Sunday, December 31, 2017


By Dennis O'Driscoll

Tomorrow I will start to be happy.
The morning will light up like a celebratory cigar.
Sunbeams sprawling on the lawn will set
dew sparkling like a cut-glass tumbler of champagne.
Today will end the worst phase of my life.

I will put my shapeless days behind me,
fencing off the past, as a golden rind
of sand parts slipshod sea from solid land.
It is tomorrow I want to look back on, not today.
Tomorrow I start to be happy; today is almost yesterday.


Australia, how wise you are to get the day
over and done with first, out of the way.
You have eaten the fruit of knowledge, while
we are dithering about which main course to choose.
How liberated you must feel, how free from doubt:

the rise and fall of stocks, today’s closing prices
are revealed to you before our bidding has begun.
Australia, you can gather in your accident statistics
like a harvest while our roads still have hours to kill.
When we are in the dark, you have sagely seen the light.


Cagily, presumptuously, I dare to write 2018.
A date without character or tone. 2018.
A year without interest rates or mean daily temperature.
Its hit songs have yet to be written, its new-year
babies yet to be induced, its truces to be signed.

Much too far off for prophecy, though one hazards
a tentative guess—a so-so year most likely,
vague in retrospect, fizzling out with the usual
end-of-season sales; everything slashed:
your last chance to salvage something of its style.

from New and Selected Poems. Anvil Press Poetry, Ltd.

Dennis O'Driscoll (1 January 1954 – 24 December 2012) was an Irish poet, essayist, critic and editor. Regarded as one of the best European poets of his time, Eileen Battersby considered him "the lyric equivalent of William Trevor" and a better poet "by far" than Raymond Carver.

The poet starts the poem on an optimistic tone by writing off the present moment, wishing away his past of “shapeless days” (i.e., “the worst phase of my life”), demanding something better — “Tomorrow I start to be happy; today is almost yesterday.” He expects that "the morning will light up like a celebratory cigar."

The second stanza is an enjoyable read. The poet is jealous of the fact that sunrise in Australia (and hence New Year) would be ahead of Ireland (because of the time difference and hence many businesses get finished before it even starts in the western world) and mulls over the advantages of it. He strikes a dark note at the end of the stanza stating that “our roads still have hours to kill”

Gradually the poet comes to somber tone in the third stanza when he realizes that he may not actually put his shapeless days behind him. The poet who wrote this poem around 2002 imagines the year 2018 (a random year he chose at that time as many events to unfold in 2018 were a mere conjecture for the poet ) would be most likely a "so-so year". The same monotony of year-end sales and people’s mad rush to grab what they had wanted would prevail. Thus the initial expectancy of the speaker that he would be able to change for the better fades towards the end. 

Sadly, the poet passed away in 2012, long before the year 2018 he had dreamed about.

Notwithstanding the skewed optimism of the poet, May I wish all my readers a fabulous New Year filled with fun to all of you

1 comment:

  1. This is a lovely analysis, touching on both the personal and public aspects of the poem.