Friday, June 26, 2015

Somebody Stole America

They say it's some barbaric banker
in Athens, Berlin, Dublin, London,

New York, LA California;
not your average American gangster.

'It wasn't the Klan or the Skin heads
Or them that blows up'
'Churches, reincarnates us on Death Row',

But Bush, Rove, West, Limbaugh, Beck
Trump, Palin; and the rest of the fanatics
Cast on the wrong side of history, failing,
Exposed, the ignoble motives & forgettable
Lie upon lie of McCarthyen Propaganda.

24/7 falsifying public records, forged
By the immensely unimportant human ego,
Senators, governors, chiefs Of police, FBI,
CIA, State Dept, reach in illogical costume

inhumane reasoning, the lowest moral order
and poorest sanity,
Most of humanity leasing happiness

Freedom, democracy, in empires of potentates,
Hidden kings embodying powers in the blocks
Of billions they stole.

Somebody stole America

A witless moron with wealthy parents
Bringing yawl tha good ol' Geronimo vibe;
Cartels and cabals plundering Columbia

Dumbocretin dem and repugnicon sneering
English we do not speak, beckoning away,
Away with Columbia's gilt, Kansas city

Banks, masses of private capital living
Breathing federal transfers of bullion

Murmuring in micro-second millions, in a blink
Numberless billions and far fetched trillions,
Olowalu, Ottawa, Oklahoma; everywhere it is

Printed, the financial system; somebody stole
It; a handful of assholes, somebody stole

, Fort Knox, Greenwich Village, Dylan's
Soul, Hartford, Halifax, happiness, blessings,
fantastically eloquent experts on all things

modo, of the moment, contemporary American
talkers in bright bold mush, cool, detached
and lofty orators, aping toobs, ranting fools

bring it back, bring it back, bring it back
exquisitely conducted on philosophical branches
of inquiry in the salons of Cyberville.

The mannered dictions, outrageous positions,
sheer affronted vitality reflecting, perhaps,

metaphorical masters and mistresses of ancient
Cree deities, knowers of Graeco-Roman gods
from Apollo to Zeus, Eamhain, of the Apple trees
of swans and yew trees, Emerson, Eliot and Poe

tu-wit tu-wooing an American conundrum
conflating in flyte what is wrong or is right,
correct or inaccurate, kerching kerching kerching

O the memory of it sings, city shining on a high
and hollow hill, America be true, America be
brave, Columbia come wipe away our original

stain of Slavery, tears, culture, sanitize our founding
facts, transmute to modern American myth, God-

father, Pulp Fiction, inhabitants of darkness, noir
ma, on top o the world, a saintly scholar mam,

the noble arted one, hallowed jangling scripture
with conviction, true make our dream become.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Reflection on Poetry & Publishing

(Originally published as a comment on the Facebook of Welsh poet Brett Evans, co-founder and co-editor of independent literary journal, Prole. Also published on experimental American poetry blog As/Is.)  


Although he later deleted and blocked me from his Facebook for not agreeing with him that Carol Hughes was somehow awf for not allowing a biographer access to all her dead husband's papers; the best advice I ever got was from Bloodaxe Books founder and Editor, Neil Astley; in Conway's pub on Parnell Street, Dublin, after the joint launch at the Irish Writer's Centre, of the Selina Guinness edited New Irish Poets (Bloodaxe, 2004) and Leanne O'Sullivan's debut, Waiting for my Clothes (Bloodaxe, 2004).

At that time, I think in September 2004, I had recently graduated in May of the same year, from my home town Edge Hill University (Writing Studies and Drama, 2:1) and had been living in the Iveagh homeless hostel in Dublin for three months.

In a short several minute chat he advised me to get out and recite live in public as much as possible; and that the biggest mistake people make is sending out a collection of poems for consideration before they are ready, and that they should first build up writing experience, publishing credits in magazines, and work work work, write, write, write, and wait, wait, wait until they've enough experience and what not.

At that time I'd been writing for three years and my conception of what poetry and Publishing was all about was very different to what it is now, because I had very little experience of writing or publishing and viewed the process thru the lens of the novice, at best at bardic grade two (of seven) MacFirmid (son of composition) thinking that becoming a published poet was a semi-mystical process similar to that of finding fame as an actor; in that it was all very opaque and mysterious.

My poems would be spotted by a fairy godfather of poetry publishing who'd take me under their wing and do all the hard work and all I'd have to do is show up and star reciting (at that time only from memory) the poetry I'd accumulated on the page up to that time.

I think just meeting and getting the real gen from one of Britain's most knowledgeable independent poetry publishers was in itself a very valuable lesson, because for the first time I'd spoken with someone at the top of the tree and the whole thing had been humanised and I was imparted something no amount of reading about publishing could ever do.

At that point I had been methodically sending out poems for about a year, beginning sending out in the third year of the writing and drama course, and getting published here and there. In that short time what struck me is that you'd never know what an editor would want to publish. Stuff you thought strong was not picked and poems you thought had no chance were published.

In the spring of the following year I lost all interest in seeing my poems published in small magazines, and playing what I increasingly viewed as a psychological game of submit-reject/accept, in which the submitter is seeking affirmation and validation for what can often be a lonely and unrewarded business of writing poems for the purpose of seeing them published by others in the mags they edit.

Though I was having a good publication hit rate I was increasingly bored with the novelty of seeing my poems and name published in small circulation magazines. A short sugar high followed by business as normal and a return to writing and studying the mass of Irish mythology that makes up much of the bardic curriculum.

And that at that point was still a voluminous sprawl of confusion, the skeleton of the poetic that came around year five/six, still yet to firm up and appear in the mind. And so in a very real way, trusting that by just studying the material on the fourteen year course would in itself reveal what I hoped to find.

And because of my thoughts about the future of publishing in the online age, at that time the consensus still very much an old-guard gate-keeper mindset, was beginning to view the process of submit-accept/reject as a redundant one, in which both sides are seeking affirmation in what vision of poetry we have and what we are doing, for the purpose of accumulating and increasing our sense of contemporary poetic relevance and (minor) cultural importance.

This is because some editors would write back rejecting what I'd submitted, not with a simple, thanks but no thanks, but a note that made it plain that, on their part, they were playing a different game with themselves to the one I was, making their intellectual confusion unintentionally comedically plain in pretend pretentious toff voices not their own.

My own thoughts where that in the near future (ie, now) we would all effectively be publishers on an equal footing able to reach anyone in the world with an internet connection, and so, I reasoned, the thing to concentrate on was not getting published by other people, but cleaving to the idea that I was a student with ten years learning the material from the fourteen year writing course that trained forty generation of filidh poets, and trusting in that process to teach and deliver the lessons and experience with which to publish one's own writing on my own terms when the time was right. Knowing I had another ten years as a student, a decade before I'd need to publish anything, meant I felt zero pressure to get published, even though for most this would be a laughingly far too long time to try oneself out having a crack at the aul poetry game.

I was very lucky to have had the first three years of my writing life occur at home in Ormskirk bygone times, in the very best and most supportive place it was possible to evolve creatively and intellectually, and without which I would perhaps not have been laughing at the amadán poetry editors up their own holes we all know and are familiar with from experience, but getting depressed by their exclusionary spirit and sense of being custodians of only the most special and greatest English poetry that appears between the pages of the few hundred copies of their rags.

