Tuesday, March 25, 2014

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 shamrocked 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,
his spear ran wet through many a man, who fought

but hours amid years of hunting in woods; 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 tommorrow or next year."  Setanta,

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 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 the 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 who 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.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

witever wedo

A heron on a branch above the river Dodder at Terenure. Taken today around four o'clock.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Friday, November 18, 2011



The FINAL is finally here! On 7TH DECEMBER 2011 @ 8PM (SHARP! SHARP!! SHARRRRRRPPPP!!!), eight of the country's best slammer poets (all winners and runners-up in the 2011 regional heats) will go head-to-head in a fast & furious contest, the winner will emerge with the underground-prestigious title of All-Ireland Poetry Slam champion 2011. There will be 3 ROUNDS, 3MINS MAX PER POEM (1 POEM PER CONTESTANT PER ROUND), ALL CONTESTANTS MUST PERFORM THEIR POEMS FROM MEMORY... In the meantime, check out our contenders:

Representing Ulster:

Conor O' Kane: (Teknopeasant)

Seamus Fox


Representing Leinster:

John Cummins

Karl Parkinson


Representing Connacht:

Seamus Barra O'Suilleabhan

Sarah Clancy


Representing Munster:

Fergus Costello

Mary O'Connell


Once again we'd also like to invite you all to attend and be our raucous audience members. Drum-rollers and hollerers very welcome! :O)


Entry will be by donation, when we pass round the mystical Hat of Love in true broke-poet tradition, ALL PROCEEDS WILL GO TOWARDS COVERING THE EXPENSE OF THE EVENT.

So tell yer mates, or your writer's group, one and all. All very welcome!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Michael D. Higgins maligned by mad woman.

Carol Rumens published an opinion blog on the Guardian today, that labelled the president-elect Michael D. Higgins's poetry as 'mad-dog-shite', on the strength of one poem: When Will My Time Come?

The provocativly titled blogpost, Michael D. Higgins is no Poet, read as if it had been dashed off in ten minutes, and ended:
The Northern Irish poets have a phrase for rubbish poetry. I first heard it from Longley himself, though I believe he said he got it from Frank Ormsby: mad-dog-shite. I'm afraid I think this is the category into which "When Will My Time Come" effortlessly slips. Whoops!
The article drew many responses, the majority of which expressed disappointment with the author of the blog. This comment, one of the milder rebukes:
Mr Higgins isn't a particularly distinguished poet, agreed. Printing this bit of ill-written hit-and-run practical criticism, though, in the week after he has won a hard-fought election to be the head of state for his country, is mean-spirited and graceless of The Guardian.
One poster reproduced a coarse bit of doggerel written by Rumens and in which the word 'cunt' appears, as an example of how easy it is to damn any poet on the strength of one poor example. It was immediately removed, as were many other posts far less sneery and unkind as her own.

The absurdity of the Guardian moderating policy was revealed when I posted two lines that were immediately removed, which pointed out a spelling mistake in Rumens' blogpost:
Brendan Kenneally is spelled wrongly, it is Kennelly.

A poor article.
Also removed was this moderate comment:
One analysis of this short piece can posit that it’s fairly plain for an intelligent reader to grasp that the author of it was uninterested in undertaking any serious poetic inquiry into the merits, or otherwise, of this poem – weighing up all sides with thoughtful and mature consideration before delivering an opinion expressed in clear, concise and civil language – that engenders a healthy debate this forum claims as its sole focus; but rather, she had a visceral loathing of the poem in question (and possibly the author) to such an extent that she, essentially, in her haste to insult the poem with the most vulgar 'mad-dog-shite' epithet she thought permissible to publish, chose to dispense with the usual norms of serious critical behaviour.

The piece itself seems merely a knee-jerk desire to mock, goad, sneer and be disrespectful, by uttering the insult ‘mad-dog-shite’, upon which is hung and around which is framed, a flimsy psuedo-critical patter attempting, and failing, to pass itself off as the real thing, in order to justify what, if written on its own, would rightly lay itself open to a charge of being wholly offensive, uncalled for and, most importantly of all (for its author), unprofessional.

It’s the same impulse that motivates an imperial power wishing to exercise its full might upon an innocent other – to fabricate evidence in order to justify a pre-determined course of action, without which the naked unfairness and disproportionality of its actions are immediately and embarrassingly obvious to all rational observers.

The author of this piece, the theory goes, sought to indulge in a bout of boorish behaviour and loutishly did so under the cover of it being a valid ‘critical’ act of the responsible academic poet. It happens all the time. Great fun. And tellingly the blog author has absented herself from the debate she knew would occur and the tenor of which, one could guess – she misjudged. But the sign of healthy debate is allowing ourselves to look foolish now and again, and this author, to her credit, rarely slips up so fully and, in the grand scheme of reality, comedically.

In the trajectory of her career as a poetry journalist for this media organisation, this piece will be remembered more than most of her very many other, more thoughtful ones. Life goes on and we all learn from our mistakes. The tenor she sent into the world has been roundly returned and I am sure she will be cringing somewhat at the unflattering attention she has drawn to herself for all the wrong reasons; but when the dust settles I am sure most will recognise the inherently comedic nature of this minor spat between a poet and the public on whom she relies for validation.

Since the Julian Assange fiasco when the Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and his brother-in-law and head investigative reporter David Leigh, were responsible for a cravenly hypocritical and dissembling editorial in which they sort to shift blame onto Assange for Leigh's mistake in publishing, contrary to all crytographical practice, the passphrase and salt that decrypted the Cablegate file, the true colours of the Guardian journalistic ethos has been plain for any intelligent reader to grasp. It is big on lipservice and moralising platitudes but when it comes down to brass tacks, they pull every underhanded stroke in the playbook to sideline, silence and smear anyone who counters their position. An ethos that trickles down to removing harmless poetry lovers with the insolence and gall to point out spelling mistakes on their book section.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Deleted response to Guardian Poem of the Week 17 October

Several commentators on recent books blogs have said they'd like to see a discussion of Roddy Lumsden's poetry, and PotW's own MeltonMowbray posted a request earlier this year. So for this week's poem, I've chosen one of my favourites from Lumsden's latest collection, Terrific Melancholy. I hope aficiandos and new readers alike will enjoy the elegiac virtuosity of "Square One."

Panning shots of the razzmatazz of contemporary London begin with an unnaturally motionless River Thames, which contrasts with the surrounding fluidity of endless construction and self-invention. The location is mirrored in spirited, slangy diction, and a repetitive device that stitches all together in bright gold lamé thread. On the page, you almost see the green light. Read the poem aloud, and you hear the gunning of engines in the repetition of the hard "g" – described in phonetics as a voiced, velar stop.

Big top today dishes the anonymous lover, fans and supporters in Camberwell, Camden, Chingford, Chigwell and place, poise, warmth & the crystal wit of a fine dining connoisseur; thrash poetry’s trashing objective alveolar noun, adjectival astonishment, vowel sounds cranked out in the exercise of loving the bloodaxe; a frond of salient pink, red and blue, thrusting upward ever deeper into minds on the edge of exercise itself; a liminal invisible bind and verve all sense knowing its rule adheres to trad ‘n’ po-mo – any mix of these eerily erotic earlier Mac Low collections perfectly speaking what’s in front of us before and after time, telling deaf the world to c’mon, take comfort in a slow burning professorial gaze through madeup words welding instinctive spontaneity poised debating the precept, premise, pre-textual urge and desire to be actual.

Thank you for this. It’s not a gimmick, but a privilige to read, Square One. Thanks for sharing how it came about. I thought it may have been written at speed as I read it.

The spontaneous Monopoly conceit-challenge – mirrored in a form condusive to composing at speed - evident now you tell us – is not disimilar in conception to the ‘Gerry McNamara five-word poem’ more positive exercise that makes up the first half of Cork’s weekly open mic poetry night. O Bheal publish an annual best-of anthology made up of the best spontaneously composed poems written over the year.

