Poetry for Business and Life

Raiftearaí-Poet-WikipediaLá Fhéile Bríde, February 1st, always reminds Reilly of his schooldays and the mesmeric poetry of Anthony Raftery.

He may have lived over 200 years ago, and he might have lost his sight at a young age to smallpox, but it never succeeded in thwarting his vision or his intellect.

He also was a living example of sound business principles. Here are some that impress Reilly.

The American marketing community coined the phrase ‘elevator pitch.’ It refers to being able to respond cogently, succinctly and memorably to the question – ‘who are you and what do you do’ – in the time that it would take you to go up and down in a lift.

One of Reillys first lessons in every Smácht marketing programme is to get participants to nail their elevator pitch because you’d be amazed at just how many business people struggle to identify themselves and their business purpose.

There have been books written on the subject; conferences themed around it; and countless PhDs produced on them but few elevator pitches can hold a candle to RAFTERYS version.

When asked at fairs or markets or matches in and around New Quay or Kinvara or Kiltartan what his elevator pitch was here’s what Raftery would say.

Is Mise Raifteirí an file,
Lán dóchas is grá,
Le súile gan solas,
Le ciúnas gan crá.’

I’m Raftery the poet,
Full of hope and love,
With eyes without sight,
My mind without torment.’

* 17 words.
* 80 characters (he’d have gotten discount from Twitter).
* 1 identity or positioning statement to build an entire business or life, or even a world on.


In addition to elevator pitches there’s a lot of talk in marketing circles about your ‘avatar’ or ‘ideal client.’ Raftery was wise to this too and was always patently aware of his audience. The fundamental and bottom-line question should always be: ‘can your prospective customer pay for your services?

Listen to what Raftery once had to say about a particularly parsimonious audience.

Féach anois mé
Is mo chúl le bhalla,
Ag seinm ceoil
Do phócaí folamh.’

Look at me now
My back to the wall.
Playing music to
Empty pockets.’

In business it’s critical to identify a market segment that can afford your offering.


Reillys favourite Raftery poem is ‘Cill Aodáin.’ Here’s the first stanza.
Anois teacht an earraigh, beidh ‘n lá dul chun síneadh

Is tar éis na Féil’ Bríde, ardóidh mé mo sheol,
Ó chuir mé ‘mo cheann é ní stopfaidh mé choíche
Go seasfaidh mé síos i lár Chontae Mhaigh Eo.’

Now that spring is coming, the days will be getting longer
And after St Brigid’s Feast, I’ll hoist my sail,
And since I’ve put it into my head I won’t stop a moment,
Till I stand in the middle of County Mayo.’

Translating Raftery’s poetry in text from Irish to English is tantamount to slurping vintage wine from a plastic cup. Neither were designed with those crude receptacles in mind.

Raftery’s poetry was created to inspire minds around open fires or to be recited at weddings and wakes and occasions of great significance.

The fact is that at the time of his death not a single word of his poetry was in writing. This would be later left to Lady Gregory to redress long after his death. This she did quietly in Coole Park outside Gort, and in Mount Vernon in New Quay, two of Raftery’s revered stomping grounds.

But like the alcohol in wine, the texted English translation still contains four wonderful kicks.

1. Light always follows the dark. The days are getting brighter. Get out in them. Make today count.

2. When the time is right you need to take action. ‘Hoisting your sail’ is a dynamic metaphor for taking action and getting momentum. As Raftery might have said, ‘vision without action is merely a daydream. Action without vision however, is a nightmare.’ Set your direction, hoist your sail and adjust it to propel yourself in the direction of your destination. But get moving. Movement creates momentum.

3. Visualise and Persist. You’ll hear a myriad of sports commentators on the media attest that visualisation and persistence are the twin engines of all meaningful progress. ‘Cur I do cheann é agus ná stop coiche.’ Raftery’s version is of the vintage wine variety.

4. Arrive at your destination but remember that the journey is as important as the destination. Enjoy the climb, and the view, and the company.


Reilly is occasionally pinged for being colloquial and sexist. In order to perish those assertions he delights in sharing a poem by the American poet Mary Oliver.

He shared it with the Mermaids in Newquay this morning at their swim and asked them what they thought it meant. He was amazed at the richness of their responses. What do you think it means?

I Go Down to the Shore.
‘I go down to the shore in the morning and depending on the hour
the waves are rolling in or moving out, and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall— what should I do?
And the sea says in its lovely voice: Excuse me, I have work to do.’

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?” ― Mary Oliver

1. What’s your ‘Mise Raifteirí’ statement?
2. Who is your ideal customer?
3. What destination will you hoist your sail for this week?
4. What vision will you persist doggedly with until achieved?
5. When will you stop moaning and just get on with doing the work?
6. What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

(Sincere sympathies to the family of Anrí Ó Domhnaill (Henry O’Donnell) who passed away on Lá Fhéile Bríde. Anrí addressed a cohort of Smácht on September 30th last and shared the psychological qualities required to swim around Ireland. If ever there seemed a person who was invincible and immortal it was Anrí. And somewhere therein lies the learning. Leaba i measc na nAingeal is na Naomh go raibh tú Anrí)

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