However this is not the reason I lost all interest in playing the submit-reject/accept game. The final nail in the coffin that sealed the deal and made all interest evaporate, was chancing across online, Washington state Ogham expert Erynn Rowan Laurie's English translation of a 120 line 7C Old Irish text, that states an in-depth and comprehensive definition of what poetry is, where it comes from, and how it works, 'in the body and soul of a person.'

In a druidic voice from the earliest founding mythological bard of literate Ireland, Milesian poet Amergin. It is one of only four attributed to this figure and three times longer than the next longest piece, a riddling roscanna poem he is most well known for, Song of Ireland, that Aul Plumdoon Muldoon made an entire Oxford lecture of punning allusive gobbledegook prose in response to.

 Amergin was the druid of the seventh, and chronologically final, mythological race of 'takers' of the island documented in the 11C Lebor Gabála Érenn, the Book of the Takings of Ireland, who, with his surviving (of twelve) two brothers, Eber and Eremon, had seized the island from the Tuatha De Danann, in 1300 BC according to Geoffrey Keating's, or 1700 BC according to the Four Masters' version of mythological history, both compiled in the early to middle 17C.

The untitled Old Irish text is found in the medieval Book of Ballymote, and was first translated into English in 1979 by Professor Liam Breatnach of the School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, one of Ireland's premier Old and Middle Irish experts, with a deep knowledge of the texts that make up the fourteen year filidh (poets) curriculum, having translated such important pieces as Uraicecht na Ríar: The poetic grades in early Irish law, and numerous other bardic related material.

Though now known, due to the triple-cauldron imagary used as a metaphor to explain how poetry works in a person, as Cauldron of Poesy, the text didn't have or need a title in its original form because, I suspect, it was one of the most widely known and first texts introduced to a grade one foclo turning up on the first day of singing school at Samhain, to begin the six month Samhain to Beltaine winter semester, that over the following twelve to fourteen years led through another five grades, MacFirmid (son of composition), Dos (bushy-tree shelterer), Cano (cub/whelp), Cli (ridgepole), Anruth (great stream), before terminating at the apical grade of Ollamh (ullav) Doctor of Poetry.

At which point they were the equivalent of a secular poet-barrister practicing in the highest forms of strict and straight (dán direach) verse, that they were introduced to only at the sixth grade Anruth, around year six/seven; as it needed six years of study before they'd be competent to tackle the head-wrecking complexity of the fourteen or so dán direch meters and work out if the prophetic, mantric side that set a fully formed fíli poet apart from the lower grades, was there and working.

At that point I was on a roll publishing wise, and was playing the game like everyone else. Living in the Iveagh homeless hostel and centering myself on acquiring experience and a live skin, out two or three times a week on the thriving closed and open-mic scene in Dublin during the height of Bertie Ahern's time in office, when, it has to be noted, the collective Irish cultural mood was right up itself, ostentatious and one of nouveau riche smugly delusional optimism that the economic good times were here forever, and that Irish people generally were a very special sort of precious English language snowflake, and the chosen few blessed with an invincible sort of otherworldly speaking magic, that, as we discovered on the morning Brian Lenihan (rip) made the announcement of the Bank Guarantee he laughably stated would be 'the cheapest in history' - was subsequently proved by events to be a crock of self-delusional sales crap everyone had swallowed hook line and sinker.

At the time of discovering it I was in my 'office', an internet sweet shop at the foot of Ha'penny Bridge on Aston Quay, and I remember thinking at the time that I was reading for the first time one of the most important bardic texts written. A belief that has only deepened in the intervening decade.

I had just had a poem and prose piece about the live poetry scene in Dublin published on the website of the Galway Arts Centre, and it was with this publishing credit that I lost all interest in sending out anymore, buzzing with the belief that my writing needed no more outside validation, just at the very point the untitled 7C Amergin text popped up on my computer screen at Aston Quay.

Reading it for the first time I instinctively knew that this was a textual guide one needed to progress in writing without any input or intellectual validation from others, not least because few, if any, poetry editors are aware of it to know that there exists a holy grail of Gaelic poetry as important as Horace's Ars Poetica.

A suspicion confirmed when I began publicising the find around the English speaking world to a wall of complete ambivalence, disinterest, and non-engagement, confirming what I thought then and now know; that many people are not into writing poetry to write the best poems we can, but to see our name in lights and on longlists.

Only two other people I interacted with have got its importance, Ó Bhéal: Cork's Weekly Poetry Event founder Paul Casey, and American poet Jerome Rothenberg.

After having got on the nerves and displeased a very long list of self-important poetry folk around the English speaking world, always for something very petty (the straw that broke the back of British-Hungarian poet George Szirtes' tolerance, replying to his question of how I knew something, 'because I don't spend all my time on Facebook'), I am in a way unintentionally lucky to have stopped sending out when I did, because though I am sitting on fourteen years of unpublished material, I have observed other people trying to get work out there, usually with something interesting to say on the page in prose, who have got on the wrong side of important editors for displeasing them over something very petty and minor, that the pasha-editors then trash and contextualise as being just bitter failures because they had a manuscript rejected by them.

 Anyway  leave it there, globble di baglady de dye doi dough...(am hearing this as i hit send) KTF!

Desmond Swords


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Ogham Lesson 1: Elyn Newkis - Lisen Newky - Kewl Sneyin - Newly Kisen

Hillo yawl.

One mua time and listen in the new key to a tale of the bardic bluffas bullshitting lidl aul moi, dreaming their high cultural jinks in the Tir na RTE realm of Gobnam Boglady & Their Bans of ambitious literary cut-throats in shmokin shpokin feerz peroppa wurda. Lisen Newky, Nesil Kewny & Enils N'yewk.

Names oghamically changed to protect the lidl diks-ed 'n kids skiddin abo nuwir in tha paja liov witten pothutrae en litowary Bubbalin.


After eight years of funding the All Ireland Live Poetry Shlam Competition i am increasingly unable to stop myself from involuntarily laughing at the unintentionally comedic vibe and plastic sense of poetic entitlement emanating from some of the most self-important self-appointed cultural healing energy workers in Bublin, that are involved in tha shmokern liov puthotrae 'n sham shleen in the capital of Bullshitland.

This is because all but a few of the filidh have - several days ago - made it very plain they assume I am a social-media poetry dinosaur and special kind of English mug that likes nothing more than giving away free money to them; and someone whose own live poetry is never gonna be good enough to appear on any stage with any of their own, regularly outed and touted works of heartbreaking mediocrity, I mean, staggeringly beautiful eloquence.

I can only conclude after eight years of side-lined and silent observation that our live spoken word shlash slam scene in Bubbalin consists of a handful of Bublin-based foet-fwend principles that are in an organisational thick of it with themselves, the new brooms team at Poetry Island, n' waydeo n' telievwishun stalwarts of RTE, and, to repeat the point, have made it plain over the years, by silence and short evasive utterance, coupled with a refusal to engage with me (proved by an eight year absence of any written replies to the handful of messages I've ever sent them) - that I am the very last foet they're gonna do their vibrational healing energy events with in the realm of live and (by its very nature) competitive oral poetry happening today in Bubbalin.

