Philosophy of the face – James Finnegan

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Illustration by Shreya Malpani

(for artist Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946)


there is your face your face your face

and ten more faces of Helene Schjerfbeck

in Prince Eugene’s old home outside Stockholm

by the sea the snow and the trees

February 2013


from Helene young to Helene old

to a sketched skull in ’45

like a Scandinavian scream

with arrow eyes and slanted mouth

a year before the scythe


1939 self-portrait

shows you with a black mouth

one big eye outward the other in

head and hair like a Tintin cartoon

you look to my right

I read you better than

if you were looking straight at me


earlier etched on glass

at the Stutterheim raincoat shop

Scandinavian melancholy at its driest

another etching that softens me


I sit here looking at a stranger

looking at one of your paintings

probably The Bakery

and love the sadness I see in him.


James Finnegan, who was born in Dublin, lives a few kilometers outside Letterkenny in Co Donegal. He has had poems published with The Rainbow Poetry News (2008), North West Words (Spring and Summer, 2015), Sarasvati 039 (2015), Poets Meet Politics (2015) – a Hungry Hill Writing Publication.  A short memoir piece, An Féar Bán, was highly commended and appears in an Original Writing Anthology Ireland’s Own (Oct 2015). Another memory piece Cat Flap was published in Ireland’s Own in March 2016. Sarasvati (March 2016) has taken five poems. In June 2016, James won the Chipping Sodbury Festival Poetry Competition, was commended for the Poetry Kit List Spring 2016 Competition, and won first place in Café Blend with the placing of a poem in The Bombay Review for autumn 2016. Ireland’s Own have also recently accepted another memoir piece (June 22nd 2016). James holds a Doctor of Philosophy in living educational theory from the University of Bath (2001).