Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Bardic Bootbaggerist

Boston's most well known and widely read troll in poesy and America's biggest satirical poetry critic, William Logan, has spent a career in one-sided bare-knuckle bardic bootbaggery; and what the Enniskeen Monaghan poet, Patrick Kavanagh, called in his poem Prelude, 'the unfruitful prayer of satire.'

His once crisp cutting-edge reviews were for many years very funny during the peak of his satirical career, but his writing star in the online age has dulled and ended with no place to evolve, his satirical tank has hit empty, the one trick shtick's washed up, and he knows now he is a fraud in Filiócht.

He is a laughably transparent critical hypocrite. When reviewing the Dennis O'Driscoll Stepping Stones interviews, and Heaney generally, he deploys the word 'cunning' a lot with a pejorative bias, stating parenthetically of the infinitely more eloquent, humanly warm, humble and talented Irish ollamh:

"The slyest moments here are his backhanded judgments on fellow poets."

...before indulging in the exact same practice:

"The richness of these interviews comes in part from the weakness of character inadvertently revealed. A poetry of warmth and humility has been drawn around a personality at times icy with conceit."

The obvious statement to make about Logan's style is that he has made a name for himself as a head-stomper, applying the sneeriest of standards to others, when his own poetry is a weak gruel fare and of a laughably poorer quality than most of the people's he trolls.

Henry Lloyd Moon, an anonymous critic responding on the Guardian Books Blog in 2009 to a worshipful blurb by John Sutherland toadying up to Martin Amis - could equally be referring to Logan's overblown poetic standing when s/he writes of Amis:

"It's like laughing along with the worldly but weedy class show-off."

Poet-manque Logan is clearly more of an aging comedian past his best than a literary valuable critic professing praiseful prayerfully and with a sense of reverence for the art and objects in language that make a poem sing in the aural ear of everyone regardless of our education or standing, and is merely an outrageously readable professional and increasingly bitter has-been troll, among whose many glaring faults is one that anyone tutored by the people of the goddess Art can spot.

That for all his material comfort, this envy-driven drek-specialist is essentially unfulfilled in the role of poet, because these days virtually no Joy ever dribbles from his mental lips onto the review page. He has written far too much satire, like a pub bore whinging in the corner alone because their life-long lists of what is wrong and not working and what is rubbish and what is unworthy of the senior critical misanthrope's attention and time, are way too depressing and spiritually toxic for the junior alcoholics to stomach.

The one or two that can barely tolerate the toxic spewking are usually equally senior literary haters and intellectual failures rejecting any form of simple positive literary language of broad inclusion, and, too satirically trapped and unable to free their minds from the chains of mental slavery to their own fragile egos incapable of facing up publicly to their low stations and initiating the sweeping cerebral changes which will reverse the mind's poetic polarity to draw form and make sing the spirit of human happiness, that our vampiric Loganites leach from all around when talking in print their poetically poisonous brand of increasingly unfunnier and unfunnier uncritical lazy polished stand up doggerelist routines.


The simple humble human state of being in awe and wonder with the divine, is something which has totally by-passed this awful doggerelist's plodding ditties, made from the most mediocre low quality psychic head-juice, and composed in an untutored joyless imagination and intellect that is the contemporary poetic equivalent of the lowest first grade 'culbard' (back/rear-bard) of the eight in the ('unfree') Dóer bard caste.

Sixteen bardic levels, eight in the Dóer, and eight in the ('free') Sóer bard class; that this dinosaur native of Boston Clowntalkin wud defecate his critical trews if presented with by someone possessing authentic knowledge of Filiocht, who came to expose his own doggerelistic practice by attempting to instigate a Bardic Colloquy with him.

Barely at the bottom, tenth and lowest grade ye start at on the twelve year literary Fili poet curriculum, an ollaire, ('apple'), who needed to have written seven pieces of satirical text to move up to the next grade in their studies; and that one ancient gloss, translated first into German from Gaelic by Ronald Thurneyson in Mittelirische Verslehren, Irish tract on the poetic metres, that present in comprehensive detail the eight grades of the noble sóerbards ('freebards'), describes Logan's art as "the bastard sport of the juggler's apple".

Whilst another ancient Irish literary source labels this lowest grade "fuirseoir gan dán" "a buffoon without skill" in the Liam Breatnach translated (1978) Uraicecht na Ríar/Primer of Stipulations.

A 10C legal text on the status of poets, that includes information on each grade of the ten grades on the 12 year Filí poet course, the  number, type, and form of compositions each had to learn; the names and metres appropriate to each of the sixteen grades of free and unfree bards; as well as the log enech 'face price' of each of the eight grades of free bards and seven literary Filí grades.

Log enech (Welsh equivalent - wynebwerth); was the value put on one's oath and word, and the amount of payment each meter and grade of free bard and literary Filí poet can expect for a text composed in the metres appropriate to their grades; as well as the set damages and compensation they pay out to others if they 'lost face'; or received, when successfully contending a civil injury Brehon law cases, based on their social and literary status.