A scene in which the worst lack all conviction or interest in the bardic curriculum, and the best are laughably overrated. Swamis swanning round the city in smugly self-congratulatory bubbles, their shallow social-scene entitlement masquerading as a revolutionary come all ye welcome and democratic open-access poetic pulse of the real poetry movement reflecting what's happening on the streets, yeah!

That may have been the way it was for the first few years after its birth, and before our new scene started, at a four-year (2004-8) weekly occurring come all ye, truly democratic, regular weekly open mic, Write and Recite (WaR), but puleez, c'mon noi, the alphas in the zoo of a live shpokin wurda sheen are now very well established, n' tis all vewy peroppa woppa.

However, all but one or two of the principle actors and high-literary judges, juries and executioners in Bubbalin's right now eight year old 'new' (yawn) team-scene of happy hand-wavers, not once recited their shmokin shpokin wurds liov on the weekly WaR scene.

I know of the current mob of very ambitious and self-important liov poetsa Bubbalin tuawn through them wanting to win the Title of the All Ireland Shlam competition, that I created, for nothing, off my own back, whilst living in the Oivaay homeless hostel, and have been funding every year since it started in 2007.

I rarely go to any of the many invite-only closed-mic events that have been the norm in Bublin since Write and Recite vanished unwritten or recorded on any official Ireland live poetry record custoded by the New Live peroppa shpokin wurda poetry scenestas that created the 'new' one following in the wake of tha auld wun we all lived through at WaR.

Having finished a four year weekly live poetry apprenticeship in WaR by the time the new and thrilling (now not so exciting or new) social-media-created and organised scene was birthed in 2008, by a handful of computer literate language and culture lovers, I was freed to concentrate on the written side of my practise. And so, with other filliocht studies to occupy me, I av for the last eight years took no personal part in Bubblin's shmokin shpokin word sheen.

However it is clear from observing it remotely online that after eight years of the same faces doing the same spoken word pieces, many of the elders and principle protagonists in the Bubblin spoken word scene-team, have gone awf.

The worst are full of smug assumption and so insufferably so far up their own holes after years of constant and continual social-media self-publicity - and a corresponding facebook level of critical engagement - that it makes one gwiggle, ih rellih dez make one chuckle and titter at the unintentionally comedic performances of their unearned sense of cultural certainty that their literary pretensions exhibit. The Bubblin shmokin shpokin wurdas believing the blurb and hype they've been spouting and puffing for so many years about one another online in the corporate echo-chamber of Phasebuke.

But so what, none of my business, woddoo i kare? Exactly, nothing. However I found myself being roped into their made-up world several days ago, when it was made crystal clear to me that tha shmokin shpokin wurd team-scene now officially want nothing whatsoever to do with me, not because I torture small animals for pleasure, hate old people with a vengeance, troll them online and rejoice on hearing of their deaths, but because of a piece of writing published outside their delusional echo-chamber in which my thoughts on di Boglady diva Deva Ardlon, and lidl aul liov poet, Newl Shwaney, are laid bare.

Let that sink in. The mind of our new Bubblin ass-lickers learning how to be a peroppa shpokin wurda, make no delineation of publishing borders whatsoever.

They seem to believe, or have been indoctrinated and now accept the bullshit of what poetic superiors ventriliquise the muppets' voices, that all creative writing is published on just one big social-media Facebook Page; that The Boglady's Bagmon and Bagwomen, gabnom, mabnog, gonbam, and their supporting non-oghamically trained nob rags; are the natural-born deputy-editors of. Some mythical and non-existent happy clappy huggy no brags group Page; appointed by The Executive Editors of Nobrag 'emselvs, The Boglady and St Coalman of the Peroppa Shpokin Warders.

What was interesting (for me), is that the quality of this trash-talk piece of online hack writing I published on my blog, was the sole cause, several evenings ago, of the online membership privileges of an online poetry dump, Portry Dope, being revoked, and myself deleted, banned and blocked from access to this New Yorker of a social-media micro-bubble, by its creator, lets call her Elyn Newkis.

A new ass-kisser on tha shmokin live sphokin slash shlam block party in Bubbalin; and young poetry dope who seems to have been in possession of the delusional belief, (i imagine until reading the reply to her banning order), that anyone writing all over the world must first be approved of and cleared for publishing by awfisez fram an online poetry inspectorate, in which Elyn Newkis, as a newly commissioned ofizor and emerging stand out ass-licker in the Deva Ardlon Boglady's Gobwowmin Order of St Coalman's; mimicking the elders from our gosh wow fuk yeh team-scene, by communicating with me for the very first time, with a message, not awn.

In the voice of a bwitish toff conveying their displeasure at one's critical voice speaking what it believes in the the moment of that (or any other) piece of spontaneously created writing that has grown out of a fourteen year study of the bardic curriculum and practice founded on what I have learnt from the course reading material and plain old practise of speaking with anyone, anywhere, online, about the topic of poetry and dán. Which is all I have been doing since leaving my home town's Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, Lancashire.


Created in January, the Portry Dope is a small phazebuke group for an assortment of creatively young oddballs and weirdos, two to three hundred Bubbalin kids, and potential future shlam shtaws, spamming away all things shpokin wurda, tua their hearts content. And, imo, a welcome addition that is all part of the learning process for everyone involved.

From the lowliest teen member with depression letting it all out in print to our Group of confused and untrained bardic wannabes, right up to the Newkis creator Elyn, in third level education attending one of the most cliquey universities in not only Awyerland or Bubbalin town, but the wole woid vworld: Twintity.

In, of, on, and from which the whole concept and history of modern Bublin draws the literary spirit of itself.

Newkis wrote to me several evenings ago after I'd gone to her dump to leave a link to an unpublished poem of mine that'd just been published, and i discovered the dump no longer appears and that I must be banned. I had not been informed, just silently deleted and blocked, so I wrote a short text to Elyn Newkis:

 Hiya m8, a wannid teh post a link to a 2007 poem unpublished cuz tha poem is its own reward, n wen a goes teh dump@portrydope to tell ul ma bezzies abow ih, tha portrydope paj neva cum up n it dunt on me kevin desmond's words fb eeva m8, n ah wuz finkin, ooh, a wunda wots ap'nin theer loik pulaze fram the leburtaze m8y, lottsa luv a fwend

She wrote back an hour or two later informing me I had been excluded and was no longer a member; explicitly stating that the reason I'd been banned from her self-sealed tin-pot social-media micro-bubble, is because of my English voice in the language of a piece I wrote and published on my ten year old Irish Poetry Blog, that (please read very carefully) 'was reported to me as abusive'.

Note the tone, ethos, and poetic of Newkis's voice:

'Sorry Desmond, your post about' poetry diva Deva Ardlon 'was reported to me as abusive, and I've had words with you before over this. In hindsight I regret removing you from the group as I thought this May have been a bit harsh, but you have been warned that anymore abusive posts towards other members would result in your expulsion.'

