Wednesday, January 31, 2007
I hit the ground running this year, as I've been on non-stop compositional benders since Christmas and for a while now have been dreaming in language. Asleep but consciously composing poetry and prose in my slumber, aware of it's quality or lack thereof as my mind whirls through the blender. The lines I remember occur in what poet Katy Donovan describes as
"The slumbertime before actual sleep."
But substituting the word "before" with "after," as I slip in and out of being fully awake. Alas I have not managed to salvage anything, this morning a full qautrain faded on waking like footprints on a tide washed beach and only a snatch of snippeted lingo was saved.
"Inner verbal" something or other.
This process - I imagine - relates to cracking aspects of poetic knowledge - quite literally - in my sleep. The ideas in the prose I write perculates and settles during sleep, to froth forth anew into a tighter linguistic expression, which I then promptly forget. But I am supposed to be on holiday and happy switching off for a week or two till the mental tide returns.
Achill is the perfect setting to busy oneself as the unconscious does it's work. It is the place which inspired Michael Longley to start writing again after his ten year hiatus and where he does all his composing. John F Deane is from here and in Lynotts bar they've seen and heard all the greats. I spun out a few on Saturday night with the in situ English guitar man. It is a magical place. As far west as one can go, disconnected from the mainland when the tide is in and to it when the tide it's out. All four seasons in one vista, framed all round by mountains and completely blanketed by bog. My paternal grandmother was an islander, and both my maternal grandparents were from Bahola, a few miles down the road.
Walking the rhodedendrum sheltered road
from McLoughlin's to the cottage, I became
connected to a patchwork of field bog and
peat smoke; where even the dead brown
heads of wild rhubarb fell into being with the
dog bark and bird call puncturing the silence
wrapping the island completely. Save for the
foam white horse-water dancing at the
Atlantic's Eastern edge.
And calling to the half bright moon - as a ruby
pink finger of crimson cloud ringed atop of
Slievemore mountain gently paled to white mist
and disappeared into the ether that warm May
night - I felt the silk and velvet light of Achill
hold within its grasp all the waves of time that
ever broke upon the ridges of those multi shaped
mountains and wind ravaged fir trees. Always
ever-blooming in the present moment of now
no sweeping hand can measure; silent in the tribal
heart beating it's Bunacurry blood beneath the
Thursday, January 25, 2007
"The Bonobo Congo Pygmy Chimp does not form permanent relationships with individual partners. They also do not seem to discriminate in their sexual behavior by gender or age."
Ready, get set - so go conscious and great up an ineffable
utterance mouthing in a General Hotel where two
strangers found love with each other this evening
eloquent creature who fleets as mister and mistress
dogging your bit for national love - all hope of seeing
you live abandoned as a Homo spirit took possession
of Virgil's IQ on the motorway, the night pit-lips
pulled up and tongued Virge's voice to Mnemosyn
who'll speak at Write and Recite, next week, Tuesday
Cassidy's pub - Westmoreland Street - ask an ear
if art in actuality's hear.
“lash it out wha?”
Debauch and swing on a raw seat at the counter-misogynist
orgy in vocal, public riot - duel execute light fool
board crank positive energy click, spell - hear what
happens online galactic commandress attending VIP
booth in a business dream-suite where loners long as one
swept in Tuesday night of therapy.
Yo new god just come out she knew he was a moaner, but last
night made a show of singing the self penned song of desolate
lyrical beauty look effortless the sixth time he professed in
public session as a witness of reward who came foward
reading heaven from time's earlier utterance of joy
balanced light, proclaiming back the is in Write and Recite as it
rages- WaR - Dublin’s most poetically occupied theatre of
competent verbal combat and practice, one's vibrant under
mesh less rigidly warped by top brass who simply murmur
and tinkle in Cassidy's gaffe. One’s fluid front line of faith and
powder god-bombs blowing a cannon listen, speak, learn and
commandeer there a supply of live-time in the vocal support
pack of HQ’s atmospheric line leader and rally his cry of
command to commando of verse operative word
the song sibling sings an alternative matriarchal "Yo" Mor
“Bantu O bono Bolobo ancestor Bonobo”
You too's 99% Homo Sapien gene, Congo pygmy chimp Bonobo. What set it to permanent bonking's unknown but you cross the line of - WaR - public place of song, sup slops till yiv sung no more - during the course of composing this missive Dear Nora, Homo Sapien near Bonobo blossom in a cultural hot house sotto la spotlight with pals who poesy at the longest running generally continuous contemporary open mic, O space-agent et tu homo Bonobo? Tuesday night’s career in overload docked but inner city at the root orbit of Cassidy’s beating heart O Amergin, Eriu and Bonolo eclectically mixed - four years of competitive commune - addictive gods binding live through fields of weekly literate action. Spread not Bonobo the Appollo one balding ancestor war vibe, but map the Hazel and route with nine nutty daughters unite and ask the island factions who glare not to answer the question
"Homo O’Homer be here con tu O Bonobo?"