With the Reader also learning exactly what textual material one must have memorized, written and be proficient in the making of to attain each literary grade and pass onto the next in their studies. And, most importantly of all, the difference between a literary Filí poet and common bard; the highest of which in the free-bard class was the rig-bard grade, with only eight years training.

And which settled recently on Oxford university poet and literary goddess Fiona Sampson's Facebook; a silent stand off between the 'Bob Dylan is a Poet' crowd led by Carcanet hippy Michael Schmidt, and the 'how dare you dare you Bob Dylan is not a poet' crowd; with both sides unable to resolve the question because, it can be argued, in the purest theoretical sense, members on both sides of the debate, by the standards of the Primer of Stipulations, are not poets either, because, according to the authoritative definition on the matter: "Bard d(an)o: cin dligedfogluime is indtleacht fadeisin": "A bard, then: without the prerogative of learning, but intellect alone."

Strictly speaking, from a traditional Irish poetry perspective, unless one has 'the prerogative of learning', has studied and passed the set requirements of the 12 year Irish literary Filí poet curriculum, they were considered a bard not a literary poet; by those Writing Studies graduates that had completed the required twelve to sixteen years of exacting study and graduated to speaking fluently at the very highest of their potential, toxic in satire and splendorous in praise, wrapped in the shield of the eternal ever-loving warm witty kind voice of the people of our earthly island goddess Her.

Another difference also being, we are told by the literary Filí poet: "though the bards are not bound to have a knowledge of letters and syllables they must be able to distinguish and recognise correct consonance by ear and by thought."

Powerful, a handful of words settles it, and there is no disputing from those Oxbreligious ivy leaguers one would expect were able to contend with a werking-klaws dirteh lettle oink spewking with a voice of Lancashababru from Ormskirk bygone times.

Translated by Liam Breatnach, (1987, p98), Uraicecht Na Riar - The Poetic Grades in Early Irish Law. Thus "the essential difference between the Filí and the bard is the latter’s lack of professional training".

Exactly the important point Robert Graves emphasizes in the opening of his first of the 1954/5 Cambridge University Clarke Lectures, with a subject of Professional Standards in English Poetry: The Crowning Privilege:

Unlike stockbrokers, soldiers, sailors, doctors, lawyers, and parsons, English poets do not form a closely integrated guild. A poet may put up his brass plate, so to speak, without the tedious preliminaries of attending a university, reading the required books and satisfying examiners. Also, a poet, being responsible to no General Council, and acknowledging no personal superior, can never be unfrocked, cashiered, disbarred, struck off the register, hammered on 'Change, or flogged round the fleet, if he is judged guilty of unpoetic conduct.
The only limits legally set on his activities are the acts relating to libel, pornography, treason, and the endangerment of public order. And if he earns the scorn of his colleagues, what effective sanctionscan they take against him? None at all. 

Because the poet is a member of what Graves calls an anarchic profession, their responsibility must be to the Muse alone, and because no guild confers a diploma on English language poets, hence, any literary lummox such as Logan can stamp upon the corporate page as a critic-poet when really s/he is more a satirical troll anyone can set ourselves up as even though s/he is merely akin to a second grade taman.

Middle of the three satirical bardic sub-grades on the 12 year Filí literary poet training course, a second year student full of satirical toxicity, and 'taman', the headless ('trunk' 'stock') state of a decapitated body who ‘assaults everyone with his recitations’, ‘does not make the apportioning of the truth’, will ‘oppress the chiefs of the court’, and ‘spew their brute mouthfuls’.

One below a drisiuc (thorn-bard), the name coming from a doérbard' of the third degree, and a low satirist and lampooner, so called thorn because s/he 'sticks in the face of all.'

A trafficker in mockery, as all begin as, satirically sneering at those above us in the tree of literary Filiocht/poetry; and coming to learn how to praise after completing the studies of the early satirical grades. And exiting the drisuic grade--that had to have written a total of 20 pieces--before s/he could start the studies of the first literary beginner's grade, Fochloc, in the third year.

In my third year I was still at the Conceptual and Linguistically Innovative Poetry School, having completed two very joyous straight years Modern American Poetry modules on a Writing Studies BA starting with Pound's A Few Don'ts and working through the American canon and going out the door with the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry taught to us by well known Edge Hill University experimental poet brawlers, Robert Sheppard, and Scott Thurston.

Two greatly feared London avant-garde heavyweights, and veterans of many brutal no holds barred academic straighteners and epistemological dirty fights. Sheppard having gained his reputation as a terrifying intellectual boot-bagger of Movement squares when risking everything at the front line of the Earls Court PoSoc (Poetry Society) Wars, as an underage mercenary who'd fought his way up from the streets as part of an out of control linguistically dangerous cadre of modern American poetry inspired outlaws who launched what Charles Osbourne Director of Literature at the English Arts Council of the time, furiously labeled: "A treacherous assault on British poetry".