The first think to strike me ass odd, lie number one, is that the parochially famous diva and Boglady Deva Ardlon, is not a member of the Portry Dope, as they left Phasebuke years ago and now rant on far more intellectually visible and eminent publications, her brand of faux socialist-in-residence cat-tripe about the end of the world and Ascension.

What made me psml was i was being asked to accept, on face value by this person twenty-five years younger than me, who has never written to me before, that i am being excluded from publishing ever again in her self-important Group, because I was breaking a talk policy and being offensive and insulting to another member, because I wrote and published an original piece of writing, not on the wall of this Facebook collective group page, but a ten year old Irish Poetry Blog; that an unnamed anonymous complainer and supposed member of Portry Dope, finds supposedly  'offensive'.

So, if you are a member of Portry Dope and don't like a piece of writing someone writes and publishes elsewhere outside the echo-chamber; then that is a legitimate ground of complaint on which an other anonymous member of one of your poetry dumps' can have you slung out. Madness. Intellectual facism, a very very backwardly dangerous and dog-shit illogical critical basis to found and implement as your come all ye pill for literary enlightenment and great new re-invention of the poetry wheel.

As a sixty word piece of literature by someone who was 13 or younger when I created the Irish Poetry Blog, I thought it most unimpressive because it fails to make any positive impression on me, because the contents are entirely untrue and total bollix. With the mind boggling at the banal depths this uncritical tissue of falsehoods and balderdash reveals; I replied, at length, beginning, as I do in all social-media echo-chambers when such crucial poetic cases are before a theatrical bench of live written craic 'eds:

'You've 'had words' with me? Can you produce these 'words' you've 'had' with me, please?'

Told 'you have been warned before', about 'abusive posts towards other members', not a thing pop'd into my mind, and I knew it was utter bullshit; and i wrote back, having a great time on the light side with a trusty shield of poetic truth, Kevin Desmond's words, and my mother's memory here in her name, Swords.

After firing off a few fastly written (in her ears), heretical home truths (and, it must be noted, enjoying the process) - to this new and decent enough filliocht/craft of poetry student, a second level (of seven student bard grades) MacFirmid at best, that was contacting and addressing me for the very first time, with a complete fairy story; I worked it all out on the page spontaneously writing; and shortly into the process wrote it was ok, she didn't need to reply, and that i'll 'spare you the embarrassment of having to open your gob and makin a dikhed out yerself.'

By the end of the reply i had worked everything out and left on a cheerful note, wishing the newkid Newkis love; but feeling a tad bad with myself for writing such poetically potent home-truths in such adult literary language to one so tender and ignorant, and so i wrote a second reply telling them not to take anything srsly i'd written in the first reply, and that I was just a humble servant of the soul with fourteen years in the game (to their own one or two years writing) and that life itself was a poem, dán also meaning 'fate' in the orginal druidic comprehension of the word; and that life is great  'wen ye study of the bardic curriculum brings you blessings that can only be described as otherworldly, once the writing in your life attracts the positivity of angelic spirit that makes your writing practice not about other people reading or publishing it, but you writing the best poems you can.'

Signing off with love, grá agus siochain, and ending on a blessing for the 'divine poetic force of positive good in' her 'own life, dán, poem, shlukyable beduklyivvle, adios amiga, sal waygo de shlaedoh.'


To repeat, again, looking thru the communication records between us, of both my personal and all island accounts, i discovered that this was the very first time Elyn Newkis had got in touch and written to me. Though of course I may be mistaken and Elyn has written something that I haven't read, until proven otherwise, my original assessment of 'bullshit' stands, beduvil, shtel.

Next on Irish Poetry Blog

Straight after the Newkis affair, a complaint was published by St Kewlmain Gaekern, decrying 'The Bogman, A Public Reflection', as 'bollix', and stay choon'd to read the documenting of this most recent and epic competitive critical conversational shlam between several of Erin's finest peroppa shmokin liov shpokun wurda-wardens and Poetry Police Gurdmins that fail to show up on the page of a now deleted social-media conversational catastrophe initiated by Sir Coalman and lost by his cronies just as fulla bs as Elyn Newkis's original faery story written and sent as part of, what I can only conclude, was a joint-effort by Bubbalin's team-scene to shut an English rhymer out by all means possible.

Aw, innit lovely?

Gerrup n holla, lemme shee thoos awms noi.

Kevin Desmond's words 

Friday, June 12, 2015

To dye or not to dye, Kevin.

 imo a Very Special satirist-PiR, Iven Kishnigg.


To dye or not to dye, that is a question. I dyed
several times in the late nineteen-nineties,
at the insistence of a concerned friend
that sincerely believed they were doing me a favor

buying the dye & giving it me 'cause they thought
I could regain the previous deep dark hair
color I'd had during the early days of adulthood

when it was a riot of thick black curls trimmed
in a late-eighties post-new-romantic quiff-like
do of who I was before tide and time turned once

thick curled locks to a straightened thinner peppered
silver salt that's light purple-pink within weeks.
I looked ridiculous, guessing because nobody told

me how clearly dyed i was, feigning surprise
when I said i was dyed, smirking; they would laugh
in my face, but felt too sorry for me to do so.

It was only when I caught sight of my reflection
in a shop window six weeks after dying that I
got shocked to see what the audience of my hair

had witnessed. I cut it all off straight away
on number two of the trimmer specifically bought
for the task, a net benefit self-hairdressing

tool for the following eight years, recouping
its cost and saving spondulics over the years.

Now I get it cut always in a different place
six times a year because I do not know whether
it's just me or if my paranoid vision

of hairdressing in Ireland is legitimate,
but all the hairdressers i've met as a person
getting a haircut, bar two, both in England,

have not translated the vision of what i want
into any successful hairdo reality and now it's
gone as far as wondering if the current crop

actively sabotage the experience and end result
for me by choosing to perform on my bonce
the exact same cut one always ends up with.

An institutional style mother called it
when last I was at home a few weeks ago
bemoaning the Irish and their hairdressing

professionals, rampantly unqualified charging
at least fifteen quid to make me look a product
of the central mental hospital.

To dye or not to dye, that is a question.

Kevin Desmond Swords

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Killer Queen of Gamanraige

Killer-queen of Gamanraige, Maeve of Connacht, scored
her ancient song on pages time forgot, in life long ago

going back to begin at a coast of psychopomp sea-gods
whose tide of beauty is read beneath waves breaking

on a sham-rocked shore of island invention sung of since
the pre-Jesus era to a flight of Earls from Lough Swilley.

Goidelic Finn McCool: more apt to give than deny
the spear run wet through many a man, who fought

but hours amid years of hunting in woods, the final chief
fenian whose hair turned white prematurely.

Sreng. Beautiful to behold, harsh and inhospitable
Connacht Fir Bolg, who slew on the Plain of Pillars.

Nuada his foe at the first Battle of Moytura.

Bres; cruel son of Formorian prince Elathra
and De Dannan princess Eriu, spared at Lough

Arrow in the second by the king of light Lugh:
valiant and ruthless, crazed like a Norse-berserker

frenzied on bog-myrtle: silent in Fort Navan's

cast-list of kings on the island of myth, with women
behind a Wall of Three Whispers at Tara,

and Uisnech where Bridgit's first fire was lit.
A Cunning crafstwoman dyed in permanent overlap

between two worlds, who voiced the Uliad, wrought
a queen's acorn crop of severed heads to fiction

with he of two names in the Hall of Heroes
at the court of king Conchobar mac Nessa:

I care only that my doings live as myth
when I'm gone, not if die tomorrow or next year.