WaR no more troglodyte, little homo walk upright and toss in egalitarian gait, cultural chimp constantly at it O Bonobo matriarch of monkey love round Bololo river Congo O Harold Coolidge homo Sapien know WaR in Bonobo is absent, society balanced by orgy as Bonobo make constant love not war. Homo is ear Homer Bonobo Mor; factual distraction at the bacchanalian free fall, face-test in a bathroom clutching the razor shading Hewson or Houseman - phantasmagorist O Bonobo, starch poetic illusion - reality of neck hair bristling at the behest of Homo linguistic sorcerer bono be one of Bonobo yew's in stark illustrative prose, call Homer back and manner what measured goat-stitch will keep at the edge of invention to scribe the fantasy house man and linguistic roller coaster, yews rocket along a single quivering ride, playmate composing the skein-thick sense abandoned opposite Homer's thin scan of Homo's poetic page life in the house at gas public when the start of last century wrote in Bonobo Mor verse - now alas - selectively practiced due to ultra shocking literacy rates – less if his tongue sprung a fresh line, found her habit of stress and ditched what's old overboard, cast oft soft babbling viva voce singing ancestoral Bantu Bonolo and Congo of Bonobo eye from ancestor ghost Sapien Homer - literate fellow Homo Bonobo Mor, tongue mistress utter he be
Layer of syntax Pan Sapien, ear pluck of O absent tunesmith up the oracle at work in celestial string, tug on homo humanity, dress proof in a glimmer slit - beauty deaf to time and profess poetic reality as this gob, smacked on a voice-rail unable - quantity songstress of immense talent - to convey what scale your gift counters O pan galactic age-bud of Euro amour in sight of Bonobo command at work blare ear O career once more who score the deed of verbal gods and breathe solo, island queen of memory.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Source a way in: purchase, pull up
make foot upon a shore of conscious
and reason the world to turn on its
axis - Sword released on old plain
five days after crossing at Tallaght.
From street to hospital death-bed a
The day of return we share your
weight uncle, from alter to hearse
man of small stature - your mass
easily borne by us uncle, brother, father
"Does Mr Mooney know Barney?"
..the number of lipstick
in bags thrusting forward
is up on our mother's time
when bags were smaller with
less lippy inside to item, fix
view or spring from the eye a
picture absent or image left
to rust til it completely exists.
"Dear do we know?"
He lived before Nemo swam
and vanquished him to exile.
Extinct: his trill of love's now
silent on tape in a box of memory
pristine up creaky step and rung
locking an attic in sound, shadow
and the ghost of Homer in visible
ear-craft, eye - tongue, seer to flaw
the imprecise mind resting on a
table cloth uncle John, love
swept asunder in the pit of tears.
Friday, January 19, 2007
One summer day when the sun was soft
I slipped on a sheepskin shawl and - walking
wide eyed with wonder through the world
wearing the habit of an unholy hermit
that May morning on Malvern Hill -
thought I felt a faery-jolt befall me.
I was weary with wandering so went to rest
on a broad bank by the brook-side - to lay
down, lean and look on water - but the
stream's wet strain of merry slumber swayed
me asleep, and I began a marvellous dream
of being in a wilderness I'd never seen before.
Looking East to the sun, my eye fastened on
a magnificent tower - stout on a hilltop
and in the deep dale below, a dark dungeon
whose deep ditches were a terrible sight to
Between these two was a wondrous field
full of folk and all manner of men from
commoner to king - working and wandering
at the world's command.
Some honest ones put to the plough - planting
sowing and sweating hard to win what wasters
by their gluttony destroy - and some with
proud countenance coming disguised, dressed
in the garb of deceit.
Many put themselves to prayer and penance
for the love of God, living strict and straight
lives in the hope of bliss in a heavenly hereafter
like anchorites and hermits cloistered in cells
not coveting the pleasures of flesh or loitering
lecherously along life's path.
Some opt for commerce to accomplish success
it seems, as in our sight such men thrive. And
some mirth-making like minstrels, getting
gold with their glee and guiltless - I believe.
But japers and janglers, the children of Judas
revel in fantasies and make themselves fools
unwilling to work though having the wit to.
What Paul preached of them I need not
On diddlee listening to dee Simon Armitage's re-rendering of the Middle English alliterative romance, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, I decided to seek joy with William Langland's Piers Plowman, dive in and dabble in alliterative meter, as one does. To give you an idea of the weirdly original - lines 30-33
And somme chosen chaffare; they cheveden the bettre
As it semeth to oure sight that swiche men thryveth;
And somme murthes to make as mynstralles konne,
And geten gold with hire glee giltlees, I leeve-
Dear Reader -
Some opt for commerce to accomplish success
it seems, as in our sight such men thrive. And
some mirth-making like minstrels, getting
gold with their glee and guiltless - I believe.
Project manager of the imagination and overseer in a fictional reality who'll work if one's muse shares elswhere.
Heaney had the same idea when he birthed Buile Suibhneg in Wicklow as Sweeney Astray.
It is logical to assume alliterative meter - strictly speaking - is the one linguistic undermesh we all share, possess and profess to be our native poetic, in the sense of it's scansion being the one most closely mapping our speaking. The one metrical pattern to measure and co-ordinate with when bluffing down our poetical path through this brief flash of life called consciousness, mon cushla Mor datum - my spiritual core.
Meter O tricky matter with fixed understanding of accent and stress in our language. I say tOmato, you say tomAto and they say the tomatO yiz discover in Dublin
"is a whirly whack hurling of poetry there."
On first meeting PJ Brady - Cavan man, actor and poet who has - for the last 20 years in a mesmeric one man show - starred as Kavanagh in a ninety minute monolouge speaking only Patrick's words - I sought what lore had
unaware I was incorrectly pronouncing Ka/va/nAgh as an a/na/pEst, placing a strong stress on the final of the three syllables, and worthy of a verbal bufoonary award. I did not initially understand or even recognise that the native spoken voice speak KAv/an/agh a dactyl. DAct/yl/ic - the primary stress on the first, not third syllable. Naturally, PJ shook his head not knowing I meant KAv/an/agh of the dactyl - and five minutes of repeating KavanAgh - on the verge of jacking in the mantra - he grasped my quest referred to KAv/an/agh of the dactyl and man he can be like himself - once I wrote it down.