By English poets inspired by the American Black Mountain scene, Objectivists, WCW, New York School and the Beat poets, with the fascist tool Pound their intellectual leader. Which now of course is mainstream, but in 1971 this was treason, and the red leftist hippies took over the petty cash tin and drinks budget, and the great flowering of the British Poetry Revival occurred, led by the 1960's and '70s Fagan of London Poetry's Underworld, the DIY ethos, Writers Forum creator, Bob Cobbing.

Commander in Chief of the Rebellion, Eric Mottram, Sheppard's PhD supervisor. Sheppard himself was the very inspiring PhD supervisor of poetry special forces commando Scott Thurston, who when he left Edge Hill's literary SAS training camp muscled in on the toughest patch in England, and carved out his turf in Salford, where he gained his current reputation as our now greatly feared and seldom crossed poetic intellectual hard-man, whose love for the world's most experimental poetries kick-started Manchester's Linguistically Innovative Other Room Scene on the academic cobbles. Pound for pound, one of the toughest most formidably experimental academic avant-garde poetry minds this side of New York.

I first called Logan out years ago, in the genesis of this text that was published in 2009 as a comment on an article written by Don Share, titled I Hate Poetry... Reviews?, published on the Poetry Foundation's Harriet Blog at what is now The Donald's lifeless come all ye bland multicultural Foetry Poundation, when Share was still assistant editor at what was then still Christian Winman's literary showcase for exclusively dead white male Bawsten poetry. Calling out the critical poetry clown and literary liquidation expert when I still had four and five years left to study.

Pointing out that the all American bardic buffoon and modernist spewing his brute mouthful of mass mockery without the prerogative of learning but intellect alone, our third-rate drisiuc thorn-bard that sticks in the face of all, is working with only half the ingredients in the poetry kit-bag, the "Fi" of "toxic in satire", and none of the "Li, splendorous in praise".

Both of which make etymologically up the two halves of a superlative literary Filí poet's tongue, that 'it is various the poet speaks' in, the speckled art of poetry, consisting of two ingredients, Praise and Satire.

Here are a few lines from the resident know all whose mediocrity knows no bounds:

After the Blitz, her mother had begun an affair. So she said.
No one would have called her wellbred,

but she knew how to fill a low-cut dress,
had a fetching smile and a tongue for success.

...and on and on adinfinitum, no half or slant acoustic concordance, and deploying all the plodding amateur rhyming skills and doggerelist intelligence he lambasts the targets of his critical misanthropy for displaying.

I read the Boston spirit strangler's collection of critical carnage and butchery Our Savage Art recently (in 2009, prepping for this inevitable clash), littered with allusions and references to figures from Greek myth, as Logan tried to strike a balance between being bare-knuckle bore and belabouring his points about the fine art of civilised Criticism, seemingly blind to the irony, that most examples of what he is saying about all the poetaster critics of yesteryear - are equally applicable to himself:

"Blackmur, who, though a brilliant critic, was a dreadful poet."

...and quoting Coleridge:

"..a critic most hates those who excel in the particular department in which he, the critic, has notoriously been defeated.."

The problem with aging two-dimensional ditty makers who have little in the way of poetic talent and lots in the way of attitude, who fall into safe comfortable numbers as the jolly pit-bull critic sneering at all and sundry - is that eventually they become spent grumps and are put out of their misery when a funnier smarter kinder and more literary learned wit enters the bardic ring, and, playing them at their own game, knocks them satirically out with the first shlap from the heart and soul of the true people of the goddess Art, and that leaves the outcome in no doubt when bodies forth a voice of filliocht from our only loving earthly son of the sacred heart in heaven, mother be the name, filled without and within, by and from, the eternal faery maternal love all purely Her's.

I have stated before, i am keen to debate Logan, with or without satirical gloves, anywhere online or in print; but i am confident he has not sufficient literary courage to bardically debate because s/he his mind knows one's own is superior in both intellect and artistry than his.

WB Logan is a brutal bardic conman, satirical literary lightweight and Filliocht poetry faker, no more a qualified literary Filí poet than i'm a tree who's a planet or a moon fully Spanish; more, he's a weedy armchair wannabe oi wish Rambo who's gob dribbles pap for the Pop Idol audience and generation of second rate satirical ditty readers.

The Werking Krap in Shwelly Voice by William Logan. Critic manque, forgettable ditty maker.

Be Warned. Ye gorra 'av a laff.

Hello. Again.

Praise from the 'Li, splendor in praise' side of the literary Fili poet's tongue, for Jorie Graham's latest poem, Exchange, in Poetry, October 2017.

A stream of Voice from one of the most intellectually regarded and prominent female poets writing in America today. Up there with Rita Dove, Jane Hirshfield, Sarah Kay, Mary Oliver, Kay Ryan, Tracey K Smith, and Natasha Trethewey.

The Beckettian voice addressing a mysterious You flowing from the mouth in our secular love poets' glossolalia, vocalizing speech-like syllables lacking any readily comprehended meaning, when spoken, sound, perhaps, something below the surface that is deeply profound.

Graham's prayer from and to Self questions and investigates, 'Prosecute(s), sentence(s)' in an imaginative roller-coaster ride of highly balanced energies performing on the page at top torque, swinging from the bottom to the crest of speech recounting in the opaque bérla filidh, 'language of the poets' that s/he the gender neutral individual poet's mind reserves for communicating with other poets.