Culann's Hound; whose martial-art training ceased
in a friendship of thighs at the Fort of Shadows

on the isle of Skye, and was unwilling as O'Higgins
at O'Connors wedding, to kill the close companion,

pass sentence by one deft stroke in a single bout
of printed combat, alive in the ancient memory

of Ardee, where son of a dog slew foster-brother
Fediad, with a bellow-notched belly-darted Gáe Bulg

thigh-friend Scáthach gifted. A light-spear thrown
solely in combat at river fords; it's barbarous tip

cast from the foot like a javelin, was removed
by filleting Fediad's body apart; and slew all but

Lugaid mac Tri Con - Son of Three Hounds,

Dear Cúhulainn


You lived the well ordered life with a chariot driver
and barley fed horses to war with, until the implement

predicted to kill a king did, and prophesy proved true
as your bowels spilled out on a cushion in the vehicle.

King Cú Roí's death avenged by son Lugaid. His father,
part of a roaming band of warrior bards who raided

spoil and slaves from the Isle of Man - stole Blathnat -
who loved you - of course - on first sight; your hero-halo

out-sparking the rival, who took her for part of his booty,
but she betrayed him to you, who said to the satirist:

Tie grace to wrath

Cúhulainn, now tied to a pillar of stone to die standing up.


Desmond Swords
2007, unpublished poem from an unpublished collection.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Facebook Comments Culled

Come on home for a while
expat, it sure is pretty right
now, I know you can read
it all literate and beautiful

it wouldn't hurt to come be
- but it's always the same
with you - amazing as always,
stunning and beautiful;
come home ye to Liverpool.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

The Bogman of Irish Poetry, A Public Reflection.

Originally published as a comment on an Irish poet's Facebook wall noting:
RTE's 'Arena' reviewing the New Island collection, 'New Irelanders,' edited by (Bogman's Cannon editor) David Lordan, (aka The Bogman. A title he created and name he calls himself.) Ink hardly dry on the book. Don't even THINK of sending your book for review if you live too far from Donnybrook. Mr Lordan seems to think we live in 'the most progressive and diverse' country in the world.
It was removed after several hours. Republished here by permission of myself.

Professional culchie Divard de Bogman is a researcher on The Puthatrae Program, and if you are one of the best live poets in Dublin Lord Dev will know who you are because he made it his mission to seek out and gather only the most excellent and interesting vocal flowers that were sown and grown on the Fair City's live poetry scene circa 2004-8, and beyond, that he was, according to himself, actively slogging his ass off being a very significant part of and principle poet in during the collective cultural madness and delusion on display in the pre-crash Celtic tiger days prior to the new normal of austerity and Depression.

Both of which are staple subjects and themes Dav di Bogman concerns himself with writing about, and prevalent in much of the work he solicits for submission from others as a self-appointed revolutionary leader-poet choosing, deciding, and publishing at the forward editorial edge of his social-media practice.

The only problem with this version of reality, however, is that it is totally fictional. The great white hope and saviour of filliocht was not present on, nor engaged with, the open mic live poetry scene in Dublin 2004-8. Write and Recite ran for four years and was the only weekly poetry open-mic event in town, and, as you will learn reading the very entertaining article at the link by cultural commentator, and the only Trinity College poet who was part of that scene, Classics graduate Fintan O'Higgins, the Bogman simply wasn't there on the sole scene in the city during this four year stretch of time before Facebook and the rise of a web-savvy organisational-admin class of online enablers and virtual cosmetic make-over experts re-booting and re-energising live poetry by re-packaging it in a more youthful, attractive, and come all ye inclusive gender-neutral contemporary spoken word format, message and novelty Facebook poetic, that connects and lures out from their bedrooms to live poetry events, inexperienced young adults The Bogman spends time working with and practising his routine on.

Seeking perfection of a signature loud and declamatory hand-clappy arm-waving shouty emotional recital style of audience participation taught in the Bogman Academy to schoolchildren and young adults encouraged to learn the woop 'n' holla form of contemporary poetry that is culturally up there on a par with electronic dance music.   

Spreading the revitalised Word in a hip hot literary emoji language and the lingo of luvvie poet-friends the Gob man knows because Divard of the Bog makes it his business to, and no doubt, in his RTE position, suggest his proteges and professional career friends all get their rightful exposure on the airwaves, because they're worth it.

He's very principled and always lecturing and performing on a stage talking of a social revolution he's been droning on is coming for ten years now. He's in the best place for it, because he is a dangerous fifth column maverick, working for RTE, changing society one poem at a time.

When I joined Facebook he'd already quit the platform, apparently because it was too confrontational and bullying, too many haters and not enough Bogman supplicants, and now he rants a bit on his Bog Blog about everything that's wrong with Ireland culturally, that we are blessed to have him changing on our behalf.

He has never put anything my way, but did write to me in 2007 submitting a request to compete as one of the eight finalists in the second All Ireland Poetry Slam (AIPS) final, which I did not reject but kindly granted him because two or three of the eight finalists who'd won regional heats didn't show up that second year when there was no money for prizes, and which The Bogman was very keen to win. Luckily he didn't, as you'd never have heard the end of his boasting about it on RTE, that no doubt, if he had won, would have hailed him home to Donnybrook with great fanfare and publicity.

As they have been doing for many years with the slammers that win this competition I created to atone for a drunken night of ruining, for the organiser of Write and Recite, his short-lived Monday night dream-residency at the Duke pub, and weekly open mic poetry event on every week in five venues throughout the city for four years, that Clonakilty's self-styled original beat-poet saviour of crazee hard-party drug addicts, alcoholics and street urchins, never came to recite at with the great unwashed in all the four years of its existence.

I suspect because, though he claims to be all about fostering performance equality, in its essential form of the open-mic, being just another name on the list sharing his verse with others on a democratic straight level-entry playing field, was too distressing and unthinkable a proposition for his unearned aristocratic Bogman sense of entitlement to countenance, and hyper self-regarding ego to consider acceptable or appropriate for one so feted by a handful of archly conservative alphas in Dublin's academic poetry zoo.

In those Tiger days he was one of the privileged grant-aided stars on Dublin Trinity's creative-writing MPhil programme, hand-picked for future literary greatness by his academic backers in the wealthy golden circle of Arts Council approved Dublin, seeking to anoint and appoint their own hygienically safe and sanitised version of an official, cute, inoffensive and submissive slam-performance poet exhibiting a similar sweary newness that was the definite change on the street and in the poetic air during the height of Bertie's gombeen government.

And at its most credible and authentic evolutionary incubation not in sterile weekly creative-writing classes in the Jonathan Swift lecture theatre, but in the basement of Brogan's bar on Dame Street. Where The Bogman never called.

I hear that this four year pre-Glór cultural live poetry scene is now considered, by those who were no part of it, as being worthless, shite, and full of dickheads, like me, and that no very good live poets were doing stuff there, even though there were plenty I saw.

