Boy

By James Joyce

Shakespeare and Company, Paris, first published Pomes Penyeach, by James Joyce, in 1927. An American, Sylvia Beach, who was also a patron of Joyce, owned this publishing business and the book shop in the Rue d’Odeon in Paris. She was also the first publisher of Ulysses.
I have painted a series of Joyce’s poems in watercolours using waterproof ink. Each poem is acknowledged from the time that it was written.

Joyce wrote Ecce Puer in 1932 after the death of his father, John Joyce. James was guilt ridden for not having responded to his father’s request for him to visit Ireland before the old man died. The poem also celebrates the birth of his grandson Stephen James Joyce on February 15th 1932. Stephen is still alive and well and living in Paris. It is a very sad and poignant poem. ©

Ecce Puer (It’s a Boy) 

Of the dark past

A child is born;
With joy and grief
My heart is torn.

Calm in his cradle
The living lies.
May love and mercy
Unclose his eyes!

Young life is breathed
On the glass;
The world that was not
Comes to pass.

A child is sleeping:
An old man gone.
O, father forsaken,
Forgive your son!


They lived and laughed and loved and left. 

A Painting of a Young Poet:

by Roger Cummiskey


Bury me in the old church-yard

The bell! The bell! Farewell! Farewell!


O, we got a good breath of ozone round the Head today

A thimbleful, just to whet your appetite, they say.

In the silence, pick, pack, pock, puck.


Blackrock, Stillorgan, Goatstown, Dundrum and Sandyford

Carrickmines, Stradbrook, no more battles on the rocks.


They would meet quietly as if they had known each other

And made their tryst in some more secret place.

He would fade into something impalpable

Under her eyes and then in a moment he would be transfigured.


Christian brothers be damned

Newman and Byron

The telegraphpoles held the galloping notes

Of music between the punctual bars.

The sunlight breaking suddenly on his sight

Turned the sky and clouds into a fantastic world

Of sombre masses with lakelike spaces of dark rosy light.

He wanted to sin with another of his kind

A cry for an iniquitous abandonment.

In the silence their dark fire kindled the dusk

Into a tawny glow.


What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world

If he suffer the loss of his immortal soul?

His soul was fattening and congealing into a gross grease

Grazing out of darkened eyes, helpless, perturbed and human

For a bovine god to stare upon.


It would rain forever, noiselessly

All life would be choked off, noiselessly.

Noiselessly floating corpses amid the litter of the wreckage of the world.

Lucifer, non serviam: I will not serve.

Time is, time was, but time shall be no more!

The greatest torment, poena damni, the pain of loss.

Ever, never; ever, never.


The Reverend Stephen Dedalus, S.J.

His destiny was to be elusive of social and religious orders.

Destined to learn his own wisdom apart from others

To learn the wisdom of others wandering among the snares of the world.


A day of dappled seaborne clouds.

Words, was it their colours?

No, the poise and balance of the period itself.

Stephaneforos. Yes! Yes! Yes! He would create

A living thing, new and soaring and beautiful,

Impalpable, imperishable.

He was alone and young and wilful and wildhearted

The first faint noise of gently moving water broke the silence,

Low and faint and whispering, faint as the bells of sleep;

Hither and thither, hither and thither;

A faint flame trembled on her cheek.


I hope I am not detaining you

A flaming bloody sugar.

This race and this country and this life

Produced me. I shall express myself as I am.

Yellow insolence.

Art is the human disposition of sensible or

Intelligible matter for an esthetic end.

A soft liquid joy, the soft space of silent spaces

Of oceanic silence, of swallows flying through

The seadusk over the flowing waters.


The stout student who stood below farted briefly.

Did an angel speak?

I’m a ballocks.

I am and I know I am And I admit that I am.


Darkness falls from the air

Brightness falls from the air.

I will not serve

My defense

Silence, exile and cunning.


I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience. 

Compiled from "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man"  (James Joyce).

by Roger Cummiskey


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