“The Painter on his Bike” and Other Offerings

by Enda Wyley

This month Trasna is featuring writers participating in Words Ireland National Mentoring Programme. Every year, 22 emerging writers are selected for the program in the areas of literary fiction, creative non-fiction, children’s/YA fiction, and poetry. Each writer is paired with a mentor.

Featured this week is poet Enda Wyley, an accomplished Irish literary figure, who served as  a mentor for Martina Dalton in the Words Ireland Programme, 2019.  Of participating in Words Ireland, and mentoring Dalton, who appeared in Trasna earlier this month,  Wyley writes: “‘Martina Dalton is possessed of her own distinctive poetic voice, which is intelligent, imaginative, often surreal – and always driven by a fierce commitment to the poem itself and the journey it wishes to take itself on.

As Enda Wyley establishes her place in the pantheon of Irish literary greats, she continues to teach and to mentor promising writers.  In the pieces  she has offered to Trasna, she shows us what it means to be an artist, as she calls life’s bittersweet experiences into being and beauty. Her offerings this week come in a variety of mediums, including an essay, poetry, and a video poem. 


Her first piece,  an essay entitled “Through the Window,”  originally featured on the radio show Sunday Miscellany, movingly recounts the loss of her mother, a nursing home resident during this time of COVID. Listen to Enda reading her  essay hereThis essay may well become a signature piece of this time in our history. Above is a photo of Imelda Wyley, Enda’s mother.

The Painter on his Bike

Wyley is best known for her poetry. From her most recent collection, her sixth, The Painter on his Bike, we have two poems. Listen to Enda Wyley read and talk about the title poem of her new collection, The Painter on his Bike, Dedalus Press, 2019

The Painter on his Bike

for James Hanley

balances his father –

sketched in pencil –

wrapped in paper

on his handlebars.

As he cycles down

Heytesbury Street

the twist of string

around the frame

loosens for a second

catches in the wheel

the painter’s breath

caught too

by the sudden sight

of his dead father’s eyes.

They saw me

before I saw myself…

He stops at the kerb,

tugs at the twine, frees it

from the spokes, sets off

again, the bike wobbling,

bumping over

potholes and tramlines,

the picture beating

against his knee.

He is cycling

the portrait home.

And later, a fire lit,

the paper unbound –

Father, whose eyes 

rise up, from the face 

your son drew, 

like two dark lost moons.


for Peter Siri

In the attic dark the red box

that’s waited for years to be

hauled down into the light again.

Standard Feint, yellow notebooks

of your past, all dusty – your ancient longing

made real with the swipe of cloth

and those poems you wrote still there

from when you’d first imagined them,

rushed words into life. Frantic ink of desire.

How you ran through the snow to lose her,

unlearning her name to find her again in days

of bed and feasts of wine, nights of Callas –

unending light, unending splendour

that I later reached for on the bookshop shelf,

knelt to read in the hush of the poetry corner.

Her alabaster breasts, his querulous stare

and poised quill, her gentle hand on his

velvet blue jacket – that cover, your book

trembling in the palms of my hands,

this ledger of lost love I’d never read before

that thrilled, made me stand up then make

for the door, our future racing out onto

Dawson street and into the wideness of the city,

Larkin raising his hands to me, the gulls cawing

encouragement as I sought you out, your face staring

from a high window over Parnell Square, waiting for me,

the life you’d described becoming ours, the door unlatched.

from, The Painter on his Bike, Dedalus Press, 2019.

Note: This poem is inspired by a collection of poems by Peter Sirr, The Ledger of Fruitful Exchange, (1995, Gallery Press) with its cover painting, ‘Self Portrait with his Wife, Anna Maria,’ (c. 1800) by Robert Fagan, the Hunt Museum, Ireland.


Finally, her poem “Home” is dramatized in the attached video and the narrator is her young daughter Freya.

Enda Wyley was born in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin. She is a teacher and writer and is a member of Aosdána, the Irish academy of artists. She has published six collections of poetry with Dedalus Press: The Painter on his Bike (2019 )Borrowed Space, New and Selected Poems, (2014), To Wake to This, (2009),  Poems for Breakfast, ( 2004 ), Socrates in the Garden, (1998) and  Eating Baby Jesus, (1993). She was the inaugural winner of the Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize, Melbourne University and was the recipient of a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship for her poetry. Her poetry has been widely broadcast, translated and anthologised including in The Harvard Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry, Lines of Vision, The National Gallery of Ireland and If Ever You Go, One City, One Book. She has been poet-in-residence for many projects and institutions including: The Coombe Maternity Hospital, Dublin, and The People’s Acorn, a sculpture project for Áras an Uachtaráin, the official residence of the President of Ireland. Enda Wyley’s books for children from O’Brien Press, are Boo and Bear, I Won’t Go to China! and The Silver Notebook. Her poetry for children has been included in anthologies such as Something Beginning with P, O’Brien Press and Once Upon A Place, Ed Eoin Colfer, Little Island.

5 Responses to “The Painter on his Bike” and Other Offerings by ENDA WYLEY

  1. Enda Wyley says:June 26, 2020 at 8:22 amI am delighted to be featured on Trasna. Many thanks to all! A pleasure to be included. It was also a hugely inspiring experience working with Martina Dalton on the Words Ireland Mentoring Programme 2019-2020. Enda Wyley
  2. Margaret O’Brien says:June 26, 2020 at 6:34 pmThank you Enda for these wonderful and varied pieces. Each one individually strikes a particular chord for me. V special.
  3. Chris O’C says:June 26, 2020 at 7:23 pmAbsolutely love “Through the Window,” a future classic. The story behind your lead poem is so moving. It was so enjoyable to spend time with all these pieces. A rewarding experience.
  4. Jeannie Judge says:June 26, 2020 at 8:37 pmI am so thoroughly impressed by your body of work and grateful for your generosity. In your essay “Through the Window,” you touch our hearts. Your poetic voice and vision capture a moment–like holding a book–and make it holy. I am eager to read more.
  5. Eileen Acheson says:June 28, 2020 at 11:03 amEnda a wonderful treat on this Sunday of howling wind.
    Your choices reflecting for me themes of home,parents, love the beauty of goodbyes and first hellos are rich generous and inspiring.
    Thank you.