The misunderstanding occured as my ear didn't discern where the native speech places stress on the word Kavanagh. Indeed I was unable to pronounce it correctly for a few months of being here, such was the complex vocal subtlety used to render it in speech. To PJ's ear I sounded like a man from Barnsley with no native speech asking for directions to "the beach" in Madrid when he should say "la playa." We were effectively speaking two different words. Mine to his ear was babble, his to mine not, containing as it does the original vocal gene on which the name - as it is rendered now - is spoken. Only in print was Kavanagh shared between us, prior to me acquiring the nack of saying it correctly.
Kavanagh's native tongue had evolved into talking English over the course of a linguisticaly unique historical path - Yeats could claim - is an authentic cultural trace, link and contemporary route to the entirely oral art we profess a connection to. Our original watermark of the poetic oomphalos the mind of all human stirs at and returns to.
Yeats - champion dreamer and arch poet - could say a net or set of acoustic instruction manuals and roadmaps of intricate and perfectly original design routing to our true poetic, lie covert beneath the debris and fall out of the island history, superficially concealing them from view to the eye of those ignorant of the island's history.
This poetic is still in active song and charts it's society, whose myth - 400 years after a cultural bleitzkreig began, irrecovably showering the native way of existence into sudden mortal decline - connects us to Homeric practice via a living root our founding godfathers in the graeco roman english cannon, unfortunately did not recognise, ignored and actively set about destroying.
At this Tudor point of our poetics trajectories, one island had a 1000 year written tradition, much of it recorded in manuscript from the dawn of writing on it, 1500 years ago - at a time when all contracts between individuals in society were - in the absence of print - solely verbal - whilst one had men like Sidney and Spencer - poets of England in renaissance and the first brutual flush of it's imperial bloom, asserting a savage and virgin beauty.
A full comprehension of this orally ordered society is impossible. Much of our quotidian doings are contracted or undertaken in print. From a simple e mail to our job itself, so inhabiting the rationale and talking with any authority on Homer or Amergin depends if the ghost we profess of speaks through us. If we recognise our fundamental whisper or hear inherent and logical signs in the society were writing is unknown. We from literate society can not fully understand. Only project a mental construction and guess with varying degrees of straight facedness how to humanly connect with Homer?
Chase a shadow of the goatherd king we claim as our spirit guide whose silent voice - we hope - will speak to and through us. Paint his eye and discover what sound behind the veil noises to uncover the one evolutionary route to our vocal art we hope still connects. Praying his and our conduit to myth running before the time memory was printed, do so as one.
And although the last of those unlucky enough to have been at the final quick severing from their millenia old tradition during the Tudor upheaval are now forgotten to all but a few, these men do connect to a pure orality and represent the spirit of Homer in a way Sidney, Spencer, Raleigh and the fellow founders hallowed in our graeco-roman cannon do not.
On one side a composite Elizabethan courtier poet. On the make, an ear tuned to wooing ladies and tongue swearing by the myth of his poet god he claims is Homer. On the other SIDE an annonymous courtier poet of Ireland, crusty, steeped in his 1000 year written tradition, composing verse in archiac rules of prosody perfected four hundred years previously and in a language exclusive the poetry and whose higher streams and most difficult meters not all found, but with ten centuries sheer weight of alumni numbers who all cite Amergin as their main mythical man to claim a supernatural relation with. The island's real Homer.
Four poets, at least three of action, 2000 years apart. Raleigh from his nations virgin first crop who can not claim a directly live histoical hot wire to prove supernatural connection - though anchors proudly in our canon. Himself a set founder and full critical support. Pot shots at the Lords of verse are discouraged. They played a part and we want our myth unstirred, so - we say little.
Sir Sidney Spencer wrote in times when violent death, killing and a ruthless approach to business cast a pall of general horror over the period of kamakaze-like implosion of the island's civil structure, renting asunder our final link to a bronze age system of society which evolved untroubled in a - by dark age standards - tranquil paradox. The final piece of Goidelic existence unground and unaffected by the Roamn empire or its collapse. The critical mass point before a balloon bursts, is it's greatest capacity and the propensity of humanity to route to anarchy on a regualr basis is evident.
One we map only with hindsight, by piecing together the human motives which caused the centre to cease holding itself and collapse in disorder.
The poet steeped in ancient practice facing Sir Walter, linking to Homer, believes Amergin is as close as one gets to being Homer - his actuality running back could almost converse with Appollo.
A man any poet - one assumes - would recognise Amergin's reality of the Homeric way. Our Bard - as he clearly is - a living experiment of what happened when a culture from the Homeric age stayed intact and survived, far from the calamaties of our graeco-roman mythic oomphalos one could describe as the poem gene guaranting we pass our linguistic DNA test . The closest one has to a textual explanation of what poetry is, how it works and why. Poetry as a live entity we execute in our pratice, the desire for one's poetic reality to be.
Naturally there is much disagreement on what relevance Amergin or Homer have. To some none. My argument is we connected to Homer 1000 years after his death so he can not connect to us as Amergin does, his tradition only being dead less than 400 years. 6 centuries short of the 1000 needed before he can really teach, us poetry hu?