It is one of the five Divisions of Gaelic, what was called on the twelve year poet curriculum of yore, the Selected/Chosen language - berla tobaidhi - literally 'the cut out language' as cut out from trees; that a poet was required to have attained a beginning proficiency in by the seventh year of their twelve year curriculum in Ireland during the 1000 year heyday of the poetry schools on which Irish literature is founded.

The five Divisions of the Selected language (Gaelic) being, of course, as any Irish poet will happily tell you from their life-long study of the Precepts of Poetry, Handbook of the Learned, Auraicept na n-Éces: (1) Bearla na Feine, the prose language or dialect of fenechas law, a high level legal language of the educated, that the laws were preserved in and which was used by Brehon lawyers and Filidh poets for official business like law, ritual and ceremony.

(2) Bearla an Eaderscartha, Ogham, the language of separation between the vowels, the separative language or dialect; The Language Parted among the trees. This is a language that is considered a natural language, yet it also was used for encryption and for memory lists.

(3) Iarmberla, the abstractive/additional Iron language or dialect and "a term used by classical grammarians for unstressed words in classical poetry, i.e. the words which do not alliterate or rhyme but are crucial for sense (prepositions, definite article, conjunctions etc.). All the underlined words below in the first verse of you poem are said to be iairmbéarladha.

1 Mór ar bfearg riot, a rí Saxan,
a a dhamhna,
do-raduis, ger mhór a meanma,
brón for Bhanbha.

(4) Gnaithbhearla, the customary colloquial language and dialect of a then illiterate majority.

(5) Bearla Filidh - 'language of the poets' - was known to be the most ancient of the five divisions, languages and dialects of spoken and literary Gaelic. The Secret Language of the Poets, that a Medieval gloss on a 7C text states 'sometimes known as "Dark Speech" because it obscures meaning through the use of kennings and metaphors. The Poets used this language to converse among themselves, in tests and initiations, in producing chants, invocations and satires, especially when they wanted to reserve their meanings to the learned only.'

A 14C Brehon historian lawyer and poet, Giolla na Naomh O hUidhrin, died 1420; in a poem addressing his pupils on bearla filidh in a twenty-five rann/stanza poem composed around 1300, 'Take my advice, gentle gentleman', put into modern Irish by Máirín Ní Dhonnchadha as: ‘An address to a student of Law, in Sages, Saints and Storytellers (Celtic studies in honour of Prof. James Carney, Maynooth, 1989), 159-77:

'The literary language whose thrust is not self-evident or superficial, and the noble reading aloud—for ardent judges and bards, they are the keys which release locks.'

Ms Graham's prose-poem can be contextualized, should one choose to praise Her, as the ecstatically voiced fortifying personal experience, poetic prayer, and reminder to self by this marvelously heard, read and experienced poet that s/he must keep the faith in what traditionally in courtly love poetry on which contemporary American poetry and the highly educated professors of it is founded, and are found, is, of course, Her.

Him also. You the muse without and within, the double-self's interior living force whirling round within, silent unknowable consciousness of our human spirit here caught in its more accurate fragmentary state an eruction of voice mapping closet to thought the mind of our amazingly talented contemporary American poet of the highest and most valuable order.


Or, from the other opposing professionally cynical critical 'Fi, toxic in satire' side of the literary Fili poets' tongue, one could get in a cheap dig by putting forth the contention that far from this being the glossolallia of a modern high American priestess of Columbia's magical native spiritual art, it is the voice of a poet's cold clinically detached analytical professional addressing The Editor of Poetry, Donald Share, in response to his commissioning this poem, perhaps.

Only DS and Jorie Graham can tell us from the horses mouth, and one is friends with neither of these titan poetic heavyweights on social-media. Indeed, The Donald has blocked one of Irish Poetry Blog's most senior social-media colleagues on the most contemporary site for modern American literature, shortly after one began referring to him as The Donald on the said senior social-media colleague's popular global social-media platform interactively commented on and read by the A-B-C-D-E-F and right up to the poetry whirl's Z-listers such as oneself.

An unpublished crank poetic nobody and social-media troll with unpopularity issues responsible for one's mental illness being channeled into unwarranted personal attacks on literary heavyweights that have also blocked oneself on Facepewk for a litany of un-literary high crimes and trash-talk misdemeanors one composed published and paid the ultimate price for as a deeply sensitive lover of one's own muse Her the otherworldly faery woman of Ireland this island that began writing-thru Ms Graham's prose-poem in what a form I at one time believed I had created oneself, Antonymic Write-Thru, where one takes a text and writes the opposite as best one can the meaning of every word in it.

