Pomes Penyeach with Paintings

Pomes Penyeach by James Joyce

Paintings by Roger Cummiskey.

Pomes Penyeach

St. Patrick’s Festival 2021 


premieres an innovative musical event featuring the poetry of James Joyce, produced by Matthew Nolan and Adrian Crowley.

Join some of Ireland’s finest contemporary musicians on a journey to comprehend love and life from the map left by Joyce’s pen. 

How does one start a tribute to the greatest wordsmith this island has ever known? The answer is obvious; stay true to the words. St Patrick’s Festival 2021 premiers an innovative evening of music and song at the Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI) featuring the poetry of James Joyce, produced by Matthew Nolan and Adrian Crowley in collaboration with Lisa Hannigan, Sean Mac Erlaine, Kevin Murphy and Cora Venus Lunny. 

James Joyce’s second and last book of poetry, Pomes Penyeach, was published in 1927. A collection of 12 poems and a tilly – making it a baker’s dozen – the book sold for one shilling (12 pennies) or 12 francs, so the poems were a penny each. Pomes is also a pun on pommes (the French for apple) as Joyce wanted the cover of the book to be the colour of his favourite apple, the Calville. 

Most of the poems date from between 1912 and 1924 apart from ‘Tilly’, a re-working of his poem ‘Cabra’ which was written around the time of his mother’s death in 1903 when the family were living in Cabra. Many of the poems can be traced to specific biographical moments, but Joyce is not so much writing poems about moments in his life as using those biographical moments as vehicles for poetic ideas or images. 

The project is spearheaded by Dublin based composer, curator and academic Matthew Nolan, who discovered Joyce’s book thirty years ago and has been ‘trying to find a means of expressing that world ever since’. 

He enlisted the help of multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and composer Adrian Crowley to decipher this elegiac collection and an ‘astonishing musical world began to unfurl’. 

Join some of Ireland’s finest contemporary musicians on a journey to comprehend love and life from the map left by Joyce’s pen. 

Featuring: Adrian Crowley (vocals, piano, acoustic guitar & mellotron), Lisa Hannigan(vocals), Matthew Nolan (electric guitar), Sean Mac Erlaine (reeds & electronics), Cora Venus Lunny (violin & viola) and Kevin Murphy (cello).

Filmed by Bob Gallagher 

Commissioned by St. Patrick's Festival
In partnership with Museum of Literature Ireland and Dublin Airport. March 2021.


An Art Book.

Size A4
Hard/soft cover?

Limited edition 25/50. For discussion.


Images to follow over the next few months.
Timescale: March/April 2015 completed.
Commencement: After agreeing price and product format.


Left hand page printed poems by Studio Santa Rita or AN Other.
Right hand page digital photos of Paintings by Roger Cummiskey.

Contents of Pomes Penyeach are listed below, with the date and place of their composition:

Order of the poems.

1. Tilly (Dublin, 1904)
2. Watching the Needleboats at San Sabba (Trieste, 1912)
3. A Flower Given to My Daughter (Trieste, 1913)
4. She Weeps over Rahoon (Trieste, 1913)
5. Tutto è sciolto (Trieste, 13 July 1914)
6. On the Beach at Fontana (Trieste, 1914)
7. Simples (Trieste, 1914)
8. Flood (Trieste, 1915)
9. Nightpiece (Trieste, 22 January 1915)
10. Alone (Zurich,1916)
11. A Memory of the Players in a Mirror at Midnight (Zurich, 1917)
12. Bahnhofstrasse 
13.  A Prayer

by James Joyce

He travels after a winter sun,
Urging the cattle along a cold red road,
Calling to them, a voice they know,
He drives his beasts above Cabra.

The voice tells them home is warm.
They moo and make brute music with their hoofs.
He drives them with a flowering branch before him,
Smoke pluming their foreheads.

Boor, bond of the herd,
Tonight stretch full by the fire!
I bleed by the black stream
For my torn bough!

The thirteenth poem, as in the Baker's dozen, from Pomes Penyeach.

James Joyce wrote 12 poems that he sold for a shilling or twelve pence, hence the penny each. But in order to give good value he slipped in a thirteenth at no extra cost. The title also refers to the tilly of milk for the cat!

The poem, written in 1904, reflects Dublin as dependent on the live cattle trade and tells the story of the drover and his beasts.

Watching the Needleboats at San Sabba

by James Joyce

I heard their young hearts crying
Loveward above the glancing oar
And heard the prairie grasses sighing:
No more, return no more!

O hearts, O sighing grasses,

Vainly your loveblown bannerets mourn!
No more will the wild wind that passes
Return, no more return.