The the new breed of Raleigh and Co did not speak the native language, or consider bardic culture a living poetic tradition worth further inquiry. Not godfathers of our cannon whose desire for tolerence and divirsity extended to bardic poets.
And whilst we throw an eye back to this time 400 years ago - when the collpase came - we laugh about the cliche that a native speaker from our island is born linguistically lucky - as if poetry is a part of our physical code - I suspect there is a grain of somethng we can't entirely discount or hold as an unquenchable poetical fantasy.
But in these days of enforcable diversity and tolerance, pertaining to a genetics of poetry needs sensitive and careful wording for the voice of discourse to tread in and think of exploring culturally fragile boundaries which may erode under a Hagiographic intelligence which critically outweighs our Homeric Tudor saints of poesy, but we go boldly on.
All who have expert knowledge of Kavanagh through text agree on witnessing PJ's mesmeric invention of Kavanagh - the benefit for those who uphold his vision of an Innerskeen genius living alone - on a set beneath spotlight with minimal props of poverty - a desk, hat and vocal veracity.
The Irish vernacular places it's primary stress on a different vowel than the English one does when speaking his name. Irish voices stress the first syllable of his surname
"KAvanagh" - rendering him spoken - a dactyl - not KavanAgh as an anapest. This means the premise of agreement that the graeco-roman scansion method of our language is uniformly shared, is an aporia. A non-starter concept on reality, those who believe in do so by travelling past existence, to explain why metrical verse is an oft misapprehended topic - the domain only of senior anorak-mad knowing ones clad to search alphabets ad infinitum?
Because we puzzle our depth with the implement of myth - we who fleet lost - human nature suggests, will share our experience in verse with all thus.
"An anapest - KAvanagh. Can you hear it getting louder and louder, stressing in words like, wait - make and bake? Can you hear if I shout it breaking down to collapse and dissolve the belief in a past never lived? What box of one-treasure tricks at the end of a rainbow day-away, desperate to stress the one sonic-blast of blown solid loudness no instrument but mine projects?"
Divinity riddle intelligibly - incoherence confuse to slip through our students who grasp what sense a boffin wielding his instrument of graffiti at a whiteboard won't catch - that one's metrical relevent pattern is discerned by none but the self. Stay in shadow and face the well mirrored pool of an erupting ear.
"Dear me what a dreary event to turn up for,"- learners think at the grove - "a star role underperforming. We're desperate for a disco go melody of bell knelling ending our session with this resident bard, bore and blusterer bungling up hand outs or lurching through lectures to tea break and cessation of duty."
Come cache of dreamers dactyl elsewhere - disperse up a rung and drift with Tristan, Schwitters - Kurt - Tzara and Raven Casey - thunderjet blackbird thrusting through space with ear, eye and ability. Patrick - practiced inventor whose myth was reality - .
There is deep disagreement between all gang band and clan. Graeco-roman meters of antiquity - whose terminoloy all use - are quantitive and the syllables in this ancient verse system are not measured by counting the number and ratio of stressed syllables in verse - unlike the accentual stress prosody used to measure pattern in our speech - but by measuring the length of them. The amount or - quantity - of time it takes to speak syllables of Homeric verse. Greek and Roman no spoken in a why eye ee by gum all rite sing song of a yer wha stressing Dublin twang shoehorns quantitive lingo of space age prosody into...
The metrical foot of bluffers and experts alike - the idiot-proof iamb - one short syllable - mora - followed by one long syllable - 2 moras....in light. In our accentual-stress prosody an iamb has nothing to do with sound length, but represents one unstressed syllable...in.... followed by a stressed one.....light
.....in light....spoken, is an iambic truth of reality proving the concept in both the Greek sense of it being a short syllable followed by a long one and the English sense of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one - it is an iamb. When reversed - light in - a trochee. The longer syllable first. The stressed syllable. The shorter syllable second - unstressed.... be/ing... is a trochee.
Greek meter routes to a length of time it takes to raise the leg 90 degrees and lower it again, as we arty types stomp in uniform beat to our song, verse or tale in a poetry arena. The initial raising of one leg to 90 degrees represents one long syllable and the return down - 2 short rapid syllables. A slight jar, jolt or split when returning through the 45 moment. A poetic - measure of movement through time. A dactyl. One long syllable and two shorter ones - WhAck wa wa. thing.
Imaged clear in an illustration of the literal meaning of this Greek word and prosodic term dactyl.
In English the words....light in a.... scan as a dactyl. It is a foot whose measure is a long syllable followed by two shorter ones. Greek for finger, which - in graeco-roman metrical terms -makes perfect sense and is vision, sound and logic combined - the bone-division of one's finger. An easy picture.
And the fun and complications start when we transfer this term over to our prosody. English being a stressed language, our dactyl refers not to syllable length, but to one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables. The three syllables -
Light/ in/ a - are a dactyl, in both the greek Greek understanding of a long syllable - light - then two short ones - in a - and in our prosody. A stressed syllable - light - followed by two unstressed ones - in a.
Confused? This system is a native way of measuring perfectly the quantitive and unstressed language it evolved from - Greek first and then Latin. One can clearly read, hear and see the measures of Latin, which makes for a uniform scansion of the text, regardless of the speaker, but in our language, where we place stress on words differs from place to place. I say KavanAgh, you say KAvanagh.