So, with Ms Graham's text that may or may not have been commissioned by The Donald (we can only at present speculate), that begins:

You. You at the door a crumpled thing when I open
surprised. Sing, you hiss. Prosecute, sentence, waving your thin not-arms like dollar
bills, your bewildering moldy skin

AWT, when antonymically written thru becomes .... Me. Me a way in through the window, flawless as you close
poised in silence. I applaud. Defend the Word, motionless my stout legs
moneyless cheques, my knowing certain bone — two and one of me is me,
is me, is me, the Goddess now, fleshy, unbeaten nor bowed down, bigger than ever before, alive She
is living motion and I eloquently fly on Her invisible wings.

Be Warned. Ye gorra 'av a laff.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Belfast Lough Blackbird

Little bird
Whistled loud
Yellow billed
Blackbird note,

Across Lagan
Loch, on gold
Whin branch.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Naming of Solitary Art

Art's brother, Connla, is sat at the side
of his father on the summit of Uisnech,

Conn Cétchathach, Conn of the Hundred Battles.

Seeing an unfamiliar woman of otherworldly
bearing, beauty, mien, and dress, Connla asks:

'Whence have you come, O maiden unknown to us?'

"From the land of an ever living joy, eternal
faery feast, free from all guilt. A host of Aos Sí

with no inner strife, and harmonious in spirit,
I come from the good people of peace."

'Who are you talking to?' Conn of the Hundred
Battles asks his son; and with none but Connla

seeing the woman wholly spirit, She replies:

"He's talking with the Leanan Sídhe
ever young and beautiful, from a family

of Mag Mell people without old age or death.
I love Connla and am summoning him home

to the Plain of Delights; without sorrow or grief
since Bóadag the everlasting was crowned king.

Come with me, handsome sun-kissed
speckled-cheeked Connla; nut-skin pink-faced,

golden-haired, kingly-hued prince.
Come with me to where beauty and youth does

not perish until druidic judgement day."

All, without seeing her, hear the faery woman.


Conn tells his poet:

'O Corann of great druidic art and song
an otherworldly demand has been voiced that is

beyond my capacity to resist. Unprecedented,
a contest in otherworldly forms has now begun.

One that seeks to deceive and seize the mind
of my first born son, and carry off the child

from my kingly land by some Sith's witchcraft.'

Corann chanted a geisa that in everyone's ear
and in Connla's, silenced the woman’s voice,

and from his eyes she disappeared out of form.

As she left she threw to Connla an apple,
and thereafter the prince fell silent. Left

with only a longing to meet again the eternal
ever-living She his ear and eye had briefly

apprehended; dreaming alone of her, he nourishes
solely on the apple; and the very act of eating

it, keeps the otherworldly apple whole.

For a month without food or drink, and fed only
on Her magic fruit, his longing for this once

seen woman of the Sídhe deepens with every bite.


On the morning a month after; Connla is at his

father’s side in the plain of Arcommin,
when She appears, approaches, stops and & speaks:

"Grandly Connla again you sit surrounded
by the short-lived, hopelessly awaiting death.

The ever-living folk want you with us, earthly
mortal champion of the beings who behold you

daily in assemblies on your father's island.
You amidst family and friends. Me your beloved."

As Conn Cétchathach hears the woman’s voice
he tells a retinue of twelve druidic courtiers:

'Get the poet to me. The silence his spell set,
the geisa, has been today cast off from her.'

Whereupon She said:

"O Conn of the Hundred Battles, do not love
druidry. Presently the wise Queen’s fair noble

and righteous one with many wondrous followers
will reach Her judgements. Our law soon will

come to you. It will destroy all the base-taught
spells of bards without learning facing the dark

bewitching Devil softly whispering spoken song." 

Conn is perturbed that Connla will only speak
when the spirit woman from Mag Mell is present.

'Have the words of this Sidhe woman gone under
your mind, O Connla?' asks his son, who replies:

'Not easy is it for me here. I love our people
yet a madman's whisp of desire for this woman

has seized and now consumes me.'

She says:

"Come Connla encounter and fulfill your longing
away from here, towards the sea. Sail a crystal

boat and find the peace of Bóadag with me
on another isle, not the nearest one to reach.

Look the sun is setting, and though far, Mag
Mell, the land of eternal beauty joy and youth,

we shall by nightfall be where the mind of all
whom the island encompasses, it gladdens.

No race but beautiful women and maidens there.”

Thereupon Connla leaps from this earthly realm
and into a pure crystal coracle and ships his mind

and body off to an eternity of joy, watched
by mournful eyes as far as their vision could

follow the flight of Connla's imramm-voyage over
the sea, to where they are not seen thereafter.

Conn then said on seeing Art, 'Art is alone
today, because here he has no more a brother.'

'What you have said is an utterance of substance.'
Said Corann.'

“The name upon him forever is Art the Solitary.”

Thus it was how this name was struck and stuck
to him hereafter and forevermore.


Echtra Condla. The Adventures of Connla the Fair. Lebor na hUidre. Book of the Dun Cow. With thanks to Kim McCone's, and all the other translations, consulted when working up this poem.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Does poetry transcend its alphabet?

The text below is a spontaneous response to the above question, posed---and replied to by the All Ireland Poetry Slam account---on her Facebook, by Carrie Etter, an Illinois, Normal poet, and English professor at Bath University.