The first anthology in the series (precursing by several years Salt’s best-of) is made up of poems composed during the original weekly Write and Recite open mic poetry night at the height of the noughtie 04-07 Dublin period in boom-boom-boom. The rule is write a poem in which must appear five words, shouted out at random by the crowd, decided by mob democracy, written down by McNamara and by us the audience, who then have the length of a pint and cigarette break to come up with a text we choose to read aloud, or not. The winner’s decided by audience consent, and nominal prizes Gerry brought in week to week – often pens, occassionally sex toys, once, I recall, balloons… or were they envelopes and paper? Yes, yes. The one week I came close to winning. Second. I won a jotter. Or was it a plastic sabre?

I know I took some prizes home on occassion, unwanted by the winners, wandering crowds through dark warmth, cold or coolness Dublin noughties heyday, swathes of bouyant people peforming as both audience and acts, early in the week at night; Westmoreland Bridge, O’Connel Plaza, Fleet Street, the old Irish Times, Mail, Sun, Star, Herald and Echo, echo, c’mon get the echo poetically here shuttling back and forth this week.

A pleasure to read, and a privilege to own a weary fortysomething’s strap-on vibe narrrator Lumsden, noughtie London – sense the jousting dons in autumnal light facing away, maintaining breath, poised warm balanced behind a line ahead of time itself, sincerely brilliant blatherer playing in words that wrote the critical doctrine of this scene and, certainly a majority of poetry scenes about the place today, took their cue from. This forum is a testament to you. Long may you reign as the one actuality in it, curated by depressive, jealous hipsters fine dining & with it, in a consituency au fait with what dish of the day is.

Our prize today is watching riots on television.
Transparently satirical, the witty, warm & shy

few with contingencies and copies of it burnt,
one five-word poem, detaining the attention
of an audience’s sincerely expressed sense of play,
spontaneous, effervesent, marvelous exhuberance

handling of form. I am very impresed. It has a contemporary conceit to it that authenticates the obvious and in doing so offers up some discussion about ourselves and bespeaking mystery hidden in form’s firm sight, in lines laid yummily on the ultra-modern page, here-and-now curiously angled - asking more of us than we of it, perhaps? Yes, yes.

Massive happy hugs c’mon yes you talented bardstick, square one lying in this poem fictionally speaking actual faith in this the reversal of time, poetry and a space in which a follower can grow into a fan proper, effecting one to praise text by turning it into write-through oulipo and experimental poetique vie itself, authenticating who share twenty six letters, one square chord and the truth – with which to compete for what we receive from fate in poetry proposed on the rational premise, in which our language genders itself, s/he the langpo nightmare KO’ed by vie poetique bores-at-dawn in a face off. Henry Moon v Lloyd Paterson, Scunthorpe Rovers, Dame St. Doncaster’s ground, south of here a very poetic place, participatory perspicacious invention, extempore flyte and flail, Bloodaxe of the actual poet and collegiate fan, the grave impersonal and friendly best-of man, c’mon you diamond, you mentor you legend.

Pen S.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Too Dangerous for the Gals

This blog comment was too 'off topic' and declined publication on the blogs of Katy Evans Bush, Carrie Etter, Jane Holland and Rob McKenzie, during the earliest round in the current Poetry Society War, two weeks ago. Carriet Etter wrote a blog asking for information about what had been happening at the PS, and welcomed anonymous comments. This was due to many poets being too fearful to write honestly under their real name because of the perceived 'power' Fiona Sampson wields as editor of the Poetry Review. The post was eventually removed by Etter and can no longer be linked to.


I just hope that there’s someone on the inside with the talent and sagacity of Peter Barry, remembering this theatre in the Poetry Wars, who will record and publish it in all its comedic glory.

It’s amusing that ‘serious’ poets converse endlessly in the ‘debate’ about defending basic freedoms and human dignity in any number of places around the world with which we have no personal connection whatsoever; calling for this, that, or the other right of human dignity to be upheld, exhibiting real commitment in the abstract to our cause of humanitarian democracy – a la the Arab spring, women’s rights etc; yet when it comes to speaking about a middle-class university graduate who lives in rural Wales, who is, if we are to believe Anonymous, trying to make a power-grab for herself on a poetry magazine in safest England; the poets are all too fearful to speak, for fear of causing upset and offence, or docking our chances of ‘success’.

I blame this situation on the state-subisidized contemporary po-biz project that, in the absence of a recognized course of poetic apprenticeship and study, is founded and predicated solely on the idea of (what one anonymous poster said on the now removed Etter blog) ‘flattery and yet more flattery’ – in the form of a prize culture being the sole measure of poetic ‘success’.

In a shrinking literate realm of instantaneous publication, mass electronic communication and the strategic social networkizing of poetry; the first, and increasingly most important validation of a ‘successful’ poet, is not a question of existing as one in our own self-esteem, but rather, how many other ‘successful’ poets are, for want of a better word, ‘freinds’ willing to approve of our efforts in print, place us on the pages they publish and, if it is in their gift, recognize our talent with the prizes we crave and that seem the sole and central benchmark of poetical ‘success’ in, what Sampson referred to in her issue two Horizon podcast as, the Poetry Village.

As Robert Graves stated when delivering his opening Clark Lecture, The Crowning Privilegein 1954 at Cambridge University:

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 sanctions can they take against him? None at all.

Graves goes on to state that poets owe fealty to none but their muse: ‘the desire to deserve well of the Muse, their divine patroness, from whom they receive their unwritten commissions, to whom they eat their solitary dinners, who confers her silent benediction on them, to whom they swear their secret Hippocratic oath, to whose moods they are as attentive as the stockbroker is to his market.’

He refers to a twelve year poetic apprenticeship undertook in the earliest British (Brythonic) bardic culture, and how: the arch-ollamh ranked in dignity next to the queen and acted as a vizier; his profession was endowed, his person was sacrosanct, and a gift for killing by satire made him the terror of the warrior class and even of the king.

Nowadays it seems, the fochloc beginners setting out on their word-weaving career, have lost touch and severed connection with the idea of existing as a poet first and foremost within our own self-esteem, by adhering to a twelve year term of training. The default route to the highest reach of ollamh-dom in England, and one which Sampson herself took, is to win-win-win; beginning with a Newdigate at Oxford (for best undergraduate poem) and then, jumping through a series of well-defined hoops: Gregory, Forward First, this prize, that prize etc, until ‘success’ arrives via an unchanging, well-trod path that leads to a small citadel of Letters within which repose the trophies and laurels of a small, select few who’ve all been awarding prizes to one another and consolidating our positions on the pages of the magazines the poetry prizes qualify us to edit.

The fact a majority of anti-Sampson posters who commened on Etter’s blog did so anonymously, is evidence suggesting this model is alive and well.


Where are the poets like Graves, who care not a jot who they provoke, offend, or whose sensibilities or toes are trod upon as they learn the trade of poetry? The ‘serious’ poets seem serious only in their desire to ‘win’ a prize, our primary validation of poetic authenticity yielding not from within our imagination and intellect, but from without. Not on the say so of our own instinct affirming itself on the page in the poems we write, but by the approval of those whose credentials are a list of prizes that are more favors being returned, a la Sampson, Paterson and O’Brien; at the heart of this holy alliance no one has the courage to speak of as themself.

Desmond Swords

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Walcott write-thru: In The Village.

Everybody is dishevelled in Dublin,
situated in a comedy, the unwritten pages
of a novel-haired voodist, secret chronicles
of colonial embarrassment, fiction and Latin
sorrow, parenthetical pitches, hidden covert

till it shows in our face, the bleached regret,
wide-winged stanzas, memoirs gusting open

the American eye in us, watching the deep
Quixotic shake of a great invisible charge,

some secretly forlorn scene, obverse and flip-
side of reality, our fictional, confirming stories,
the sean-nós, old noise of the heart in nobody's

battle but its own, call it quits whenever odds-
on regret, a sorrow-grizzled heart, broke even

in the poem casting ordinary its spell, a white
steed, troops, the cavalry that won't make us
a statue, the unrequited charge of love, the old

mens' banners hung across a tidy lawn of talk,
jovial regrets, trailing us, secret law of Danann,
its original flaw causing us to veer into them,

dawns, returning your soul - in a poem.