Noel Sweeney, not the easiest to get on with, but a truly brilliant live poet, one of the few to have a fan club of random members of the public who'd see him on the street and request recitals for specific poems they remembered because he makes such an immediate and lasting impression, performing solely from memory and with numerous classic Sweeney poems in the think tank to spontaneously recite. The Bogman made shure this principle Irish elder and vastly more experienced live poet was edited out the picture when his wish-list of literary dreams began coming to fruition.

I asked The Bogman on his blog about RTE's Arena coming on board with me for the sixth annual 2012 AIPS, after writing to them and getting no reply, and he reacted very defensively, not wanting to know, replying that he was just a simple shit muncher with no recommendational input into RTE's poetry programming, even though it was the first stop for the winners and runners up of this competition after they were crowned with the title I created; copping on after a while that I was numero uno out of some loop all the shiny newbs were seamlessly getting in via this vehicle of my own creation.

And detecting that smug Oiwish gombeenism, unprincipled, knowing your place and making sure that English one, woo erp, say nowt to him, look at the mug, he does the heavy lifting, money-giving and all the rest of it, and we the famous fuckers deserving it, just take the piss out the dikhed.

I created the AIPS, not in a boardroom in Merrion Square, but off my own back, living in the Iveagh homeless hostel with no money, no assistance, or helpful positive thoughts from anyone anywhere in official literary Ireland, that now can't wait to be seen appropriating the credibility of the authentic  underground all island slam poetry Title, to bolster their own soulless and synthetic corporate attempts at bringing this form to the cultural reality i did with nothing. The last of the short lived RTE poetry slams, in 2004, was closed entry by special invitation and won by the Trinity College poet-scientist Iggy McGovern.

A title that existed in my head and i made real, and now it is the real deal all its own reality. I was told to feck off by everyone who could help, not fuck off but, oh we would like to but we can't because blah blah blah baluba lyin to ye nonsense, and so using only intelligence and tenacity to create summat that could all end tomorrow and twud bae fine, as itwuz ooll moin bayboi.

I don't mind being overlooked and purposely frozen out by needy cute and ruthless less experienced folk in the Bog of Irish poetry, because I am a tolerant and gentle fair play English poet raised with a different set of cultural values, happy to have accidentally stumbled fourteen years ago, more by accident than design, onto the true course of straight and strictly poetic knowledge from my studies of the twelve year bardic curriculum. Still there in apple pie order, in black and white English translation, that few 'Irish' poets have the desire and grá to cleave to, or inclination to stick with as the agency for a successful life in poetry.

Laughing at the lazy amadáns getting by on bluff and subterfuge, getting it all wrong; and imbued with one of the four bardic joys enumerated by Amergin, the joy of health untroubled in the abundance of goading one receives who takes up the prosperity of bardcraft, not caring who says or does what, uncorrupted by the sow that eats its own furrow, and viewing the soulfully grubby bog folk and their acolytes snarling like jackals round a dried up well, as spiritual sacrificers in a company of cut-throat careerists measuring success in how many people they fuck over. The street-corner Christs competing with lies, short-cut bluff and bodjit  merchants not chosen or blessed by the gods of poetry that make their presence felt and known to those of us with a good life of happily writing here, with a few very supportive people in our lives.

Now,  off the scene since 2009 after completing four years of weekly live practise on a scene the Bogman never was, though claims he's at the heart of; that created a live-skin of life-long performative readiness, and inculcated many invaluable lessons learned through the experience of being there and just fecking doing it. Uninvolved in the current day-to-day live poet-personality politics of the Dublin closed mic scene without a plain and simple democratic no-frills weekly poetry open mic event since the end of Write and Recite.

Because of where I am personally on my journey through life and letters, blessed by Ogma the god of poetry since I first set foot here eleven years ago, I can only view the live poetry scene through a comedic lens, and experience all the japes and jokers as pure comedy.


English poets in Ireland are last on the list for any gigs, or rather, we're never on them in the first place; but Noel Sweeney is different, he was actually, imo, as a neutral observer not caring where in Ireland you are from, the most exciting and interesting live poet around. Certainly in relation to who the audiences most connected with and loved the work of.

But The Bogman, I imagine, knew Sweeney blew him out the water live, and instead of doing what he ostensibly claims to be interested in, showing off the best live poets, the best was far too real and better than him, a culchie caark baahy and Bogman not liking one liddl biddy bit the more talented Tipperary poet simply too gifted and too difficult to get one over on, and who didn't buy The Bogman's verbal flannel. And told him, after ten years of getting the run around, to fuck right off.

And so The Bogman now, of course, like every social revolutionary that's a sanctioned stalwart of the officially Irish poetry establishment, is perfectly placed to make sure one of Ireland's most experienced and finest live poets can be unofficially and officially fucked over and off as he is never gonna appear on anything Lord Devoid has to do with, along with me, even though The Bogman was very keen to take advantage of my fair and welcoming gentle nature when I had access to something that he desperately wanted to be part of and very generously was invited to be.

The good news is, after ten years of all the loud shouty lecturing and hectoring, he is old hat, boring, passe and part of the stale money hungry brigade in Dublin believing they are incredibly important at all times. The poetry scene he 'created', and the one before it he claims to have been on during 2005-8 (that Sweeney was the star of and he never came near) has been shown up for what it is, a Tudor courtier model, Sir Paddy Professional Culchie Geezer with all the newbs lickin round his uptight stressed out ass, and Sir Devoid, irrelevant, I think, on and off the page.

Even he's stopped pretending his poems were revolutionary and new and heralding summat to replace Heaney's ubiquitous vibe. He is always banging on about how he's a post-modern mad crazee poetry enabler for the oppressed communities he mentors when theatrically reciting in the slow deliberate lecturing voice speaking very slowly and over-enunciating each word, so the flock he's enlightening can savor every syllable as he recites to an audience of kids the novelty Paddy Banana and GIVE ME TWENTY PEE!! poems.

I think he is used to 'debating' with 12-17 year olds and lives in that critically privileged bubble with a one trick cock bag of literary learning containing the old death-stare silence coupled with an inability to have a normal critical conversation with adults like me and Noel, The Bogman's mental architecture of a provincial intellect common to the small town culchies, brilliantly smart and clever, always one step ahead of the Jackeens and Brits, the clever cute Caark baahy cnut with an inferiority complex, always getting one over on the dickheads he meets, like me and Sweeney. Not as desperately driven to reach that Famous faeryland The Bogman was picked to end up with but didn't because he's copped on that the faeryland of famous poetry is all in the mind, and so you can be an unpublished nobody and still be very happy and content with the poetry you do and write when a person's spiritual essence of brí and duende combine to speak in the literary voice of your real dán, channeled by the sidhe from your heart and soul.

Everything he says, you can take with a pinch of salt, and yeah, up the revolution Bogman, with the most winny gob in the banana republic's poetry village. Love, Kev.

Desmond Swords

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Contemporary Performance Practice essay, 2004.

'Liminal hegemony is the transitional area at an intersection where power relations shift from one state of being to another. At least, that's one definition.'