The very first subject introduced to a Foclo, the first grade of trainee Fili poet in the old Gaelic literary order that turned out forty generations of poets from 5-17C; was the Ogham alphabet, and the very specific tho highly convoluted tale of how it came to be invented by its creator, Fénius Farsaid. 

We learn the tale in the Medieval poet-training manual, Auraicept na n-Éces, Scholars Primer, a 12C compilation of four books: 

... unique among medieval grammatical works in that it represents the earliest vernacular tradition in Europe. Its earliest ('canonical') parts date as far back as the 7th century. In its present form, it contains much ancient material relating to the Latin and Ogham alphabets, the nature of Old Irish and Latin gender, comparison, and declension.

The first of them, The Book of Fénius Farsaid, tells the foundation myth of the Irish language, and goes into great detail about Ogham.

His and the other Auraicept na n-Éces texts were decanted from the Book of Lecan, Book of Ballymote, and the text of the Trefhocul from the Book of Leinster, into English in 1917 by George Calder, under the title The Scholars Primer.'

Calder labelled it Handbook of the Learned, but a more literal translation of Auraicept na n-Éces - I was told by a senior Irish speaker at a Poetry Ireland / Éigse Éireann event in Dublin -
would be something along the lines of 'the system/working methods of poetry/knowledge'.

The word Éces being one of the most ancient Gaelic words for Knowledge/Poetry. Root of the name of Finn Eces/Finnegas ('bright knowledge') , the druid who taught a young Fionn mac Cumhaill.

Forty generations of Gaelic poets began their seven-grade trek to becoming an Ollamh 'poetry professor' ---and contender for the Ollamh Érenn 'poetry professor of Ireland' top spot occupied by such learned (and forgotten) figures as Gofraidh Fionn Ó Dálaigh, poet to Maurice FitzGerald, 1st Earl of Desmond--- learning that Fenius created the Gaelic language on the plain of Shinar in Babylon (modern day Iraq), three decades after Babel's collapse, when the 72 dialects of humanity's shared languages were scattered, until being retrieved by seventy-two (named) scholars, under the co-ordination of Fenius, who spent a decade retrieving them.

From which he then created, experimentally deciphered or back-engineered Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and, finally, perfected all language into the Ogham form, and the earliest recorded alphabet that the Gaelic language and its subsequent 1200 year literate Fili tradition found itself on.

We are told by the 7C author of the Book of Fenius in the Auraicept na n-Éces, that the seventy-two named scholars who'd done the donkey work collecting the scattered languages from which he created Hebrew, Greek and Latin, asked that Fenius, 'select for them out of the many languages, a language that no-one else should have but which might belong to them alone. Wherefore on that account was invented for them the (Gaelic) Selected Language (bérla tóbaide) with its (five) superadditions.'

1 - Bearla na Feine, the language or dialect of fenechas law. A high level language of the educated that the system of entirely civil law was preserved in and used by Brehon lawyers and Filidh poets for official business like law, ritual and ceremony. Also the language in which Auraicept na n-Éces is written, as well as Táin Bó Cúailnge.

2 - Iarmberla - Glossed as 'the additional language' by Calder, but commonly called the Iron Language.

3 - Bearla an Eaderscartha, the separative language or dialect; The Language Parted among the trees. This is the famous Ogham, a language used for encryption and memory lists. There are numerous Ogham tables in the Book of Ballymote, all with different names and uses.

4 - Béarla Filidh - 'language of the poets'. The Secret Language of the Poets, the 7C text states 'sometimes known as the 'Dark Speech' because it obscures meaning through the use of kennings and metaphors. 'The Poets used this language to converse among themselves, in tests and initiations, in producing chants, invocations and satires, especially when they wanted to reserve their meanings to the learned only.'

5 - Gnaithbhearla, the customary colloquial language and dialect of the illiterate majority. The common language that serves everyone and what became Old and Middle Irish, and eventually Modern Irish.

Obviously of interest to the poets is Béarla Filidh, which a 13C Brehon lawyer explains to his pupils:

'The literary language whose thrust is not self-evident or superficial
and the noble reading aloud—for ardent judges and bards, they
are the keys which release locks.'

It was a cipher language in which a skilled poet could communicate with other poetry professors and poet-lawyers above the heads of everyone but themselves. Where every letter was measured and elegant as sun-polished blackthorn blossom, their text communicating a multiplicity of meanings, the truest of which could be hidden in plain sight in words carefully selected and wrought to form the abstruse stream of Béarla Filidh, where every connection ---as John Minahane points out, quoting from a Latin Grammarian, in his groundbreaking work of scholarship and innovation: The Christian Druids: On the Filid Or Philosopher-poets of Ireland--- reveals 'knowledge of a thing (that) will die unless you know its name.'

Kevn Desmond

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Three Requirements of a Poet

When I was first in Ireland, 2004-10 was spent banging my head on all the mythology, and the site of the stone idol of Crom Cruach got mentioned in an unfinished/abandoned poem on the final O'Neill Mór, and second earl, Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone.