It's validity as a shared and commonly understood set of rules poets can measure by - hinges on place of stress. So KavanaAgh is measured/scanned in English prosody as an anapest. Two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable - a/na/pEst - Ka/va/nAgh
KAvanagh scans dAct/yl/ic in Irish - dactyl - one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables, whAck wa wa -KA/van/agh. Totally reversing Ka/va/nAgh as an anapEst. This seemingly minor irrelevance of where two different voices emphasise the A in Kavanagh is difficult to convey in print, but it's actuality represents a subtle sonic annomoly between two groups of English speakers that illustrates the key tenets of the whole business of English prosodic scansion.
Only hearing this acoustic event enough times to the degree The only way to understand is to hear experience it, which bonkers the intellect enough to haul up a white flag or red rag of agreement on the man behind the mechanic making his boiler blow poetry of what is....
The renaissance courtiers of Tudor England who birthed modern English language verse, holding holy prosodic instruction books of technical terms from a non-native Greek and Roman metrical system - 2000 miles distant and 1000 years dead at it's closest living point. We imported, wholesale, our weapon of myth from Greece circa 500 BC, rather than develop our own alliterative div friendly system of learning to rote knowledge in ones memory. Disecting nursery rhymes in sombre gravitas, stirring in laughter.
Henry VIII was the first monarch to rule Britain after a long and protracted time of brutal civil war when the powers on the island were too busy fighting amongst themselves to concentrate on something so ambitious and fivilous as court poetry - in the sense Hal's literary minded pals and pawns agreed was a muse. A civilised polis where men of culture and learning blather out the meaning of thought in a native conversational art.
We did not plump for mangled middle English, the language of the lower orders, but a tongue few natives know. A treasure chest of tales, boo hoo and bravado mixed and connecting us via one workshop late starter in self-belief who looks for love to stop blowing his chance of finding the high thermal wind of sheer expression - life getting on with him, letting the husk of history blow lost, laughing and coming to rest with his love. Can you here it the diddlee dee dum?
We looked to Greece and decided to connect - by invention - an Anglo-Saxon cultural heritage with the linguistic ideas we decipher from written traditions long expired.
Latin, being the lingua franca of the Tudor age - coupled to a belief that our native tongue spoke no magic and the literary allure of a far off exotica - lulled us to it. We were sirened to frenzy by sheer weight of myth. Four hundred years of make believe, propogation and grafting later, few choose to consider the true route to our poetic template closer to home (Cauldron of Poesy text from the Irish tradition - composed by one or many poets with centuries of quantum linguists behind them and centuries more ahead. See the link to Ireland's True Poetic on the right.)
So brainwashed - when our flawless native poetic is aired, we professing a "serious" interest in verse do not hear it's authenitic and logical sound, preferring instead to turn deaf in the hope a slippery philisophical foot from the Parnassian teat with no simple rubric or uniform agreement about how measuring a truth of poetry works, fits our wish for fictions to live.
What better way to claim our poetic culture is legitimate than to suckle on a Homeric dactyl as proof we're his historic progeny, when we went about - at that time - the entirely new business of agreeing our native datum from an adopted blueprint we drew the poetic and ouevre of a nation from scratch with. An innovative act of immitation, with no claim to authenticity - unlike Amergin, his equivalent from the Goidelic oral tradition of poetic legislators.
The premise that graeco-roman prosody is more accurate than our own is a fallacy - as the mark of the graeco-roman poetic we decide to agree equally on - our alliterative lingo don't slip easily into. This faith pays belief into our foot fund over centuries of prayer to exist - is amongst many - a bouyant delusion that accentual-verse scansion is rigid science rather than abstract principle.
A flexible system without hard or fast rules we create our own indiviual prosodic method with - and which wafflers to wavelength professors in the sonic arts interpret differently, depending on where one's talk stresses the trall la la on Kavanagh, in alliterative lines - unbustable bombs of iambic proportion.
Blame Aristotle for the confusion, as his work Poetics was one blathered as the ultimate technical text on the theoretical reality - mechanics of poetry - when I was first introduced to him at the start of my study. I found him sombre yet deeply penitrable. It's no wonder - we moan - people think prosody is a nugget of knowledge few have found enough of to go on about it when they are describing the underlying talk of what's dull but important.
It is logical we grove dwellers ditch Aristotle's complex Poetics and consume Horace's Ars Poetica instead as the touchdown guide to the real sound in prose. I discovered he read as Heaney, straightforward, sensible and obviously written by a man dabbling in the dark dance of diddlee dee and fully engaging with reality and art - as Wystan Hugh said for the penny to drop now I realise Aristotle is a talker of poetic theory, not a practitioner of verse. He telling us how to write it is like a poet telling the digger how to use a spade or Dr. Who a time machine.
Hook to Horace, his ratio is joy born of experience on a journey of learning in travels around the alphabet he taught is the truth of poetic reality - reletive and sensibly understood by all. Horace wrote
Poets wish either to profit or delight.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
The Oscar Wilde Centre in Trinity College is holding a series of nine lectures, readings and discussions themed around Poetry and Politics. The events are every Tuesday - start at 7.30pm and are an hour or so long. The third one is next week.
Among the poets listed to read are Sean O'Brien, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and George Szirtes. On Tuesday evening I went to listen to the Head of Trinity's English Department, Stephen Matterson deliver a lecture on The Poetry of WH Auden.
"Handed in his gun."
Now I've been at the writing lark for five years and the skeletal shape of my research interests (the history of Irish poetry and Ireland's four mythological cycles) has accurately ossified, a sense of clarity and cognisance of how the long haul in one's poetic learning pans out, is becoming apparent.
