Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Colette Nic Aodha - Sundial Launch

I've just come from Damar Hall, the new venue of Poetry Ireland on Stephens Green, listening to Colette Nic Aodha from Mayo and currently living in Galway with her three sons. "Sundial" is the title of her first collection in English. She has had three Irish language poetry volumes published by Coisceim as is this one. She read six works which all displayed a verbal sense of sound that is a trademark in most Irish poets. The natural way assonance is patterned in and the inherent musicality of the lingo weavers over here suggests that the thought structures of the old tongue must still be knocking about; in basic mode - like the emergency lights after a power cut stay on - always there as the linguistical outline, which Peter Fallon would say "is in the DNA."

Unfortunatley I do not have her book to hand, as I didn't have the purchase price, but I had a quick scan of the bloke's next to me (there to support so he would have to "buy a book") which was enough to soak in a basic appreciation of the assonantal Irishness we are unable to escape from even should we want to. The six she read were

1 - She sold soap on a rope - This was a mildly satirical list poem repeating the refrain "Avon Women are"..blah blah blah, who the poet has idealised as all being a perfect "10" hot blondes with busy lives and shallow minds.

2 - Next up on the set list was "Career Change" about an old woman of 78 changing careers, with the line "we farmed our bodies out to sea" sticking in my head at the time.

3 - ? Oops, journalistic error, I couldn't hear what she said so had to write a question mark, then forgot to ask her post bash as we all had a gargle of the Poetry Irealnd white and red. However this was quite a powerful piece of satire, slagging off all and sundry who had provoked her ire, certainly not an affirmation poem. She has imbued the spirit of satire completely and would seem to be a tough cookie to go head to head with in a slanging contest or iomarbháigh, as it was known in the bardic days, when they had formal counter-boasting competitions. Being out on the West Coast raised on the myths of Ireland means she has a knowledge of the gaelic system of licensing satirists; and their power was feared throughout the land, much like journalists today wielding influence in the showbiz columns.

Picture the scene. You are a wannabee celeb of Tom Cruise proportions in China Whites and you spot the Daily Mirror 3am girls quaffing back the ale. You are attired in a sheepskin shirt and sieze your big chance at tabloid advertising by sashaying over to weave your aura round the scantily clad hacks, but the vibe is wonky and the next day you get a one line mauling taking the Michael at your stature, maybe sticking a nickname on you, (ail - in bardic grading means a piss take moniker that sticks) say "the sheepskin shortarse."

"Woe is me" you would lament over your coco pops and hangover the following afternoon whilst recovering from the blunders of the night before.

The old Irish satirists were much in this mould, gaining patronage through fear as much as anything else. Quick wits on the piss wanting free scoff, could we say?

In addition could some claim to record around 12 levels of "official" satire in gaelic Ireland, from -

aisnéis: "insulting speech, without harmony", which was not in metrical verse, right through to the ultimate biggie -

glám dícend - a full magico-religious ceremony involving 100 people, and done to bring about the downfall of a king. Here is a quote from this site -


"The satire ritual of legend, that blisters the face. The king is fasted against; counsel is taken with 30 laymen, 30 bishops and 30 poets about making a glám dícend. The king is warned once more. If the king refuses the satirist's request, none of the 90 who were consulted may hinder the glám dícend."?

So pretty scary; unlike colette, who was attired in post-theatre cocktail blacks and a diamonte chandelier necklace, a wisp of hair falling foxily about her face as she gracefully moves through the seive of air to reach the final line of this satirical work -

"eternal engulfed falling black hole......this poet never forgets her detractors."

Erm..so I'd better keep it nice and lite otherwise the supernatural forces which surround poetry may beam me up, chain me to the naughty chair of the cosmos and subject my spirit to an eternity of Kurt Schwitters Titter Mix Vol 1, eight euro CD.

4 - Open Letter to Billy Collins - another softly satirical poem where the narrator gets wobbly over one of America's main wordman, recalling an encounter with him where less load and heavyweight collide and spark to light a poem of him being, like many a poet, a bit of a "Jack Daniels" man.

"...didn't wash for the full revolution of a moon" the narrator says, who we are led to suspect is the author herself, for we discover the composition of the letter is being worked after her career arc hits the height of an appearance fee for being present and reading at a literature event, and the big time of getting into paid print.

5 - "Speaking Minority Languages" - Distracted at this point by the inner sound of my mind which stole attention away from detailing Collete's full register, I indulged during this rendition, the thought of a muse escaped and had a brief mental time out moment from pinching lingo from the other's sounds, weaving public as the fibres in what societal fabric of needs which order our lives and timetable our routine of, eat, work and shop awake etc.

6 - "Sundial" - Her collection's title - Her great-grandfather built a sundial in a Mayo homestead. The poem is of his daughter's dying.

7 - "The Mob" - A kaleidoscpic jumble of classical gods from antiquity are tossed in the air, as she tells us of the cultured phonies she has no time for, finshing on the line

"They can shove their gods up their kaleidescope"

I detect this work may be alive in its own right as a text, possibly with an audience agog; as I, prior to my first hearing, became informed from her un-horse like mouth with first hand knowledge of any potentially expected explosion in the wow and dazzle factors that baffle outsiders unable to grasp what absence is apparent when some of the cultural code and sensibility comes in an ancient "nod and wink language" where a central laissez gaelic faire doctrine exists and watches time mangling its quantum codes, incalcuably uncracked or computed to exactness elsewhere, but finely infitting with an island where any compact between two parties is implicity overt, in the sense of that there is a natural state of awareness that all future projections, from island peace breaking out to popping round your pals gaffe for a jangle, contain no guarantes of coming to pass as reality.

Maybe because of an inherent logic in the psyche which states that when Irish people speaking English arrange to drop by around 8pm, it is understood, unstated, to expect an estimated time of arrival for 8-9pm,as the usual running order is to ignore the start time, because nearly all events, from posting letters to national affairs, inevitably kick off fifteen a minimum of minutes later than advertised, in person or print, so a mini wave of Manana is constantly breaking its way towards a shore alive with rushing matters. Ooh, I need a lie down, before I continue with the serious critical blather about how this collection is somewhat satirical, satire being the dominant strain I detected in the current ouvre of Nic, who is also an organiser of the IMRAM Irish langugae festival, which takes place in Dublin every October. In addition to this Collette is on the board of Poetry Ireland Directors, keeping an eye out for the good health of Irish poesie in general, undertaking directerly duties.

She left and went on the lash down a Grafton Street boozer whilst I slaved over the limp computer to bring the gossip and tattle straight from source. Another event bashed out and begoned.


However, the night is but young and there are a very attractive couple of Italian internet users seated next to me who need assistance finding some sense of themselves as artist, so I am thinking of introducing myself, by way of saying

"Good evening, my name is Ovid, would you care to dance with my readers and be their inspiration to trip it down the disco and bust shapes like we three could should we all agree on the formula life holds, in a yet untitled poem I am yearning to write once you convince me to sit by your smile moist in the west wind shedding its wetness. Any suggestions?" I am going to ask

Honest faith is everywhere, awaiting
collection by those who find belief in
flammeble bits of life's lumber which sheds
suspended until their ignition tells
those wanting to share shelf paper crack thin
rafter packed hut stacks, to prepare with
dizzy array, undead woods dry dazzle
and pray their cinder sparks will blend as one
should a soulmate on fire prime the cannon
of love to blow instantly tender once
a force fans light to where its flame has gone.


Ovid Yeats

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