Niamh McNally, Poet | Business in the Community Northern Ireland

About Niamh McNally

Niamh McNally is an Irish poet from Belfast. From her school years in St.Louise’s Comprehensive College, Niamh has always had a passion for writing poetry. Niamh completed her Masters in Ulster University where she found space to explore and develop her writing whilst co-creating and editing The Paperclip; a student led publication. Since then, Niamh has taken poetry workshops in The Seamus Heaney Homeplace and has been published in The Tulsa Review, Tír na nÓg, Capsule Stories, and The Galway Review. Just recently, her poetry featured on the BBC and in an NI Human Rights Commission film about the climate crisis, and last year Niamh’s poem ‘If Stone Could Speak’ was showcased by Bushmills as promotion for The Causeway Collection.

Niamh strives to combine her devotion to the written and spoken word with her unconditional love for the natural world, to help tackle the climate crisis whilst trying to inspire as many people as she can through her writing.

Niamh’s poem Defining Hope was commissioned for and premiered at the Business in the Community 2021 Responsible Business Awards in Northern Ireland. It was filmed by Chris Eva, Sub-Culture Productions. Please contact suzi.mcilwain@bitcni.org.uk if you would like to use this poem for any purpose.

‘Defining Hope’        

 By Niamh McNally

I never imagined hope as being anything

other than a ‘thing with feathers’

described in a poem as perching in the soul

never asking a thing of us

 

Or how hope was composed in bird song

by a poet who defined the

voice of a confined bird

and rhymed it with freedom.

 

This past year I have thought about hope.

That word.

A word holding so much weight

in a world filled with uncertainty.

 

Being alone at home for months during

               isolation and separation

from family and friends has caused many physical and mental scars.

The cost of time lost can never be healed

               when restrictions ease.

 

Or watching leaves change colour from the same spot

as you daydream afternoons away after just waking up.

 

In a poem about rain, I painted Belfast’s skyline

with city gulls and chimney cliffs,

never imagining that I’d could be landlocked during lockdown

and would spend so much time

filling my mind with ‘what ifs’, and ‘where I could have been’ by nows,

amidst the rows over vaccines and social distancing.

 

Retreating to nature, I looked up at the Mournes

during an August downpour.

 

Metaphoric rings of mist circled Slieve Donard.

A waterfall I spotted was flooded

and Newcastle was nestled quietly below clouds

that faded into the sea.

 

To my left, two little girls in pink welly boots,

held each other upright.

One at a time, balancing on one foot, the boots came flying off.

They ran into a puddle, muddled with soggy socks and dirty water and screamed with absolute joy.

 

There it was. That split second. The tonal shift I needed,

lifted by human connection. Interaction.

 

Hope.

 

Hope this time rhymes with

               smiling eyes above masks in the

line for the bus.

 

Hope followed that lorry driver home

after unloading crates one morning

he went out of his way

to give my mum soda bread

on her way home to bed

after a night shift in the NHS.

 

Hope is in actions of business owners

respecting their staff and

their lives outside of work.

 

Hope is home-schooling the children before work,

the rushed Zoom meetings

in your pyjama bottoms and or needing

days off for mental well-being.

 

Hope is every person working for the

               community, the charities, porters,

and key workers taking responsibility

constantly risking their own lives for others.

 

Hope is when profit takes a back seat

and we retreat to the things that really matter:

 

Seeing family. Spending time with friends. Embracing the

natural world. Witnessing life coming alive again.

 

Rediscovering the beauty of where we live.

 

Waiting for the darkness to lift at the end

the tunnelled cliff under Mussenden Temple.

 

For the breath of light to show Downhill Beach

from the train tracks

and watching

the city I know all too well

open its arms on the banks of the Foyle.

 

And with life comes time. Or the lack of it.

 

The sand in our worldly hourglass is

running out at a catastrophic rate.

 

Recent warnings of Gulf Stream

collapse means that switching

to a greener way of life is not only

essential but we face an existential threat.

 

This tipping point for humanity is

               acknowledging that treacherous rain

one day after an extreme heatwave

is a clear warning sign and not

just an inconvenience to our everyday lives.

 

When we were affected by the threat to our lungs and bodies,

principle and morality worked together.

 

Funding was put in the right place,

and we, as a human race

united, which literally changed the world by

fighting the unforgiving virus.

 

If we treated this crisis like a crisis, then

why are we not doing the same for our planet

which is struggling to breathe and

dying every second?

 

I never imagined hope as being anything

other than a ‘thing with feathers’

described in a poem as perching in the soul

never asking a thing of us

 

But I am asking something from you now.

 

The fact we are still here, means that there is a small window of hope.

 

We need to stop clipping the wings of our planet,

which we are holding captive for future generations.

 

To set our bird free and save humanity,

leaders need to act responsibly, and

take this confining cage away completely.

 

To seize the only time, we have left… right now.

 

Then and only then, can hope become change.

 

Follow Niamh

Twitter: @NiamhyMcNally

Instagram: @niamhymcnally