And the central poetic philosophy contained in the the Amergin poem heading the Auraicept Na N-eces, Auden discovered for himself. (see - Ireland's True Poetic - link on the right)
The Amergin text - which explains exactly what the poetic gift is and how it works - states that only those who have experienced the widest extremities of joy and sorrow will progress to Ollamh status. An Ollamh is a professor of Poetry in the Irish bardic tradition and Amergin's logic is basic common sense. The wider the gap between and the more intensley you have known love, grief and loss, the higher the poetical streams you will be able to reach or draw from. Auden mirrors this thinking in his essay on Frost.
"A poet cannot bring us any truth without introducing into his poetry the problematic, the painful, the disorderly, the ugly..."
When I fell into writing - more by accident than design at the age of 34 - I breathed a huge sigh of metaphorical relief, as I had finally - on the cusp of middle age - stumbled across the path I knew was "the one;" as throughout my adult life there had always been a nagging awareness that I had not acknowledged, addressed or developed what I instinctively understood to be my true self-Oomphalos. Something Auden described the location of -
"The centre that I cannot find is known to my unconscious mind."
Instead of ending up with a wife and kids, I found an inner vocation.
Until this time I had chanced my hand at many different and varied jobs but had never settled on any of them and I was rapidly approaching the middle years of life with an ever deepening sense of frustration and failure - facing the prospect of sliding into my forties as a career-less bum. It was as though the voice of Plato in Yeats' poem was growing ever more audible and insistent.
"What Then?" Sang Plato's ghost, "what then?"
I read somewhere that a writer is someone who is fit for nothing else, and for me it had become the only realisitc option left available. What better way can one who is without qualifications or capital present themselves to the world than as an artist? No more embarrassing introductions or need to gloss reality and manufacture ambition for an audience when the question of work arises.
But how would I know if this decision was a realistic or rational one and not a self decieving fabrication? What better way to carry on being a slacker once youth has faded than sitting in coffee shops with an open notebook, broadcasting to the world that you are not a middle-aged layabout, but a thinker? A man of words? I may be able to fool myself, but would I be successful at fooling others should this change of direction be only a charade?
Would I be merely digging a deeper hole for myself by avoiding conventional employment? What if a few years down the line of written engagement I were to unmask myself and find I was lumbered with a life of regret? Maybe even suffer a complete mental collapse as the conceptual foundations of my existence became exposed as a mirage supporting only fictions? These were fears I'd have to work through and hope were unfounded. Better to try and fail I reasoned, than never dare to chase the dream.
Like many, my first artistic awakening began with a part in the school play. Malvolio in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, which brought accolades and plaudits and - as one of my pals reckons - was the cause of unfulfilled aspiration that set me on the road to ruin. If this event had not occured and the theatrical door had remained unopened, I would not know the addictive thespian twang of public warmth and may have been content to uncoil my years as a builder retailing sharp one liners. My natural stage the pub tap-room and construction site.
However, once tasted I wanted a real relationship with the slippery imaginitive gods, immediately and without any effort on my part. I demanded the muse pay court to me like a Big Brother TV contestant, whose ego far outweighed my ability, demanding instantaneous reward and paying zero regard to mental effort. Too much unwarranted belief in my ability. I was too daft and too young to grasp an accurate and nuanced understanding of life, and this - coupled with an un-containable imagination - made for a highly delusional mix.
As though the physical reality of one's self is enough. An expectation easily borne at such a tender age - when the future stretches beyond our horizon like the limitless pages of a blank manuscript book we can never hope to fill. And this confidence - wedded to an endless supply of arrogance only the untried and unexperienced possess - was the fuel of my unbridled youth, creating a cocktail of laughably unrealisitc ambition. In short I was a powerful dreamer whose art was never articulated beyond the first stage of mental rehearsal.
On this long and ironic journey to poetic enlightenment the years had gradually turned me from a heavy weight verbal star in the teenage arena - with an innate and unconscious ability to toss off one-liners and slaughter all at will who dared joust with me - to a washed up has-been even the dimmest of my peers could land their spoken blows upon, wounding me at will to stutter a feeble response as they laughed at the once swift joke king toppled to a barstool clown.
I started this piece with the intention of sounding knowledgable and clever about a poet who it is de riguer to profess an understanding of, but I suppose what it is I'm really trying to get across is the notion that there is always hope. The most rewarding discovery I made in writing (after all but myself had written me off) is understanding how a marriage to the imagination is for life, and so there's no great urgency to get hold of Auden's psyche as he will come in time.
As long as we plod away in print, joy and success can only follow. The hard part for me was finding what it was I should be doing and learning how to create the environment and processes in which I could write successfully. And by success I mean what Amergin calls -
"the joy of the binding poetic principle and wisdom which comes after (good) poetic construction."
This is the contentment we get after writing a piece we consider successful, using the sole rule and measure we have - the self made one Heaney describes in his prose, and which is effectively the final arbiter and only guarantee a poet can ever possess.
And one aspect of Auden Matterson successfully got across was his attempts at re-casting his earlier works during his later years, ditching all notion that a seperation exists between the private and public self and surrendering to the idea that honesty is the essential thing in Art.
In the forward to his 1966 edition of Collected Poems he dropped some of his best known work, writing -
"Some poems which I wrote and unfortunately published because they were bad-mannered or boring, I have not included here."
He ended up U turning on many of the lines written in his twenties, when he was viewed as the political poet writing public verse which might change reality. That a sense of civitas rather than direct action is one the poet should cultivate.
