Pat Ingoldsby, street poet of Dublin

Text: Solveig Hansen, 2016

“Is she paralyzed from the waist up? No… she does Irish dancing.”

Pat Ingoldsby’s (b. 1942) poems span from the quirky and queer to the rough reality of street life. He used to host children’s TV shows, write plays, publish short stories, and work as a newspaper columnist. In the mid-nineties, he withdrew from the mass media to write poetry. Until recently, he sold his books on the streets of Dublin. You’d often find him on Westmoreland Street.

I first heard about him while on assignment in Dublin some years ago. Before leaving, I dropped by a bookstore and asked for a contemporary Irish poet. The young girl behind the counter hesitated for a second and then said, “Pat Ingoldsby.”

Mr. Ingoldsby has found his own characteristic and humoristic style for which his readers love him. He draws inspiration from overhearing people talk on buses, from people he observes and talks to while selling books, and from things they say to him (“Keep an eye on the bike will you”).

He takes something ordinary and makes it slightly surreal. I have heard the Irish describe Irish dancing but not like this: “Is she paralyzed from the waist up? No… she does Irish dancing.” Another typical word-picture is:

The bicycle knelt forward
and prayed
because its front wheel
was gone

He Thought They’d Be Thrilled to Hear It He Really Did is about an elevator full of people and no one knew what to say to break the silence. Then one man “spoke with great sincerity” and told the others that his doctor had assured him that as long as he took his medicine at the appointed times, he wouldn’t feel the urge to whip out his butcher’s knife in crowded lifts and wave it around his head. “Isn’t that great?” he asked. Then he looked at his watch: “Oh shit,” he said.

Among the more somber poems is Last Supper, in which a homeless man makes a picture of the Last Supper from the white bird droppings on the pavement. Then he wanders into the picture and eats the bread and drinks the wine and falls asleep with his arms stretched out, like a cross.

One favorite of mine is Part of the Reason Why Lord Livingston Cotchineal Left His Wife and Went to Live in an Enclosed Order – the publisher kindly gave me the permission to publish it:


Lady Ebenezer Cotchineal
leaned forward
in the restaurant
and the shadows
from the feathers
on her hat
with the shadows
of the electric fan
to form
a perfect windmill
on the wall.
Just then
Don Quixote
cantered in
from the street
in search
of something new
and exciting
to tilt.
and his donkey
thundered towards the wall
with such ferocity
that nobody
who heard it
will ever forget
the thud.

“Let that be a lesson
to you”
said Lady Ebenezer.
“All my sympathies
are with your donkey.”

Then she went home
and stuck
bigger feathers
in her hat.

(c) Pat Ingoldsby, 1996

The poems mentioned are from If You Don’t Tell Anybody I Won’t (1996).

Pat Ingoldsby on Facebook: My poems come out to play


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