I wrote through our 2011 Eliot winner, Walcott's poem, and created the above exercise in shuffling his words and letters in the poem, about the page to make a different verbal object. The write-thru form is a modernist, contemporary one in which the student can practice his or her basics, stick to the rules of a poetic form. In this case, the same words in a different order, with a handful of new ones from the rearranged letters, in a few words I chose to re-spell and change by re-ordering their letters, and several words one's imaginative mind invented, breaking the rules within acceptible limits, adhering to the decorum and etiquette general within free-verse and formal, at present; the choice, spur, literate meld of rare-spun thoughts via the act of a performer pretending in Letters.

There's graciousness in Walcott's poetry, perhaps because he has always been Mister to us, and for this we want to congratulate him; and on securing a rightful sweep across the board of poetry, taking what is rightfully due, and the duty a communiuty of human beings not part of the goading and public jealousy Walcott recieves as a person who took 'up the prosperity of barcraft', to bestow; making love in a poem appear to all who read Walcott's love poetry.

As good as it gets and on top of the world because he made it that way via the vehicle of reading and writing who he is, Mister Derek Walcott; not Lord or Sir, but king of the lyrical majors,

Lyric love poets know our trade, sing of what England is not made, Her Majesty's laureate imposters not making others go weak at the knees; Mister Walcott, we automatically think, has it written, alive:

'the noble brew in which is boiled the true
root of all knowledge
which bestows after duty
which is climbed after diligence

which poetic ecstasy sets in motion
which joy turns
which is revealed through sorrow;

it is lasting power undiminishing protection'

...To 'sing of the Cauldron of Motion', as the anonymous seventh century bard who wrote the untitled cauldron of poetry, translated by Liam Breatnach first, in 1979, 1300 years after the anonymous Amergin wrote it.

Generations of oral poets behind her or him, and 50 generations of poets ahead in print. The ultimate authority, Walcott would agree, I suspect. Not that it matters. Poetry is unique to us all and our eyes at the top watching out from a life-long apparatus, critical scaffold, standing firm on planks of our poetic reasoning; X = MC squared, a quantum underthrumb, hidden, unseen, the poetry within us, and a fair and balanced, square, this heart, not in sir but Mister.

I look forward to discovering this senior poet again, in print one can learn the respectful silence of a poet's mind from Walcott. I did buy his book of essays secondhand from Chapters, but lost it (along with several much sought after books on bardic wisdom), in the pub where I was celebrating the secondhand yield of exactly what it is on the must-read list of any student bard, whatever your grade, be it first year foclo or fifth decade ollamh.

I was looking forward to wallowing in Walcott's eloquence. A small dip into it on the first floor of Chapters large and comprehensive Parnell Street bookmart, lit one's mind as only his fellow, Irish, poet had until that point, because I immediately detected what all the fuss surrounding his poetry is about; by reading his prose, finding why he is the widely respected poet: because he knows his onions and speaks from the great streams:

'craftsman of histories
cherishing pupils
looking after binding principles
distinguishing the intricacies of language
moving toward music
propagation of good wisdom
enriching nobility
ennobling non-nobles'

His cauldron of motion, experience, life spun and distilled via us into poems: 'it bestows good wisdom and nobility and honor after turning.

'The Cauldron of Motion bestows,
is bestowed
extends, is extended
nourishes, is nourished
magnifies, is magnified
invokes, is invoked
sings, is sung
preserves, is preserved
arranges, is arranged
supports, is supported.

Good is the well of measuring
good is the dwelling of speech
good is the confluence of power which builds up strength.

It is greater than every domain
it is better than every inheritance,
it brings one to knowledge
adventuring away from ignorance.'

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lennon & MacNeice.


Spider, spider, twisting tight--
But the watch is wary beneath the pillow--
I am afraid in the web of night
When the window is fingered by the shadows of
When the lions roar beneath the hill
And the meter clicks and the cistern bubbles
And the gods are absent and the men are still--
Noli me tangere, my soul is forfeit.
Some now are happy in the hive of home,
Thigh over thigh and a light in the night nursery,
And some are hungry under the starry dome
And some sit turning handles.
Glory to God in the Lowest, peace beneath the earth,
Dumb and deaf at the nadir;
I wonder now whether anything is worth
The eyelid opening and the mind recalling.

God is a concept
By which we measure
Our pain.

I'll say it again.

God is a concept
By which we measure
Our pain.

I don't believe in magic
I don't believe in I-ching
I don't believe in Bible
I don't believe in tarot
I don't believe in Hitler
I don't believe in Jesus
I don't believe in Kennedy,
I don't believe in Buddha
I don't believe in Mantra
I don't believe in Gita
I don't believe in Yoga
I don't believe in kings.

I don't believe in Elvis
I don't believe in Zimmerman
I don't believe in Beatles

I just believe in me
Yoko and me
And that's reality.

The dream is over
What can I say?
The dream is over.


I was the Dreamweaver
But now I'm reborn;
I was the Walrus

But now I'm John

And so dear friends
You'll just have to carry on,
The dream is over.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Comedy Thursday. Navan. Moran

...he’s so crooked he sleeps on a spiral staircase, so thoroughly corrupt everytime he smiles an angel gets gonorrhea. He’s had so many facelifts his face has moved to the top of his head and you have to get on a stepladder to watch him lie. And you can't trust any of them. We all think we are very rational and very secular, but we make gods, all the time.

Everyone went apeshit when Barack Obama got elected. I was delighted; everyone was thrilled, a sane rational human being in an important office. Great. But his biggest problem is everybody else is us; coz everybody’s in love with him.

He stands up there very convincing and commanding and makes sense – ‘..in this difficult time everyone needs to work together and be realistic about what we’ve gotta do’ – and all that stuff, and everyone’s looking at him: ‘no, you do it – you are Super Jesus, you’re so handsome when you’re serious. Do you work out?’

Dylan Moran (in part 2)

Perfume is a good example of a product gone all wrong. When I was a child, that was a semi-exotic sort of thing and it was called something stupid like fleur de fleur, and you would give it to your mother or an aunty at Christmas and it was advertized by some dopey looking woman in a field of sunflowers, who looked like she’d been hit by a tractor, because she was going [falls back in slow motion waving arms] [laughter], because she couldn’t get over how nice she smelled.

And now, we’re so jaded, because we’ve consumed too much, our attention can only be grabbed in a violent way; so its always advertized by these constipated exoskeletal bitches who are sneering at you, and it’s called something horrible like Homocide, Dysentery, Urban Dysentery, for boys & girls. What’s wrong with that? We’re the only organism the planet is actively telling to fuck off, by burning things, freezing things and melting things on us.

It’s like going past the ocean and seeing it spit out whales, fuck off I’ve had enough of you. Passing the eucalyptus tree as the koala hanging on and the tree’s going get the fuck away from me [top half of body quickly tick tocks side to side] [laughter]. Now you’re in the forefront of all that because you’ve got real weather here – dramatic weather. You open your front door and everything might be gone; you might be two and a half miles down the road in a flood. In Britian and Ireland where people talk about the weather all the time, all day – there’s no story; there’s no weather. But Irish people especially, insist on drama, so you’ll hear things like, orrrgh it was fierce mild it was touch and go there for a while.

God doesn’t work, science doesn’t work, consumerism certainly doesn’t work; so where do you go; where do you end up? We end back up with each other; there’s nowhere else to go.

People. You have a very important decision to make early in you life. Are you going to be alone, or are you going to be with somebody else? Are you going to be sane, or not lonely?

A couple is a strange thing. It’s an organism that’s half as intelligent as the most intelligent member, and you both know who that is; because you’ve got two people walking around together all the time, trying to remember all the different shit they have to lie about to each other.

Oh, going to see those people over there are we; terrific, I hope it doesn’t stop anytime soon. There’s a lot of pressure put on you to find the right person. You’re told if you don’t find the right person, your life is fucked, forget the whole thing; you’re dead. Which is rubbish. There’s billions of you, we’re all the fucking same. If it’s not him it’ll be her; or if it’s not him it’ll be them. There’s millions of people for everyone; there’s more than enough, we’re very overstocked on ourselves.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Translated from the Dutch by Jerome Rothenberg


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 "Courant"
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.

Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Colm Keegan. All Ireland Live Poetry Slam Champion 2010

Ireland Is by Shirley Chance

Ireland is an on-the-road machine
Ireland is so far gone from Joyce's Dublin
Ireland is Cúchulainn with a hurley
Ireland is English
Ireland is Tír na nÓg
Ireland is a ghost estate
Ireland is a gloc pointed at someone's son
Ireland is a teen-brained new-age lap dancer
Ireland is veins, butterfat with broadband
& self hatred.

Ireland is an on-the-road machine

It's existentially frightened out there
It's got alloy wheels and tinted windows
It can tear ye limb from limb, or stop
& offer you a lift.

Ireland is so far gone from Joyce's Dublin
But still full of the dead, and snow, upon
Quickly snorted cocaine breaths we go.
Ireland is a badly bred famine-stricken
Flea-bitten jallopy of a piebald horse
Galloping down O'Connell Street,

Ireland is Cúchulainn with a hurley
Gurning off his head on creatine, punching
The face off the referee, before sticking
Him in the boot with sectarianism
And the Disappeared.

Ireland is a copper who looks like Brendan
Gleeson in Into the West, in a chopper,
Who'll put heroin in your hands and say:

Grand so, thanks for the fingerprints
don't let the coffin door hit ye on the way
out, after ye hang yerself, with your shoelaces.

Ireland is English, whether it likes it or not
'Cause it's laughing at Newswipe & Mock the Week

Choking on M&S food and ruining
Its new Debenhams' top,

Ireland is a gloc pointed at someone's son
or a Christian Brother, or its own mother
because she won't move into the nursing home,

Ireland is Tír na nÓg, Oisín saying doh!
When his saddle broke, vikings raving
On Wood Key Hill, monks driving Hum-vees
Through round towers they built,

St Patrick standing with his fire on the mound

honestly now that money was just resting in my account

Ireland is a teen-brained new-age lap dancer
Getting drunk, getting chlamydia of the soul
From too much unprotected facebooking
Down the boreens of a ghost estate
Searcing for Foxrock.

Ireland is veins, butterfat with broadband
& self-hatred, caught in the loop
Of a money shot lasoo, faux-hawked Pentecostal
Iconoclast, yahoo, a liar, in flames, in denial,
In the X Factor final of bullshit, Gerry Adams
is kissing Barbara Streisand, Bertie Ahern
on-screen crying, suicide, alcoholics, junkies,
Gunmen, dying & dying and dying, and it's all so
Fucking electrifying, coz we're fumbling blind,
We've no idea what we're doing, no idea where
We're going, and we're almost there.

Ireland is an on the road machine
Ireland is so far gone from Joyce's Dublin
Ireland is Cúchulainn with a hurley
Ireland is English
Ireland is Tír na nÓg
Ireland is a ghost estate
Ireland is a gloc pointed at someone's son
Ireland is none of the above,

'Cause we're fumbling blind; we've no idea
What we're doing, we've no idea where
We're going, and we're almost there.


Shirley Chance is a soundcloud account hosting a powerful version of the poem above, Ireland Is, by its author, Clondalkin poet Colm Keegan, one of two contestants representing Leinster in a live poetry competition, reciting this one that, along with two other poems, got him placed first, at this year's All Ireland Poetry Slam Championship, 30th October last, at the International bar, Wicklow Street, Dublin; in the full ninety minute video of this live poetry competition you can enjoy when watching the video below.

Keegan is a very talented live poet and writer, three times shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award, for both poetry and fiction. In 2008 he was shortlisted for the International Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Competition, and is currently working on a first novel and a collection of poems.

The event was organised, hosted and MC'd, by Tallaght poet, Stephen James Smith, whose Glór poetry and song Sessions facilitated both the Leinster heat, on Monday 25 October and the final on Saturday 30 October - Samhain Eve.

Traditionally in Ireland, during the bardschool era, at this cardinal, three day transition phase from the three prior months of Beltaine, to Samhain, summer's end; assemblies from the five Irish provinces at Tara Hill - the seat of the Irish high king - gathered in a grand annual meeting, where they celebrated with horse races, fairs, markets, political discussions, ritual law making and poetic court hearings, mourning for the ending of the light half of a bardic year, and an ushering in of the colder, harsher half of the Irish filidh (poets) year. Lighting a flame from the high king's fire, it spread across this country in a time now gone, long past.

Samhain eve also marked the beginning of a student bard's six-month academic year, taught, learned and practiced from sunset's end to Beltaine (bright-half) May 1, on a fixed, singular, island-wide course of dán (poetry), in which the memorisation of 350 seperate ficticious and factual narratives, constituted the core & key a bard needed to unlock their skeletal selves, during Samhain-Imbolc winter/spring - when they studied, worked on and progressed through, a 12 year course.

From word-weaving beginner foclo of the first grade, through seven semesters spent acquiring the five, 'universally' recognized poetic grades, Macfuirmid, Dos, Cano, Cli, arriving at the penultimate, sixth grade of Anruth - 'great stream' - five years away from attaining their final, highest, most sacred, profane, sorrowful & comedic poetry professorship of Ollamh (pronounced ulav) when their log n-ech 'face-price' for spinning bardic dán, brought to them the collective cultural memory - On Coimgne - of bodies and souls formed by his or her Sidhe, stretching far back to a famine daze easy to forget, pay lip service to, losing the run of ourselves and tripping into a delusionally induced debt-madness, created in brief bursts of abundent imbas, its repercussions felt for decades to come in Ireland and elsewhere, possibly, people in it, a ship of state heading straight & staggering to one thing, some claim, is the most deleterious to them - Sovereign you, 'us' people waking to the outline of an iceberg this year's winning rhymes tip thru, lighting autumn's winter portal-point and practice for the good of natural unity, in these unprecedented times, an artist-pool making broke in Ireland Is, poetic magic.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Unpublished Writer's Epistle

Dearly beloved Brian Cowen, this
Is sent to thank you for the cheese
& a euro price that greatly fell,

We hope your bonds are doing well
& tell us please, we're none the wiser,
What happened to our Celtic tiger,

You say it was the People's fault
That all now has come to a halt.

We thank you for the bailout loan
It’s good to know we’re not alone
& we’ll pay it back, and then some more,
To ensure that Banks are never poor.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Highly Tutored

Always she's falling over inside
never reaching the end, a hammer
smashing thin translucent glass

thin as the whispering fragile
promise she walks alone with, knowing
only outside, never feeling in

never seeing through the surface
of half-hearted smiles and loose
passing nods, silent voices lost,

her eye-acknowledged madness
pleading in a basket by the door
she walks past without mouthing


into a wash of black granite night,
heavy - with only stars for comfort
she rolls back the collar of time

and sinks below in whorling form
a soft blown drizzle in cool mist,
springtime sun, the despair running

through her head, some tune
of a funeral song she remembered
singing on that night before he left:

dark gifts, bleak memories, spirit
sleeping, a self-watching angel alloyed

above, holding truth at bay, forged
white hot in the inchoate moment, logic
nascent, underfed soul positioning

before us in the dust, forgotten
soldier-gods in the endless realm
of endless rain, in a time far off

a mythic sun that once, on the shortest
day, briefly connected moments to a brow

of kings, the falling star, your cynosure,
annointed one.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Prose Doggerelism

Acting as if one is five and not a multimillionaire diva, acting why knews all alongers and proper collapsing after-turns and memory blockers, all the ballkickers page is a blog and we the doggerelist in Letters on it, verse in iambic pentamenter, gurning for a prize of sand 'n choonz.

After Banksy.