He came to believe that the long poem which came out of his time in Spain during the civil war; "Spain" - who many consider the greatest anti war poem of the 30's - was a "dishonest" poem and dropped it from the collected version of his ouevre.
"A dishonest poem is one which expresses - no matter how well - feelings or beliefs which it's author never felt or entertained. Shamefully I once wrote
History to the defeated
May say Alas but cannot help or pardon
That I should have stated it simply because it sounded to me rhetorically effective, is quite inexcuasable."
This is arguably his most oft quoted and well known line and Matterson said that the whole lecture series is about exploring the impact and legacy of this line.
Eamon Lynskey was in the audience and afterwards we went to warble at the Write and Recite open Mic in Cassidy's on Westmoreland street, the only two from the lecture to do so. These are the most instructive nights I have experienced. When a bit of high brow theory is followed by the actuality of the art. Well worth the 5.50 euro. And the line of the night which sums up Auden at the end of his journey?
Never greening for the big money
Never neighing after a public image.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
I love the English, Welsh and Scottish
but not the Briton
Trevor the Tramp
The UK finance minister - Scotsman, Gordon Brown - is widely tipped to move next door to Number 10 and take centre stage in the coming months, when Tony Blair begins his retirement tour in earnest hand-wringing, at the front line of a lecture-circuit - and Brown has been presenting his ideas of citizenship and duty in a speech on the danger of the Scottish parliament splitting from England. The Scottish National Party are tipped to oust Labour in the next general election and he warns against such a drastic move of dissolving the union, which was created in 1707.
He unimaginatively proposes a simple and clapped out mantra from the founded-on-the-back-of-a-fag-packet school of thought, whose ignoble imperialist history of bankrupting values he cites and offers as a valid 21C Britishness which will best facilitate the newcomer non-national to feel a sense of inclusion and civic pride; quoting Churchill and musing on the idea of an open competition for coming up with citizenship ideas which best reflect our shared culture in the multi-mediated age.
But most pundits agree that his real concern is the fact that he would be on politically unstable ground as a potential Prime Minister of England, if this came to pass - representing - as he does - a Scottish constituency.
I think it would be a daft move and that the island should be united, but it is somewhat ironic, as it was labour who cheered in - along with the Welsh assembly - the devolved Scottish parliament when it came into being in 1999.
However, whilst I agree Brown is right that the two countries would be mad to split up, instead of just coming straight out with his personal dillema of wanting to safeguard his PM position once Tony goes, he disingenuously tries to attempt cranking up a potentially divisive and jingoistic bandwagon, as his main selling point for this wish of keeping the union intact is that Britain -
"pioneered the modern idea of liberty"
which is palpably false.
Britain was/is an imperial power. It ended up outstaying it's welcome in countries where it wasn't wanted for so long that - like a spouse beater whose partner is scared of them - didn't/can't see a problem and gets upset when forced to leave. It's material greatness was/is controlled by a small band of rich and powerful cabals going into countries under the guise of trade to rip off and subjagte less technologically advanced cultures, then fooling themselves it was/is because of a civilising instinct on their part and a beneficial thing for jenny foreigner to be ordered around in her own home.
The base of Great Britain supports a pschologically imperialist pyramid promting inequality and propogating envy. One crown to be jealous of, covet and desire, which gushes down the societal slopes and infects a nation with the belief that a monarchist society is normal and healthy. That aristocratic society is the natural inherent social order we are born into and should therefore know our place, defer to our betters and feel superior to those born beneath us on the clearly dilineated scale. From King to commoner all are tagged with an official title, from Ms to she who is the indigenous queen of sixteen sovereign states, Lord High Admiral, Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith.
Is the imperial legacy a great civilising thing, or something to be ashamed of?
I believe it's neither. The truths of past realities are numerous and varied, and the bulk of Britons are just honest grafters, but in the pre-modern era were there solely to serve a tiny elite in society whose top bottle washer's whole rationale was that one person is born, Greater than all others. A living god
The vast majority loved their monarch in much the the same way a continuously beaten wife with no chance of escaping an abusive relationship loves her violent partner. "He only hits me because he loves me" attitude. And it is only in the last 50 years - with the rise of global technology - that the con has become clear, culminating around the time of Prince Charles and Diana's marriage luridly unraveling in the tabloid press.
Why can't people just change their name by deed poll if they want us to address them in a way which re-enforces their fuedalised tendenies? Once the full extent of his Highnesses regal morality became public knowledge, the ghost finally dissolved like a rice-paper tampon.
The imperial legacy means that a few ruthless people who died ridiculously rich have left the rest of us shouldering the residual culpability of their guilt we will never be free from unless we face up to the fact they weren't that Great. Were indeed pretty immoral and spiritually shabby as human beings go. We are brainwashed with the notion that a monarchy is somehow our collective responsibilty and in our best interest as a society of un-equals, just because it was the force of history we could never be free of and had to die on demand for, until very recently.
Yet still we cling to a past where our lives were mere pawns to be sacraficed - in their many many millions - on the whim of monarchs, born to boss us about in games of greed and vanity - wrapping ourselves in their flags and falling for fallacy and false debates about what we are told is important. Sleight of hand, codology and misdirection to keep our minds off what's relevant, like -"should barristers wear a wig?"
"Is the smoking ban a bad thing?"
These are given more priority than genuine questions people on the island want addressed, like -
"How come the sole and wholly inaccurate premise for going into Iraq has never been publicly talked about?"