Magh Slécht, the 'plain of prostrations', is in Cavan. Named after the act of lying prostrate in front of the stone idol of Crom Cruach, and where there was human sacrifice going on until Patrick put a stop to it.

his tribe in tatters on a Plain of Prostrations
facing the presence of the Lord, he surrendered

in one short celestial act of ineffable burlesque
tragic slap-stick on a stone floor, where he found

his island wholly ghost, mimed his submission
at history’s pointed tip.

Patrick is also reputed in various texts to have condemned the spontaneous druidic compositional practice of Imbas forosnai, 'inspired illumination', and one of its two sub-strands, Tenm láida, 'illumination of song'. In Whitley Stokes translation of the Life, Patrick declares 'that no one who shall do that shall belong to heaven or earth, for it is a denial of baptism.'

Two of the three highest compositional poetic forms similar to the Frostean notion of a poem 'beginning in delight and ending in wisdom'. Not knowing what is going to happen on the page until - at its best - the poem is spontaneously written; and with the author merely a stenographer of the spirit in letters and Ogma's plaything.

The other sub-strand "Dichetal do chennaib, extempore incantation, however, that was left, in right of art, for it is science that causes it, and no offering to devils is necessary, but a declaration from the ends of his bones at once."

All three were introduced in a technical capacity to the Filidh poets on the eighth year of their twelve year poet-training curriculum, that in the English translation of Rudolf Thurneysen's German translation of an 8C monastic classic, “Mittelirische Verslehren.” In Irische Texte, are cited by Joseph Nagy, in his 1986 Overview of Orality in Medieval Irish Narrative, as "the “wisdom-tokens” of the Fili:

... that is, the elements of language, the clethchor choem (“fair palisade,” a type of poem and/or meter), the reicne roscadach (“poetic rhapsody,” another metrical genre), and laíde (a third type); that is, the teinm laída (“chewing of the pith”), imbas forosnai (“great wisdom that enlightens”), and díchetal do chennaib na tuaithe (“incantation from heads of the tribe”)".

John Carey makes an absorbing case for Patrick not having banned the apical practice of Imbas Forosnai and its Tenm láida sub-strand, in a (by Irish poetry standards) recent Ériu article, The Three Things Required of a Poet, vol. 48 (1997), pp. 41-58, that in Irish poetry are traditionally cited as being Imbas forosnai, tenm láida, and
dichetal do chennaib.

Citing Pádraig Breatnach's 'discussion of Macgnímartha Find as whole', and using as theoretical footings the original wording in the 8C Uraicecht Becc, 'Small Primer' legal tract defining the many strictly divided grades of social class and the associated lóg n-enech - honour-price - of each grade of person in the civil law - literally 'face-price' - the price damages were calculated in suits when you 'lost face' in the legal process; Carey builds a compelling case that the Patrician banning of the highest form of druidic practice and one of its sub-strands, were a later interpolation by early Medieval clerics seeking to make everything pious, holy and sacred. The David Ickes of their day.

Which I would agree with; should a discussion on the pointless and all but forgotten pages, places and purposes of the earliest native poetic order of these brilliant British and Oiwish oyls ootbwake or awise, ye 'unna.

And one of the joys of writing to learn is the unexpected results, finding new contributions in the discussion. The Nemed, Uraicecht Becc and early Irish Governance, Sydney University 2013. Julianna Grigg.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Theo van Doesburg, Still Life: The Table

As an Edge Hill University Writing Studies and Drama undergraduate beginning in my home town of Ormskirk the Modern Drama module at the start of the second semester of the second year in January 2003, we in the class were told by our tutor to bring in anything at all, an image, text, or something else, that summed up for us the word 'modern'. Modo, of the moment.

For the Poetry & Poetics components of the three year course the entire theoretical contents were drawn wholly from American modernism, beginning in year one with Pound's A Few Don'ts and terminating at the end of year three with Charles Bernstein's seminal essay; I Don't Take Voice Mail: The Object of Art in the Age of Electronic Technology.

The poems themselves came from the first two Pierre Joris and Jerome Rothenberg edited door-stoppers, poems for the millennium anthologies one and two: Postmodern Poetry. Volume One: From Fin-de-Siècle to Negritude, and, Volume Two: From Postwar to Millennium.

The night before the Modern Drama class, I was trying to find something to bring in that summed up the word 'modernism', and was flicking through volume one of the Joris and Rothenberg anthology, which, for those unfamiliar with it, contains a lot of extremely crazee stuff, far more bonkers than what we have today, most of which is merely derivative of the original stuff.

Only a handful of poems from the entire 1000 pages leapt out at me. One was a late poem from 1930 called Screaming My Head Off, written by the poet of the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Mayakovsky, just before he committed suicide, and whose mad but coherent and forcefully poetic voice stood out from all the typographical experiments devoid of any real meaning like a light in the dark.

The other poem that made worthwhile my late night trawling through the textual lunacy that had not aged well, and that I brought into and read at the first Modern Drama class, as an example of the one thing that encapsulated what I thought the word 'modernism' meant, was a self-aware timeless-present voice narrating this list poem by the Dutch visual artist and writer, Theo van Doesburg; who made me laugh out loud on first reading it.