Joyce wrote the poem after watching his brother Stanislaus compete in a boat race at San Sabba.

A Flower given to my Daughter 
by James Joyce
Frail the white rose and frail are
Her hands that gave
Whose soul is sere and paler
Than time's wan wave.
Rosefrail and fair -- yet frailest
A wonder wild
In gentle eyes thou veilest,
My blueveined child.

This poem was written on the occasion of the birth of James Joyce’s daughter Lucia, whom he adored. ©

She Weeps over Rahoon 

by James Joyce

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.

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.©

Tutto è Sciolto                                       

by James Joyce

A birdless heaven, sea-dusk and a star 
Sad in the west; 
And thou, poor heart, love’s image, fond and far, Rememberest:

 Her silent eyes and her soft foam-white brow
 And fragrant hair,
 Falling as in the silence falleth now
 Dusk from the air.

Ah, why wilt thou remember these, or why,

Poor heart, repine,
If the sweet love she yielded with a sigh
Was never thine?

On the Beach at Fontana      

by James Joyce
Wind whines and whines the shingle,
The crazy pierstakes groan;
A senile sea numbers each single
Slimesilvered stone.
From whining wind and colder
Grey sea I wrap him warm
And touch his trembling fineboned shoulder
And boyish arm.
Around us fear, descending
Darkness of fear above
And in my heart how deep unending
Ache of love!


by James Joyce

O bella bionda,
Sei come l'onda!

Of cool sweet dew and radiance mild

The moon a web of silence weaves
In the still garden where a child
Gathers the simple salad leaves.

A moondew stars her hanging hair

And moonlight kisses her young brow
And, gathering, she sings an air:
Fair as the wave is, fair, art thou!

Be mine, I pray, a waxen ear

To shield me from her childish croon
And mine a shielded heart for her
Who gathers simples of the moon.


by James Joyce                                                                 

Goldbrown upon the sated flood
The rockvine clusters lift and sway.
Vast wings above the lambent waters brood
Of sullen day.

A waste of waters ruthlessly
Sways and uplifts its weedy mane
Where brooding day stares down upon the sea
In dull disdain.

Uplift and sway, O golden vine,
Your clustered fruits to love's full flood,
Lambent and vast and ruthless as is thine


by James Joyce
Gaunt in gloom
The pale stars their torches
Enshrouded wave.
Ghostfires from heaven's far verges faint illume
Arches on soaring arches,
Night's sindark nave. 

The lost hosts awaken
To service till
In moonless gloom each lapses, muted, dim
Raised when she has and shaken
Her thurible. 

And long and loud
To night's nave upsoaring
A starknell tolls
As the bleak incense surges, cloud on cloud,
Voidward from the adoring
Waste of souls.


by James Joyce

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.

A Memory of the Players in a Mirror at Midnight 

by James Joyce

They mouth love's language. Gnash
The thirteen teeth
Your lean jaws grin with. Lash
Your itch and quailing, nude greed of the flesh.
Love's breath in you is stale, worded or sung,
As sour as cat's breath,
Harsh of tongue. 

This grey that stares
Lies not, stark skin and bone.
Leave greasy lips their kissing. None
Will choose her what you see to mouth upon.
Dire hunger holds his hour.
Pluck forth your heart, saltblood, a fruit of tears.
Pluck and devour!


by James Joyce

The eyes that mock me sign the way
Whereto I pass at eve of day.

Grey way whose violet signals are
The trysting and the twining star.

Ah star of evil! star of pain!
Highhearted youth comes not again 

Nor old heart's wisdom yet to know
The signs that mock me as I go.

A Prayer 

by James Joyce

Come, give, yield all your strength to me!
From far a low word breathes on the breaking brain
Its cruel calm, submission's misery,
Gentling her awe as to a soul predestined.
Cease, silent love! My doom! 

Blind me with your dark nearness, O have mercy, beloved enemy of my will!
I dare not withstand the cold touch that I dread.
Draw from me still
My slow life! Bend deeper on me, threatening head,
Proud by my downfall, remembering, pitying
Him who is, him who was! 

Together, folded by the night, they lay on earth. I hear
From far her low word breathe on my breaking brain.
Come! I yield. Bend deeper upon me! I am here.
Subduer, do not leave me! Only joy, only anguish,
Take me, save me, soothe me, O spare me!

Image examples:

Project with Studio Santa Rita, Malaga or AN Other, possibly an Irish publisher.

draft Plan/Layout: October 2014.

There will be 13 poems and 13 paintings.

On reflection perhaps I should leave out the explanations at the end of the poems. For discussion.


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