I loved writing academic essays on my Writing Studies and Drama BA (2001-4). At the beginning of the second half of the second year a light of life-long learning switched on; after 18 months writing blindly and not knowing if I was deluding myself or not and just trusting in the work-rate I was doing (typical mature student), and that the fact I loved it and it felt instinctively right, would lead to something measurably artistic that would lead to me becoming a normal person happy and contented with what I was doing.

Especially in the creative academic disciplines such as Creative Writing, it's all pretty much bollocks anyway. Some say. A theory that crystalised in one of the final core Drama 3002 Contemporary Performance Practice essays: “Discuss the contention that the work of the artists studied on this module, have value as instruments of epistemology within performance.”


'In keeping with the non-traditional nature of the material under discussion, I have chosen to abandon the Hegelian approach in this piece of writing and will adopt a style of presentation which I believe finds resonance with “qualification descriptor” guidelines, which state we must engage in the study of “cutting edge creative scholarly activity,” and which also issues a challenge to what I consider to be, the essentially meaningless debate surrounding the artists we have studied on this module.
   Performance theory is a new discipline and the current buzz concepts relate to exploring performance within anthropological and sociological contexts. The notion of performance occurring at liminal borders of human activity, which are then “framed” or contextualised as performance, is now dominant within the academic performance field of inquiry, and is directly applicable to the material under debate. Rather than posit thesis, antithesis and synthesis I will present my ideas in an experimental and creative manner, the intention of which is to expose what I have termed a contract of “hoax,” which I will expound on later.   

   The modern concept of what constitutes art, arguably underwent a fundamental shift when Duchamp mounted a bicycle wheel on a stool, and since that time, in the words of Louise Gray writing in The Guardian “..has grown to revolve around a notion of framing.” This would seem to be the case, certainly in relation to the artists under debate within this essay, who have all attracted a large amount of critical debate from within the academic community. One thing they all have in common is that they are all outsiders in some way, who have channelled their unconventional lifestyles into the arena of performance art. Ex drug addict Ron Athey, was raised by his religious fundamental parents to be the new messiah. Annie Sprinkle graduated from prostitute to porn star to performance artist, whilst Franko B and Orlan would seem to have had the most conventional arts background, although Franco B’s turbulent childhood has been well documented.

   My argument is that, in the clamour for intellectual sophistication within the academic avant-garde of the performance community, the “envelope” of what constitutes serious art is pushed further and further into liminal spaces with an ever-quickening momentum. This is because performance theory is essentially meaningless, in the sense that it has no effect on the material world, and so engages in elaborate “fictions of belief,” in order to justify and bestow a sense of meaning and worth upon the activity of theorizing about performance. When the topic of performance theory is raised in critical discourse the George Orwell quote below springs to mind.

“…the concrete melts into the abstract…. consisting less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like sections of a prefabricated hen-house.” 1

    Much of the debate surrounding this embryonic area of performance engages with a post-modern language in a poetics of justification using fashionable neologisms that have been generated over the last twenty years by the disparate strands of various critical discourse which few outside “lit-crit” university departments understand. Much of the criticism relates the changing role of the body with the decline of traditional Judea-Christian and Cartesian systems of belief and interpretation of the world. Highly intricate and ephemeral logic is employed to demonstrate why a self harmer bleeding in front of an audience, a woman prizing open her vagina for detailed inspection, a woman undergoing cosmetic surgery and a man performing S&M scenes combining religious and gay iconography (which by his own admission are more of a cathartic release of his own inner self rather than for the benefit of an audience) constitute art.
   Obviously, the logical answer to the question of whether or not the performers primary aim is to shock is to research the responses of the artists themselves to that singular question, and the answer generated is a firm, and somewhat unsurprising, no. Franco B, when asked by Robert Ayers if he considers his work shocking stated

“I suppose some people would say that, but that’s not what I’m interested in. I take myself more seriously than that; it’s a waste of time. Also I think people want to be shocked.” 2

   He then goes on to expound his central theory about his work, arguing that people are shocked because of a general sense of guilt surrounding “touching yourself,” which he terms “brainwashing.” His main concern, he states, is to create “beautiful things,” and declares that his art is essentially a public extension of his everyday life.

“But really, the idea of doing things I want – beautiful things – I think like everybody else, basically comes down to taste. I dress the way I like, I eat the food I like, I make the things I like. In a way it’s no more than that.” 3

   This seems to be the key tenet on which his artistic philosophy rests, a logic which seems to be saying, “Art is Life,” much like Tracey Eminen seems to. The corollary of this argument therefore is that the whole of human activity, from painting, making music and other traditional art forms, right through to nuclear holocaust, could be legitimised as a work of art. “This is what I do, therefore it is art if I say it is a beautiful thing.” And whilst it is easy to dismiss this response as flippant, we only have to look at Annie Sprinkle’s activities in order to see it is not. 

   Annie Sprinkle’s artistic manifesto is based solely around the body as a sexual instrument and calls for a radical overhaul in sexual relations –

“I have a vision for the future…..Fetish lingerie and sex toys will be freely distributed to all people. …Men will be able to have multiple orgasms…It will be possible to make love anywhere in public, and it will not be impolite to watch.” P172

Needless to say I find it difficult to take Sprinkle artistically serious. Her sole interest being the “artification” of commercial sex in order to materially benefit and gain a place for herself in the avant garde artworld. I believe that the air of critical solemnity she has generated is a result of certain branches of feminist theory attempting to carve out legitimacy of terrain where their own ideas can be aired, rather than any inherent artistic value in Sprinkle’s “work.”

Athey’s reason’s for bringing in an audience to watch his work seems to be to raise the awareness of AIDS, which he equates with being a gay Western disease rather a third world heterosexual epidemic. In an interview with Tom Liesgang the purpose of Athey’s work is described as wishing to raise

“….their audience's consciousness to the plight of people infected with the AIDS virus.” 4

In this interview Athey states that his work is a cathartic way of dealing with the HIV virus and recounts a time –

“Cleo Du Bois, a dominatrix friend of mine, gave me a ritual whipping over grieving. I wouldn't call this masochism. I was filled with so much sorrow because three friends had just died. She beat me for a half hour until I cried, focusing on the loss, not the sensuality of it or the submission - power trip.” 5

As I will explore further, it seems to me that Athey is basically indulging in bouts of child like demands for attention, which performance theorists have hoaxed themselves into studying, for reasons I will develop later. By choosing to appropriate HIV for the gay community, and attempting to take ownership of what is primarily a heterosexual disease worldwide and use this, by his own admission, as a kind of personal therapy, Athey’s initial claim to be interested in raising awareness of people who have HIV, is seen to be palpably false. There are no references to Africa or the terrible suffering there. He is only drawing the audience’s consciousness to the plight of Western gay men who have HIV, which overall, is a small minority of the total worldwide.   

   The real argument, I would suggest, is that the true debate lies not in analysing the artists and their motivations or the content of their work, but analysing why this work receives an audience. Franko B states that, in his opinion, this is fundamental to his work.

“…the work is more about them – the people watching. About their feelings.” 6

   And whilst this is true about all art, the challenging nature of explicit body performance infuses and raises very important questions which could be broadly related to the concept of voyeurism and breaking taboos on one hand, and the theatre of cruelty idea of “freeing the mind through assaulting the senses,” 7 on the other.