What if Nothumberland poetry, is secular prayer and the combined psychic weight of cerebral wishing for a greater logic, orderly people-manouvring in drastic bloopers - combined into summat wanna gan dan toon, by dan tha new why eye, perspicacious serendipity rolling on to love, rolling out the stuff of life and wrought to verse tha song a little person's lullaby in disguise, disgusted with the state, sibling songstress yo bro main, power in tha grasp of secret - old testament poetries alone tha knew why eyes dan choon, gan man of whatsfookinupwivyer - shouting at owl-bag on Brittas Cresent, bottles at a back wall, razor fence, presents in through window and letter-box, dividing lines clawed from the State in Disgrace debates, floss gaffe laughter and the occasional chapter in a short, essential and interesting rise of Northumberland becoming a modern super-cluster of intellectuals attending to their word, allowed be their gab, musing on bag-owl in Blessington Avenue, a touch of sand 'n glue, the words of kings and princes, the queen of truth and tune, some have said, earlier today at a psycho-fillidh Cantook townland, Breifne parish, more legendary Dogg naGwyldo, petty kingdom and Sorry, Do you know Me?!

It works.
We blew the love into them.

We blew the love right back in their own ears
Tender ear the eyes at work.

Blew their hate away
It suffocated in their own awakening.

Praise reality for all the good things
Love them into forgiving your shit

They are eating it.

Praise Love for all good things.
We loved the bards into balls of dust.
Now come here on the mouth, kiss
shards, le moi.

Sahred Stimlae.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Open Call for Forgiveness.

Dear England F.C.

I am writing to congratulate you on your recent success in the South Africa World Cup 2010. This year you showed great promise and potential, acted as role-models for an entire country and were a credit to your parents and not least, your own hard work playing soccer.

I have many friends who support you in a very passionate relationship some are claiming now, after you left; is wholly one way - from them to you.

There were a number of incidents on and off the pitch at this year's tournament, that were singled out and picked up on by the global media, during the first few games of the tournament, in which England as a team, were disunited. John Terry in respect of seeking to disagree with Fabbio Capello in public about certain managerial responsibilities Terry's voice, thoughts and feelings on the subject of team selection, whilst very welcome at all times - took upon themselves to manifest as a man clearly making the wrong decision and embaressing himself and his team mates. It was lucky Anelka walked out and news of France's public mood beamed to you, reminding you how easily it could have been one of your players huffing off and creating a public mood of surprised disgust and a 'state in disgrace' caused by soccer players representing England internationally, as agents of her realm.

There will be a lot of good to come out of this. Liam Brady was 'very pleased' about the England humiliation, not because he derives any pleasure at seeing it; but because the disallowed goal will force a climbdown by FIFA's president, who is the only man in soccer against the introduction of touch-line technology available to match officials (as rugby has) because - he claims - it is too expensive to impliment. Brady's got a real bee in his bonnet about it, and such he expressed a view that in less confident, more fragile eras of the historical special relationship between these two islands - could be viewed as triumphalism in reverse, colonials getting their own back on the chaps; and something proven most poetically wrong today with the existing technology the richest news corporations on the planet use to beam soccer around the globe as the 'global game' that truly does embrace all continents and most nations.

Liam Brady was 'made up' Germany's young team with less international experience than Australia; thrashed England and Germany's young stars swiftly clicking into that flawless machine internationally emerging into a classic German side - not because he derives any hidden joy from seeing England hammered by Germany - but because of the changes it may hopefully force and that Brady has been banging on about for years, soon after it proved itself in rugby. Seconds out of play to consult the screens and Ireland could have been in this year's tournament after the Irish equivalent of Britain's 'hand of god' goal by Maradonna; except a penalty at stake and not the goals that booted us out the world cup, that was all Henry's fault, Ireland agreed and the redtops and a more recent introduction to the market, the Irish Daily Mail, sought to whip up national unity around. The issues of soccer and justice.

Until Jack Chartlon arrived and turned Ireland F.C into a nation of winners interationally (not in the sense we 'won' any competitions, but that we always went further than the odds had us when Big Jack came his Charlton's Barmy Army manifest as part fo the cultural fabric and consciousness - recently out, fervent and proud soccer fans whose numbers had been smaller and with many less hesitant prior to the national team getting good for the first time; under a geordie legend, the entire nation en masse experiencing for the first time, the world cup tournament as contendors - expressing a culturally collective passion for a game that was viewed with a degree of suspicion until then because it was considered an 'English' game the invading occupiers pushed on us with the spreading of soccer and cricket, both very popular but not a part of the collective Irish consciousness in the way it is in England, until an Englishman came and achieved the impossible of getting us to the tournament and turning a nation of supressed for a thousand years cubs - only seventy years alive free - into winners by belief and talent alone.

Four million Irish boggers with ten times less talent than England, beating England, after her very embaressing Lansdowe Road incident seared into Irish cultural history as a dark day of Englosh disgrace when they ripped up the seating and began throwing it into the bemused Irish people below who had welcomed England with an open heart and hand.


If it had been a 2.1 win for Germany then England would be demanding justice, but, as I say, unfortunately the small and welcome five minutes of togetherness and purpose, a brief snarl of grit and united as a team, evaporated at half time when the enormity of the injustice occured; but still, poetry in the sense of England's only world cup being won in a similar kind of game with the same team, eerily so, Germany England 1966 Wembley, a team the Charlton brothers played in. When England got the rub f luck abd were awarded a goal by a decision that turned out to be wrong, the ball not crossing the goal line, so 1.1 and not England 2.1 up; and the psychology of the game and the teams shifted into final gear after that wrong decsion, much like it did yesterday; England beaten at their own, physical game by a bunch of legends. Mark these words.

Klose was a revelation and grew in stature the longer he was on the pitch; his and his teamates rise in belief as the game went on, mirroring England's ebbing away; until twenty five minutes to the end the team collectively switched off and its psychology wentinto 'departure lounge' mode, plain to witness.

A self-fulfilling curse manifest as the absence of wit and class. The captain's explanation, childishly simple in its logic, keen to remain upbeat, take the positive from the negative and carry-on looking foward four years, Wayne nearing thirty, playing support to the next Roy of the Rovers being invested with the collective hiope of millions, the chances of a winners medal slimming into a semblance of reality; who knows, it might happen four years from now..

It's going to Argentina Germany or Brazil, again. I personally have a desire for Maradonna being the story of this tournament; his life has been pure poetry already; from slum to world best to heart-attack and early death before turning his life round with faith and religion, a God he seems to believe in, and who seems to believe in him. If he wins the world cup after winning it when a pinch of years older than Messi is now, that's a team that leads from the heart.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Liam Clancy reciting Raftery's Mary Hynes

Mary Hynes

(The most beautiful woman in the West. Padraic Fallon translation
of the Anthony Raftery poem)

That Sunday, on my oath, the rain was a heavy overcoat
on a poor poet; and when the rain began in fleeces
of water to buck-leap like a goat, I was only a walking
penence reaching Kiltartan

and there so suddenly that my cold spine broke out
on the arch of my back in a rainbow;
this woman surged out of the day with so much sunlight,
that I was nailed there like a scarecrow.

But I found my tongue and a breath to balance it,
and I said:

'If I'd bow to you with this hump of rain, I'll fall
On my collarbone, but luck I'll chance it'; and after falling bow again
She laughed: Ah! she was gracious, and softly she said to me,

'For all Your lovely talking I go marketing with an ass, I know him.
I’m no hill-queen, alas, or Ireland, that grass widow,
So hurry on,
sweet Raftery, or you’ll keep me late for Mass!'

The parish priest has blamed me for missing second Mass
And the bell talking on the rope of the steeple,
But the tonsure of the poet is the bright crash
Of love that blinds the irons on his belfry.
Were I making an Aisling I’d tell the tale of her hair,
But now I’ve grown careful of my listeners
So I pass over one long day and the rainy air
Where we sheltered in whispers.

When we left the dark evening at last outside her door,
She lighted a lamp though a gaming company
Could have sighted each trump by the light of her unshawled poll,
And indeed she welcomed me
With a big quart bottle and I mooned there over glasses
Till she took that bird, the phoenix, from the spit;
And, 'Raftery,' says she, 'a feast is no bad dowry, Sit down now and taste it.'