All muddled up
A glass of tea
Some cups
Some pots
And get a fresh look
at what’s lying there –
This is the shadow
of the shadow of
a candlestick!
A piece of paper
& a can in blue
white &
An ash tray with
a pipe stem
& a very heavy book
in blue & yellow
with something that looks brown
inside a black can

And the candle there!
The light! The light!

And a mist around them
& their glow
Some spoons
Something that’s gleaming
on the gold rim of the
And there’s another piece of paper
on which lies: a red match
a couple of blue pamphlets
a little piece of string atop
a small red box
And then the cloth!
Half a chair
there in the mist
a little further back
And how the yellow cloth becomes
& that much softer
And then here
                          and here
here on the paper’s
garish white
are two black nails
one that looks real & one a silhouette
my hand
my hand
a hill with murky caves
in which a rafter lies
between two clumps of clay
wedged tight

Translation from the Dutch by Jerome Rothenberg

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Anne Marie Kennedy Review of Salmon Book, Session.

Pete Mullineaux's insightful look at traditional Irish music.  A Poet Prepared. 


The Bristol born, Galway based poet, author and playwright Pete Mullineaux knows his way confidently around traditional Irish music. His poetry collection, Session, (Salmon Poetry), dedicated to his mother, with artwork by Fran McCann, is guaranteed to leave his readers wanting more.

The poetry, like the regional variations in the music, varies in style and tone, the common link being the poet’s voice as a silent observer. Mullineaux uses evocative images, insightful observation, humour, playfulness and nostalgia. He is a scrutiniser of intricacies, a watchful eye, someone who listens to the tunes and observes the people who play them. The reader sees the players’ eyes, fingers, their bodies, the body language and the resulting inter-personal and inter-musical relationships being formed. Mullineaux also explores the emotions and psychologies of his subjects with curiosity and admiration.   

One of this writer’s favourites is A Piper Prepares, where the speaker intimately describes the uileann piper’s preamble. It is a tantalisingly visual poem with so much anticipation in the opening lines that the reader hopes the preamble goes on: It’s almost like shooting up; a captivating ritual / as the belt is looped around the forearm; the buckle/ notched, blowpipe joined to leather bag; a shard/ of cloth, folded between elbow and rib for comfort.

Mullineaux has the speaker in this poem watch the piper assemble the instrument and describe it in slow motion detail. ‘Drones are attached like pistol silencers, regulators poised,’ and while acknowledging the tune of the same name, ‘the piper’s apron,’ he remarks on the leather patch across the lap which provides ‘protection from the crazed jabs of the chanter, / its manic hypodermic dance.’ As the tune begins, ‘a primal hum vibrates,’ and ‘a gasp/ for air as the bellows fill and suddenly there’s life/ in the lungs and wind in the reeds...’

‘The Five Mile Chase,’ is a tribute to Patrick Street. Traditional musicians Andy Irvine, John Carty, Kevin Burke and Jed Foley have their individual stage movements noted and matched to rhythm, playing styles and character nuances. ‘A tilt of the chin for the pigeon on the gate/ a bend in the waist for the stack of wheat/ a wink in the eye for the blue eyed rascal/ a slip in the hip for a trip up the stairs.’ It’s a twelve line piece that could be sung in jig time. Hup! 

Mullineaux uses a coupling motif throughout the collection. In ‘The Lads of Leitrim,’ an accordion and a flute player meet up regularly to play a session in a snug in Manorhamilton. The poet compares their ease and joy in the music to a long standing marriage. ‘Could there be a love closer to their hearts/ than this – something to cherish for a lifetime -/ never to part, for better or worse/ in sickness and in health.’ As they launch into the Fermoy Lasses, he declares ‘these fellas are wedded to the music.’

Another couple, Paddy Canny and Frankie Gavin, have their musical communion told with slow lyrical ease in ‘Cave Music II.’ Canny, ‘the elder statesman has eyelids drawn / tight like a mole,’ while the younger Frankie, ‘allows the older man the lead, follows the set tone/ finding his own empathetic touch.’ 

Mullineaux provides the snapshot, watching the young Gavin who could have closed his eyes, but chose not to. Gavin, who was ‘a generation apart’ at the time, kept watch of the older man, ‘aware how much this moment must be fixed, / treasured deep in his own vaults.’ 

Watching Dermot Byrne and Floriane Blancke’s playing compelled the poet to write ‘Tabhair Dom Do Lámh.’ Byrne’s accordion sits ‘like a sleeping child in his lap,’ and Blancke ‘leans forward, the harp/against her cheek, listening/ for a heartbeat...’ The poem moves swiftly from the womb analogy, to a child one, when Byrne ‘tickles and squeezes’ the accordion, and like an infant, growing with the pace and momentum of the tune, together, the duo, ‘fast forward, to courtship, / dancing, making crazy love / through music.’ 

This aptly titled collection, Session, by Pete Mullineaux is a gem. Encore, si’l vous plait? It is available from, bookshops and music stores.