   The three words which immediately spring to mind are the last three the Twentieth Century modernist James Joyce allegedly uttered on his deathbed immediately prior to departing this world. “Does anybody understand.”

   As I have never seen any of these performers work, the ideas presented can only be provisional and open to revision. My notes for the first lecture on this module states that we are studying this material due to a government directive which instructs educators to expose third level students to “creative,” and cutting edge research. However, I am of the opinion that these performers, with the possible exception of Franko B, and to some extent, Athey, are a product of the late twentieth century’s avant garde's obsession with self justifying navel gazing, the lineage of which can be traced to 1917 Zurich and Cabaret Voltaire. It was here that young artists engaged in activity, which set the trend for what I have termed “audience masochism,” whereby the audience’s primary aim was not to enjoy themselves in the traditional sense of being entertained, but to gain a masochistic pleasure in being affronted. As a result it is very difficult for me to work up any interest to actively engage in a traditionally prescribed manner with the debate surrounding explicit body performance/modern primitives/surgical performance/body fluid art and the numerous other labels which have been or can be attached to the activities of the four named artists. 

This is because I am starting from a position, fundamentally cynical of the artistic legitimacy of these various activities, and whilst I could construct an argument starting with pre Christian body religions and trace it through Plato, Plotinus via Byzantium and Augustine, through Scottus Eriginus and the medievals to touch upon the post Tridentine philosophy before ending up with Renaissance metaphysics in order to contextualise the enlightenment and eventual rationalism of the 18C which post structuralism has displaced, it would be a hollow argument on my part.  Watching people self mutilate, open their vaginas so an audience can inspect their cervix, video themselves when under the plastic surgeons knife or any of the other “art” works under scrutiny in this module add an air of unreality to my whole time studying here. 

The natural logic of this material allows the presentation of virtually any physical act as being labelled art, however ridiculous. For example, it would be legitimate for me to suggest that a staging of myself having sex with a number of prostitutes whilst being tattooed, pierced, having a blood transfusion, defecating, urinating, vomiting, undergoing dental work etc, is not the end result of an indulgent imagination, but true art. Further, I could argue that people should come and see the spectacle to challenge themselves and I could sell raffle tickets whereby the winner could take part in the “performance-orgy.” This is not to say that I am of the opinion that they are not sincere in their actions, as I am of the belief that, as previously stated, the real area of interest lies in analysing the reasons why an audience would choose to attend these events and engage in the “hoax.”

   During the early lectures for this module, we were asked

“When you get angry about this work, what value systems are you demonstrating that’s different from theirs.”

The general tenor of the debate during these sessions seemed to imply that the material warranted serious consideration, but I could not help being reminded that the main reason we are studying this is to comply with the “qualification descriptor” guidelines laid down by the current Labour government, and it was at this point the “hoax” theory started to take shape.      

Northrop Frye famously described academic thesis research as being –

“A documents which is, practically by definition, something which nobody wants to read or write.” A statement which if true goes a long way towards damning the whole system. It may be more true of the humanities than of the sciences and reflect the way in which 20C economic and cultural pressures have forces the former to model themselves on the latter, to eschew their real function in favour of often facetious “research” and prefer quantity to quality.” 8

   I believe that this is the key to understanding the “hoax.” After Descartes separated mind from matter and Newton’s theories began the process whereby the practical results of material science relegated the humanities to a poor second place within epistemology, a mimetic language of psuedo scientific justification has evolved within the humanities in an attempt to compensate this fact. An academic language, which seeks to “technicalize” abstract creative ideas surrounding man’s relationship with and to existence. Prior to the Newtonian universe, abstract ideas were dominant religio-scientific theoretical “fact” which had evolved over centuries and were unquestionably accepted with all due reverence at the time. 

The theorists were a small band of elite knowledge keepers who controlled the masses, much the same as quantum physics does nowadays. The progress of science accelerated the decline of the previously dominant mode of ideas, roughly comparable to the humanities, and proved them as rational fictions created, modified and controlled within a process of religious dominance and power. The magic and Gods which the old order presented have now been displaced with the real magic of technology, which few of us truly understand but accept as not being magic at all because we have shifted our faith to the alter of science. Within the general humanities the gradual response to this development has effectively been to dismiss scientific development as a dehumanising process, with increasing hysteria, very much in the mode of children playing a game of make believe. As the influence of theories generated by the humanities, particularly performance theory, has no effect on the material world, there is a deepening sense of inadequacy and denial in being obsolete, and like the redundant bank manger mental patient pretending s/he’s Napoleon. This analogy is the most extreme and could be applied to the notable theorists and practitioners, whilst the day-to-day performance theory folk are more akin to battle re-enactment enthusiasts engaging in a hobby. On both counts the wider world takes no notice of these people and indulges him in their harmless fantasy, although the bank manger Napoleon draws attention and is worthy of study, much like the cutting edge avant-garde.

   So it is with much of the theory related to performance, which huffs and puffs at the edifice of science, safe in the knowledge that it isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference to events in the real world. This is the essence of the hoax. Those performance theorists huffing and puffing during office hours about the big bad technological world, switch of their “performance of belief” at 5pm and go home via the supermarket in the car, switch the lights on, use all the handy appliances which make modern life so pleasurable and then settle down to be bombarded by images. The following day at 9am they switch on and rage about the terrible effect technology has on man. Everybody plays the game and is encouraged to make believe in the name of art.  Obviously these ridiculous positions mean that the theories are presented in a highly confused and meaningless rhetoric of conspiracy and damnation of the controlling theories, which have displaced them. This confusion is a result of ignorance and fear, borne out in the language, which those entering the humanities are encouraged to learn, although not seriously question or challenge the wider validity of. So when I read Chris Straayer writing about Annie Sprinkle –

“I would like to be able to make use in sexual-political thinking of the deconstructive understanding that particular insights generate, are lined with, and at the same time are themselves structured by particular opacities,” p164

I am reminded of Orwell’s henhouse metaphor, as the opacity which immediately springs to mind is the language of the above sentence and the argument presented is “by gumming together long strips of words….and making the results presentable by sheer humbug.” 9

Sheer humbug, therefore is what I consider the majority of explicit body performance, and the theory surrounding it to be. The audience are “challenged” and view “powerful” material, in much the same way as watching a car crash, or being an observer at the gynecologists would be “challenging” and “powerful.” If I wanted to view material of this nature I would go the whole hog and station myself at the local A&E department, join a swingers club, befriend a plastic surgeon or start a drama therapy group for those seeking to act out fantasies within performance. As previously stated, in my opinon  the real debate lies with the motivation of the audience not the performer.'


7 Campbell, P & Spackman, H    1998    The Drama Review: Winter 1998    New York     MIT Press
Gray, L    1996    The Guardian: Me My Surgeon and My Art P8    London    Guardian Newspapers Ltd
1, 8, 9  Neal, R    1992    Writers on writing: an anthology    Oxford    Oxford University Press
Straayer, C    1994    The Seduction of Boundaries: Appeared in: Dirty Looks Women Pornography and Power.     London    BFI
   2 , 3,  6-
    4, 5