If I praised Ballylea before it was only for the mountains
Where I broke horses and ran wild,
And for its seven crooked smoky houses
Where seven crones are tied
All day to the listening-top of a half door,
And nothing to be heard or seen
But the drowsy dropping of water
And a gander on the green.

But, Boys! I was blind as a kitten till last Sunday,
This town is earth’s very navel.
Seven palaces are thatched there of a Monday,
And O the seven queens whose pale
Proud faces with their seven glimmering sisters,
The Pleiads, light the evening where they stroll,
And one can find the well by their wet footprints,
And make one’s soul!

For Mary Hynes, rising, gathers up there
Her ripening body from all the love stories;
And rinsing herself at morning, shakes her hair
And stirs the old gay books in libraries;
And what shall I do with sweet Boccaccio?
And shall I send Ovid back to school again
With a new headline for his copybook,
And a new pain?

Like a nun she will play you a sweet tune on a spinet,
And from such grasshopper music leap
Like Herod’s hussy who fancied a saint’s head
For grace after meat;
Yet she’ll peg out a line of clothes on a windy morning
And by noonday put them ironed in the chest,
And you’ll swear by her white fingers she does nothing
But take her fill of rest.

And I’ll wager now that my song is ended,
Loughrea, that old dead city where the weavers
Have pined at the mouldering looms since Helen broke the thread,
Will be piled again with silver fleeces:
O the new coats and big horses! The raving and the ribbons!
And Ballylea in hubbub and uproar!
And may Raftery be dead if he’s not there to ruffle it
On his own mare, Shank’s mare, that never needs a spur.

But ah, Sweet Light, though your face coins
My heart’s very metals, isn’t it folly without a pardon
For Raftery to sing so that men, east and west, come
Spying on your vegetable garden?
We could be so quiet in your chimney corner–
Yet how could a poet hold you any more than the sun,
Burning in the big bright hazy heart of harvest,
Could be tied in a henrun?

Bless your poet then and let him go!
He’ll never stack a haggard with his breath:
His thatch of words will not keep rain or snow
Out of the house, or keep back death.
But Raftery, rising, curses as he sees you
Stir the fire and wash delph,
That he was bred a poet whose selfish trade it is
To keep no beauty to himself.

Friday, June 11, 2010

We Are (not) the Centre of the Universe

(From the Herschel Space Observatory)

The image shows most of the cloud associated with the Rosette nebula, located about 5,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Monoceros, the Unicorn. The region contains a family of growing stars, with the oldest and most massive members in the center of the nebula, and younger and less massive generations located farther out in the associated cloud. There's enough dust and gas in the entire Rosette cloud to make about 10,000 suns.


The animal behaviour of humans in electronic media makes for a very interesting study. One which involves us all and which is in its infancy, barely 15 years old and in real terms, only ten.

A unifying prinicple one notices, having blabbed in a lot of e-holes and chat-rackets, is how in all the groups I've playfully joined with the intention of learning, there's a strong tendency to coalesce into insular, closed communities, who then rank themselves by various rituals, into pecking orders, like apes - these social groups who advertize themselves as go-to gals and guys in po-biz, as living examples of how to successfully practice the activity of verse and ditty making - yet whose fantasies often crumble in the face of what is pejoratively called 'the foreigner', on whatever list it might be.

Very much a game of jaw-jaw we often confuse for some existential 'war' between ourselves and 'them' pesky foreigners with wrong-headed ideas that contravene every poetic principle held dear; be it in lyric or non-lyric form.

However, having participated in most of the insular groupings; it is clear that we are all basically the same. Whatever our purported beliefs on poetry per se; few have Amergin's 7C bardic prose-poem first translated in 1979 and defining exactly what poetry is, as their word of god.


The activity in, what e-poet Carol Rumens terms, our 'zoo-smelling little cage-screens', amounts to a basic human desire, and the animal behaviour, of leaving some imprint and record of our presence in the environment of Letters; with the enterprise itself driven by a fundamental competitive spirit - imprinted into our genetic code - that is the hallmark of evolutionary creation. At least, it seems that way to me as someone who has sought and sustained myself on the spats, scraps, wars, flaming and in the act noted across the board, a need for ritual demonization of scapegoats on social network sites.

This behaviour seems eloquent testimony to what's merely a less destructive, benign manifestation of our animal urge to go collectively off our heads now and again, driven by what Stephen King ventriliquizes through his character of Harold Lauder, an earnest and unhinged teenage wannabe novelist in his novel The Stand - 'the urge to stretch out our hand and draw a rational pattern from the cosmos'.

The archaelogical record abounds with incontrovertible proof of a fundamental desire in human beings, to rationlize what's beyond our intellectual capacity to understand and know, by phsycially killing and making sacrifices of ourselves to, what used to be called, gods.

Our entire material history and literary universe was founded on the principle of fictionally contextualizing trillions of second-by-second human events, into mythical systems that - prior to the current scientific age - constituted what was held to be true and real about the human relationship with, what we have now discovered, is an effectively infinite amount of space whose centre (we've also discovered), is not as our tiny cellular, self-centred and hubristic brains chose to believe for the last ten thousand years of recorded human history we know of; but the wholly opposite.

Far from being the most important centre-piece of God's Universal project, collectively we are but a very insignificant seven billion whole; a micro-organism and single cell entity on the surface of an infinitesimal speck of, in relative terms, electron orbiting its solar nucleus 25,000 light years from the centre of our barred-spiral galaxy; at the inner rim of the Orion Arm, part of the Local Fluff inside the Local Bubble of the Gould Belt; our puny solar cuisle croi, just one of half a trillion suns that make up what is the tiny blip of Milky Way; itself one of billions of galaxies in the observable universe.

Humanity, until now, has been based on fiction, lies and misunderstanding, equally tragic and comedic, the entire human species, a tiny brief flash and what is almost effectively of zero consequence; an invisible, micro-second history of a million or two years, we're a pathetic film of life clinging, in perfect 50/50 balance, between joy and sorrow, man and woman, ourself reflection and physical testament to the simple binary principle explicated by the most authentic, earliest aboriginal minds concerning themselves with the business of knowing such things as; what poetry is.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Got up and went down Oliver Bond to get some smack - mainlined trainlined fein-times 'n all over in a rat a ta tat - the voices in me ed makin it all go wibbly jibbly yoo yah - then thinkin - dunno why it's been so long - p'raps it's just the superstrong cider - wuffle truffle miffle moffling 'n that wiv Al 'n Lol over at the jiscmail poetry site, doin a bitta bullyin of the sexist, racist satanic unpublished wankers who fink thee can gobble on yobble in ya ya yo yeah - d'yiz know wharra mean - or not?

Spud calls, 'bout 2.30- wants to have a chat - AM - 'bout a job next week in Windover Lit Soc. Another round with our beloved, unwashed unpublished unjunked virgin mooey tossers of the faux scent breeze - seamlessly askin, maskin, taskin, waskin - chatterin frills inta tha slaps, taps naps p'raps bcuz of bein depressed - regressed, no finesse - all the worlds a wibbly jubbly foo faux co moo - loo row so - yeah, fucking great day.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Writing Program Expose

In January 2001 at the age of 33, I started writing; and by March of that year had decided to jack in life as a London admin drudge, reading and writing all day as an unqualified paralegal; deciding instead that it was better to be reading and writing what I wanted, rather than filling my head with the information I was taking on at the office.

I'd been wanting to write for a year and more, after someone had put the suggestion in my head, but couldn't start a word. I couldn't even think up a sentence, and nothing would come out. The only thing going for me was that I'd already acquired the basic discipline of sitting at a desk and writing all day, and all I needed to do now, I imagined, to kick-start a transfer of the mind's focus and direction onto a different, more creative path - was to find a way in.

So, on 2/1/2001, I decided to start keeping a Smoking Diary, hoping it would serve the dual purpose of at least writing something, and maybe even lead to a jacking in of the smokes. This is the very first entry:
2/1/01: It is now 9.51 am and I haven't had a fag yet. This is going to be tough, but if I can see through today, then there is hope for tomorrow. I will type onto here when I get desperate for a smoke, which is right now. The mind seems to be a very powerful tool in the addiction process. The tricks played are all very subtle, and indeed, this here shows the lengths gone to, to try and fight the negative side of one's own mind.

