Yeats, Joyce, Heaney… and Currivan?

HTBS’s Tim Koch writes,

The recent postings of things poetical and things Irish on HTBS prompts me to write about a collection of humorous rowing poems entitled Inside Rowing, The Outside Handbook by the Irish international oarsman, Barry Currivan of Dublin’s Neptune Rowing Club. In the introduction he writes:

‘Lets face it, in a sport that is shorter on light moments than one of Thor Nilsen’s fartlek programmes, there is a gap in the humorous literature department. As to whether this volume does anything to fill that gap or only widens it I will leave to you, the reader, to decide.’

To help you come to a decision, this is from ‘High Noon: Henley’:

Approaching Remenham Club
We could hear the clink of glasses
Of ancient oarsmen
Drinking Pimms
And talking through their asses.

From ‘On the Subject of Coxes’:

So please don’t you believe them
When you’re going for that line.
Because when they call ‘Last 20 strokes’
It’s more like thirty nine.

The booklet can also be used as an instructional manual, viz:

On the draw it would be best
(for this will never fail ya)
To draw the oar up to the chest,
And not to the genitalia.

Currivan’s rowing experience enables him to make some nice observations. This is from ‘Seating Arrangements (The VIII)’:

For the stroke whose only claim to fame
Is maintaining a steady rate,
Does not deserve the strokeman’s name
He’s only number eight.

The poems are also used to make other points as in ‘Rowing in the Media’:

A football match you can read about
That was held in some back ally;
You’d think that rowing faded out
When Ben Hur sank his galley.

Some of Currivan’s rhyming is a little forced (but he has never suggested that he is producing high art) and some of it only works when spoken by an Irishman (as when he rhymes ‘seat with ‘teeth’) but I still recommend that you buy a copy and use it as I do, to enliven speeches made at rowing functions (but give Barry a credit). Copies can be ordered from Neptune Rowing Club at

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