The Minister of Dreams

When Dr. Katherine Zappone was launching Michael Murphy’s Book of Dreams, I introduced her as the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. And she responded in her languid and educated American tones “Dearest Michael! If I may be so bold as to correct a distinguished author: I am the Minister of children who dream!” I wrote the concluding poem in my Collected Poems to honour her and her late partner Dr. Ann Louise Gilligan, whose pioneering struggle paved the way for marriage equality. A paraphrase of her remark gave me the overall title for this new collection of thirty-one poems, together with poems in The Republic of Love (2013) and A Chaplet of Roses (2015).


During the summer break in Spain, I like to rise in the cool of the very early morning to write. And Toga, my chocolate Labrador, joins me at my desk and sleeps at my feet until about 6 o’clock, when she starts pulling at my typing arm with her paw. It’s time for her walk! We’d be out for about an hour with the stars still in the sky, tramping briskly through the pine woods, or down towards the seashore. And the affectionate poems in this new collection where Toga has become my muse had their genesis on those companionable walks:

To understand how love runs to catch us up

And now accompanies us lightly every day

Is a miraculous vision my dog has lived out in my presence 

So that I too have become a wonderful creature

Loving and loved in her service 

Truly human

And I am truly blessed


There are other poems I wrote to honour my friends. Barbara and Tiernan held an imaginative celebration on Inishboffin for their sixtieth birthday and their daughter Carla’s twenty-first, and I wrote the Love that is Always Here poem about them as a meaningful gift:

To be counted a friend by the two of you Barbara and Tiernan 

Is a gift which supports us with hope

In the end it pledges we are worthy somehow

Of love

Of being free

Of belonging somewhere

Seated around the table of your lives

Breaking bread with wise friends companionably 

Nourishing our souls with sacred conversations 

That we can have with no one else

That allow us to be more like ourselves


Similarly when Jill and Dan got married in Rome, I put that internationally elegant occasion into the words of Eternally Yours. They gave the framed poem pride of place in their living-room:

When I make this solemn promise 

Say I do to a new way of life

I’m confidently saying yes to you

That I will be your wife

That I will take my place beside you

And support the hope this formal pledge implies 

For both of us

That we shall stand together

That our love will last forever

However long or short our lives may be

In the end you can rest assured 

That now I am

Eternally yours…


The Breslin brothers Andy and Barry with exceptional generosity brought RTE colleagues and myself to the States for performances at the Irish Arts Center and in the Irish Consulate General in New York, so the least I could do was write them a poem in thanksgiving, entitled Brothers:


The Breslins granted entrance for one who married in 

To the liminal language of brothers

The secret glance the slight smile

That imperceptible nudge of fraternal feeling

They included me in humour

Allowing access to a new world of linguistic possibilities 

Handing me a further family of words

Grounded in the life of an Irish town

To illuminate the wider world

Way beyond my fondest imaginings

They gifted to me once again

The strength of loving brothers…


I have enjoyed writing the heartfelt poems in this new collection. When I look through the Collected Poems, I see that everywhere I’ve been writing about love. In the poem A Life For Love:

The purpose of life is to love

I have come to such an understanding later 

Which requires a more adult approach 

Than the human-lite notion

That you have to love everybody

Oh no you don’t

Love is very precious

To be shared only with a chosen few

Love is the highest value that there is 

I choose to live a life for love 



In the poem Elysium, I write about my partner Terry:

The good I did which brings forgiveness

Which absolves me

And makes me new

Is that I have loved

And been loved

By you… 


These poems reveal my soul, and the convictions I have developed from studying human nature. As I write in the poem Enough, my conclusion about life is:

Love was all that mattered

In the end


My hope is that these insights will offer consolation. Enjoy the music!

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