14.50. The mind has beaten itself. I folded like a cheap suitcase at just after midday. I ponced a fag off Farah and smoked it at 12.03. At about 2.30pm I ponced a roll up off Mike, so my consumption for the day stands at two.

It is now 15.41 and I don't know why I am typing this in. Oh go on then yes I do. I am hoping that keeping a diary on my smoking thoughts and habits will serve a number of purposes. One will be to possibly aid me in my attempts to reduce the nicotine intake into my body and two is to try and keep alive some sort of dream as regards my creative writing. If I can combine the two of these, then it can only be for the good, for myself and anyone else who cares about the truth of things. Well maybe that's a bit strong but I can always wipe out anything I don't want to leave in this diary.

18.32 and I have succumbed again. I had another about 5.55pm, a roll up off Mike. 3 so far and with the evening ahead of me I am still trying to look on the bright side. Well there's no point in using this as a tool to not have a fag, for the rest of today anyway. I am only typing now for the practice.
I kept it up, writing every day and then, on 9/1/01, the floodgates opened with a two page anecdote that came tumbling out; which shifted any remnant of interest in the work I was doing (reading files of evidence in white-collar tax frauds and precising it down); and moved instead into writing my own stuff. At this point, facing into the onset of middle-age, I didn't have a clue what I wanted to write, just that I didn't want to spend my life moving further and further away from what had been my true heart's desire since playing Shakespeare's Malvolio in Twelfth Night, in the school play at 14. Pretending.


In late March 2001, I packed in the pretence of being anything other than a career failure, leaving London and relocating to Cork, Ireland; then booking myself into a Saint Vincent's Homeless hostel and signing onto welfare. I spent the next six weeks in local Libraries, reading anything I could find on writing; writing my diary and pondering how to become an author. It was during this spell I set out the basics to myself. That all I wanted out of the enterprise, was to write one poem or sonnet that could stand in the shadow of Shakespeare's. An unrealistic goal in terms of becoming the Warwick Bard's equal, but by limiting myself to an Ideal of departing this world with just one 'good' poem as a literary legacy, was not exactly putting very much pressure on one's own self-expectation.

I read a back-stack of writer-interviews in a pile of Paris Reviews at Knocknaheeny library, soaking in the authorial tips of modern greats, and was barely worse off financially. Spiritually I felt I'd made the correct decision. Always being a superstitious sort, who'd make decisions using the most - what others would consider - daftest of reasons; my inner compass felt as though it had aligned to a true course. That though those around me at the time had thought me mad, my own instinct felt the opposite.


After six weeks, a long standing dental issue had come to a head and I neeeded to have a molar extracted; so returned to my home town of Ormskirk in Lancashire to get it done. Whilst there I discovered that the town's Edge Hill College (now a university), had been running academic writing programs, degrees and MA's, for the past eight years.

Not having the relevant high-school diploma or A levels to gain admittance into third level learning, I initially thought it would be an impossible dream to get on the course; as having to study two years to get the necessary qualifications to go to university, was all pie in the sky to me then, as an uneducated ex-building laborer and admin drudge.

Still, I went up to ask and spoke to the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet (not that I knew this at the time) Robert Sheppard, who wrote and runs the writing deptartment programs. He told me that it was OK, there was a six-week Fastrack course that had been created as part of the college's 'widening participation' goal, basically targetting older, unemployed people like myself.

It was starting in two weeks, and was really just a course to get people unfamiliar with computers, up to speed, and which, after several years of working as a poorly paid paralegal, was easy enough to pass. During this wonderful summer, I remember thinking that something George Szirtes terms in his Eliot lecture as, secret levers of the universe; had effected this serendipity that led one back home to learn the very thing I'd decided to pursue and had set my heart on learning. Once the decision to follow my inner calling had been taken, it was as if the gods of Letters had removed all obstacles in my path, and ushered me on the correct course, for the first time in my life.

The writing component could be taken as a minor (quarter), or as half of your B.A. program. Mine was half: Writing Studies and Drama; and on the first day in writing class, a week after 9/11, there were around 45 of us. Some doing English, some Drama, some Film, Media, Womens Studies, and other subjects.

I still have the notes made in that first session; in which we all gave a reason why we were there, and what we hoped to gain. One woman was after writing self-help books, whilst others were there with no specific goal. One young chap from Wolverhampton doing film, nineteen, was wanting to make movies; but the main vibe I picked up on, was Harry Potter. The young kids who made up the bulk of the student writers' cohort, wanted to write fiction that would be as exciting as J.K. Rowling's; and though it was unspoken, it was fairly clear, even to me then, that what had propelled the majority of us into taking the course, was a desire to become rich and famous. If I am being honest with myself, though this wasn't as obvious to me then, there is that secret, not so hidden desire that, maybe, just perhaps, if I develop myself; I too could write summat that would make me a bundle.

But this is certainly not the reason I began writing. I was writing anyway, and had got very good at what I did as an admin drudge; and one reasoned that developing the talent for fantasy I'd always had since a child, was the right thing to do in the long run for me as a person.

Most of those on the course, I don't know what they're doing now; though the course is not about teaching you how to write, as no one can be taught because writing's a solitary pursuit and sport, challenge with yourself; conducted on the pitch of our own intellect. Sheppard used to say his B.A. course is more about finding out if writing's what you want to do or not, than anything else. By the end of it, it was clear who was going to carry on writing and who was just keen to stop the pretence.

Edge Hill's academic status rose in the world after I left, and is now rated as one of the best in England. The writing course, because it's run by a fairly unknown poet, means there's no big expectation. Unlike learning under Motion or Duffy, which (one suspects) is more geared up to getting published. Because Sheppard is the English equivalent of John Ashbery's heir, the 'poetic' underpinning the course is more experimental, and publishing, prizes, all that jazz - played little and no part.

It was great, because I was testing my dream in my home town, where everyone knows me; unable to fake myself into a new me around people I didn't know. And because the poetry component began with Pound's Do's and Dont's and ended with Charles Bernstein and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry (Langpo); one had to learn a tradition I would not have done if one's own, lyric sensibilities were left to their own devices. 40% of my study-time was spent outside the official modules, learning Irish myth, that I'd become obsessed by after deciding that the one way to outface a Class obstacle inherent in England, and negate the predominate sensibility of its monarchist poetic; would be to learn what a real Bard had to - just for the sheer feck of it.

My reasoning was: I want to be a poet, but my worst nightmare is meeting someone who will make me feel I am a fake. How can I learn so there's no question of being plastic? Well, in Britain, the ultimate poets used to be bards, who, in Ireland, had a tradition that lasted over 1000 years in print. But, I thought, few people know much about them as we all stick with Homer and the Greeks as the primary poetic base. OK, I thought, imagine - for a laugh - just to shut people up who'd try to poo poo your dream - knowing what a real bard did? That would shut the would-be knockers up, as they couldn't claim you as a fake, because you'd be telling most people something they don't know about.

OK, what do I study?

Once I started studying this topic of what a bard actually did in the old days, it became quickly apparent that this wasn't going to be a short three year course. In the old days it was 12 years through seven grades, before you graduated as a poetry professor or ullav. Perfect, because by sticking to these rules, the ones in existence for a 1000 years and more - turning out British-Irish poets generation after generation - you've as much, if not more, legitimate claim to being on the right course than those who'd assert this is the way you do it, or that is the way you become a poet. Pound, Eliot; any first generation dabbler, will have only their own way of thinking, but the bardic course is set and has been there for 1500 years. You can't argue with it.

And the 12 years is OK, I thought, I'm in it for the long haul and the dream is, just for the craic, knowing the info. If it takes the rest of my life, I thought, so what?


The young guy from Wolverhampton doing film, in the very final session, as we looked back on the three years, was in a totally different frame of mind. Gone was the certainty and confidence of three years before; replaced with something else, less assured and more confused. And he was the only one of the many in his boat - who I thought was being fully honest in his response, and for this alone I respected him. He said the one thing he'd learned from his degree, was that he didn't want to be a writer; at least not then, as a 22 year old young man. Instead, he was joining the army. Most of the others whose Harry Potter dreams had evaporated, were not so straight about how they felt.

So, yeah, a writing program isn't for everyone, and I was very lucky because the British state paid, but to dismiss them without having experience is silly.

I was reading a poet elsewhere ranting about the rise of the creative writing programs in the UK, as if attending one will make you less of a writer, as if the 'true' poets are the ones who've never been within a royal mile of a creative writing class. Reality suggests otherwise. You don't become a doctor or lawyer without attending the specific classes, but somehow, writing is considered different to all other professions.

Hmmm. I don't think so.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mayo Dindsenchas


Oh, three-handedly preternatural smoothness
Sligo - Achonry, Aclare - Ballaghnatrillick, Ballinafad,

Skreen, Strandhill - Tourlestrane, Tubbercurry

Eiru Fodhla and Banbha, the triplicate Goddess
Royal Tuatha De Danann queens and married.

Mayo - Attymass, Belcarra, Belmullet, Bohola
Achill to salmon, Finton of Ballina, Assaroe

And Ballinrobe, Ballintober, Ballycastle, Ballyhaunis
Ballyglass, Ballyvary, Bangor and Boytown

Bunnacurry Castlebar, Charlestown, Claremorris, Cong,
Corroy and Crossmolina, Currane, Derreens, Derrew

Dooega, Dookinella, Foxford, Geesala, Glengad
Glenamoy - Keel, Kilkelly, Killala, Kilmaine and Knock

Kiltimagh and Swinford, Shrule, Newport, Mulrany,
Pollagh, Rossport, Tourmakeady and Louisburgh,

Dooagh, Islandeady, Westport Valley and Dugort Church,
poetry occurs effortlessly, endlessly, eternally, forever there

alphabetical Asia in three quarter light from Achill hawk
Slievemore shore, dying in their generations - at their song,

The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

Thus the forest spake.

Welcome to Balony TV

I'm Mike Igoe

He's going to be reading a poem tonight called, Rosanna You Muppet. An unwarranted personal attack on the eternal Mister Universe Ireland 2003

'Rosanna You Muppet.

Rosanna you muppet!
I'm with you, cohabitant in heaven.

Hell! I know your pain of sainted martyrs and cancer sufferers,
I know your agony of wooden rice bowls and children with distended bellies,
I was with you in solidarity when you walked barefoot on landmines and razor wire,
From Land's End to John O' Gods collecting direct debit mandates for the victims
Of burst Russian fission reactors.

I shared your stoic horrors under a 7,600% pay cut, due to inflation,
To feel your connection with public sector school teachers in Zimbabwe.
I was grinding my teeth in the background when you donated those
Twenty-five gallon drums of cooking oil to Haiti
And accepted the key to the city, graciously,

When they buried the machete in your honour.'

Actually, the title of Mike Igoe's poem is not Rosanna You Muppet, but Rosanna you ****. Begins with S and ends in G, LA between: gas poem, not for the tenderest in our
flock of luvvies one must flag-up, from across the spectrum of age and experience, who may or may not choose to draw from one a door of perception closed to none but the man, y'all gotta be ready for the real title of this audaciously ambitious poem. The premise it sets out from, Rosanna You ****, a direct address to a very intelligent all rounder and class first Miss World Ireland, one of the very finest young blooms and brains from The Lady In Red: Daughter of C. DeB. not the kind of thing one would publish under His own imprimatur

...out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling,

...outrageously a veneer may trip one up and slam the door to peptides docking clean, new, protean one's chain of amino acid protein, shuttin off our neural perception of the other biological space-time survivors back from the page time forgot, what you know I know you know but think not.

Get over it.

Thanks very much.

Your head on my belt, do cheann im chrios luv, dichetal do chennaib, spontaneous critical divination from the instinctively topper tip of Cruachán worked for you: Muse of ten thousand American souljahs in a poet army of bardic fluff, came for you

Old freinds, old freinds, sat on a park bench like bookends
a newspaper blows through the cracks, falls on the round

toe, of the high shoe, of the old freinds, winter companions
the old men, lost in their overcoats waiting for the sun,

sounds of the city sifting through trees, settles like dust
on the shoulders of the old freinds. Can you imagine us

years from today, sharing a park bench quietly, how terribly
strange to be seventy, old freinds, memories brushing

the same year, silently sharing the same fears, time it was
and what a time it was, it was a time of innocence

a time of confidences, long ago it must be, I have a photo-
graph, preserve your memories they're all that's left you

Simon and Garfunky

Mike Igoe: Balcony TV - Rosanna You Sla...arghh

Take no notice.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Authorial List Poem

Poe, Humboldt, Pope and Coleridge, Bacon, Shelley, Parke
and Greene - Bryant, Lincoln, Fremont, Cooper, Alex

Langston and Charles Bernstein

Rudge and Whalen, Wilde and Blaser, Hamilton, Godwin
Nietzsche and Gay - Whittier, Garrison, Ticknor, Creeley

Washington, Horace and Wittgenstein

Samuel Beckett, Alan Ginsberg, Henry Adams, Lowell
and Leigh - Corbiere, Wilberforce, Longfellow, Matthiessen

Silliman, Vendler and Sophocles

Desmond Swords

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cork Poetry


My thoughts are clear like a crystal fountain,
As a river runs with a breeze: come to the edge
And seek out the forest, come to the forest

And seek out the tree. Over yonder lies the ocean
With waves that will carry you over the mountains
of Time to the foothills of Dream.

We sail with the full moon and we will fly over
The silent sea; for the music is our dreaming
And the dreaming is our song, and our Vision sets

Us forward to a place where we belong. Run
With time to the fields of open starlight,
To the quiet place where the spirit of life rests

In your heartbeat; a sacred fire, the flame within

And stay for a long time beyond the borders
Of description, to discover your true heart.
And with an open mind the music sets you free

The music lets you be and takes you to the farthest
Shore, as melody makes a voyage of life's blood
Dearest promise, to raise the spirit within.

Tommy Livinsgstone.

Friday, April 09, 2010

The poet below is Ailsing Fox.

I heard her first in 2004, not long after I'd arrived in Dublin in search of something. An 'itch' and poetic kink had led me there, armed with only a photocopy of the final results from a Building Studies and Drama BA, and a bill for several outstanding sums from the student hardship fund I'd been unwilling and unable to repay.

One's exit velocity from Edge Hill University in one's home town of Ormskirk Lancashire, where Seamus Heaney and Paul Muldoon taught from 2001-4, had enough momentum to bowl me, a bicycle and two panniers containing all my worldly goods, onto the now defunct Liverpool–Dublin fast ferry.

I'd decided that researching the bardic history of poetry in Ireland and trying my hand at writing it in Dublin, was the only sensible option for a man with a professional Building Studies qualification and interest in performance who, at 43, was fast approaching middle age.

I alighted at the North Wall and cycled along the coastal path to my sister's home in Baldoyle: a beachhead from where to launch one's assault upon the literary citadel of Dublin, and float or implode in urban Ireland’s poetry flame HQ.

I met Aisling Fox within the first few weeks, below in the basement of Brogans pub on Dame Street, where Gerry McNamara hosted his Write and Recite poetry night and poets gathered, trumping one another and self-trumping ourselves. Competitive, but in a healthy and natural, Irish way, in which the rational of us being there in the first place, seemed equally mixed between tragedy and the comedic premise that meant one either sunk or swam.

Fox had not been long back from having spent a few years in a Latin country, Cuba I think, and demonstrates her command of Spanish in the video.

A tour de force recital, from a very talented woman at the peak of her live skill.

Unfortunately, one's time in Dublin led me to sink into madness and unhappiness when I realized the competition was just too good for me to ever make it as a professional ditty maker. Luckily, I now work as a university lecturer, teaching Cognotive Assonance to the poetically disabled of America, in Boston and Chicago.

Have a nice day.