"Why has Tony never admitted to getting it completely wrong?"
This brushing-under-the-carpet ethos stifles the real domestic questions - such as immigration - which remain unvoiced for fear of being considered racist. The raft of legislation supposedly passed to make Britain a place more tolerant and at ease with itself, has acheived the opposite effect, as Brown concedes in his speech. If the country was at ease people would be talking honestly about how they felt and there would be more acceptance and integration all round.
Because the queen is still queen of the island and we have not demobbed her to private citizen status, non nationals who come to the UK can get away (and some do) with playing a victim-of-British-imperialism card, as we manifest a guilt about a past that had nothing to do with us, and the legacy of which we are confused about, purely because the most significant symbol of imperialism influencing society today, is the living god-head of our state.
We know imperialism is morally wrong, but tradition/habit means we still sing god save the queen. We only become fully cognisant of how insidious the class system in the UK is when we have been out of the country and return, then it hits. The important root and branch stuff that needs changing remains unchallenged, your Lord, Sir, Knight of the Earl and majestic holy reverence officially above us. The woman we feel a duty to defer to who is a large land-owning multi-millionaire many times over because of who her parents - parents - parents - parents ad infinitum were. Why doesn't she do the curtsey?
So we stay silent and shun immigrants with little English who work for a pittance, and who we project our fears onto and these unvoiced feelings turn to resentment the longer the lack of social interaction goes on. Then the BNP milk the energy and pick up the voters who are most disturbed and who tip over the edge - looking to lash out and foist their misplaced anger on the most vulnerable group which over-legislation has silenced open debate about .
Unfortunately most professional politicians are not intellectually sophisticated enough to grasp or in possession of the language skills to articulate this issue without another vote chasing clown becoming full of faux indignation - purporting to take offence on behalf of some other person or group they think might cast a ballot their way. Twist a genuine desire to speak constructively about an important area of national interest, by gassing up the idea of even broaching this subject into some theoretical hate crime.
Honest debate doesn't mean black or white - one group in the right whilst the other is wrong, as talking openly leaves us feeling hopeful - just by the act of externalising our inner fears. It is the greedy, cynics and evil men and women of the world who stir up or preach divisive doom for political power and financial gain. Just speak honestly and bin off the past. Then we can be straight about the immigration/citizenship issue that isn't a "problem" no one dare voice.
Think about it, language is the defining factor. Don't get mugged off by politicians preaching
"you're for union or against it" rubbish.
Wake up, ditch the queen and stop being slaves to the past. Great Britain?
Supremo Espana? King Size USA?
Free yourself. Start talking.
Monday, January 08, 2007
When the sands of time have worn your bones to dust
and your flesh is reconfigured back to light
swimming from the shallows to the deep
in a preternatural abyss
circuiting the threshold at a nexus of life
where the pith and gristle of existence can begin
will your memory still be living on men's lips?
The photo above is from the Hubble telescope and the characters are all literary legends. Clockwise from top left are pictures of statues - Patrick Kavanagh - WB Yeats - Brendan Behan - Oscar Wilde and James Joyce.
A short while after arriving in Dublin a few years ago, armed with little more than a daft and fragile dream and an enthusiasm for the verbal art I know rubs some up the wrong way but which I have no real control over or wish to curb - I slowly began to learn how and why some of the city's numerous characters transcend the quotidian to become legends.
An understanding, which - I suspect - only comes by being a witness of what occurs when - in the famous phrase from the mythological Irish warrior Cúchulainn - the music of what happens - happens, here on the ground.
Dublin is a strange place. Just at the point you need to meet someone, you will - as often as not - bump into them on the street, so one learns to trust in the unknown and leave to chance, as things seem to happen here in their own good time. There is a quote - I forget whom - that in Ireland the predictable rarely occurs, but the unexpected always. What in other countries does not, does so here, which is why I suspect one only fully grasps the nuances of the culture by being witness to it in situ.
Among the most famous from the poetical pantheon of literary greats is the poet Patrick Kavanagh - top left of photo - whose name; though known when alive became of mythic proportion after his death, and there are some around today whose lives have seized my imagination as being not dissimilar to his. James Kelly is one, who I first heard of the week I arrived, but did not meet until seven months later, poetically enough on the day I first sold my own poems on the street.
He is one of the few poets in Ireland who supports himself solely through poetry, by selling his chapbooks on the street - and he travels all over the country doing so. He is a Kerry man whose live performance is mesmeric. A man whose reputation - it is tempting to believe - could eclipse those of his better-known, state-supported contempories in years hence. It was near Valentines day and I printed up two of my - his and hers - love poems on 90gm marble-gold bonded paper, which I then rolled round 1 1/2 inch pipe and sealed with wax. I sat in the disused Bewleys doorway on Westmoreland Street, selling them for 2 quid each, thus being able to honestly claim that I was a publisher making a 1900% profit on each unit.
Just before I set out I went to a Homeless charity drop in centre, where they sell a full hot lunch - choice of two courses - for 1 euro fifty cent, with the irony being that it is top quality fare made with the freshest of ingredients, whilst less than 8 yards away a restaurant sells far inferior food for 12 times the price. This was where I met James Kelly for the first time, and we swapped our goods, he a chapbook and me a poem. He refused to take the fiver I offered him, and since then I have managed to record him at the Monster Truck Art Gallery the only time he came a few weeks back.
One legend I am yet to encounter is Aidan Walsh aka Master of the Universe, who set up the Temple Bar Music centre. The story I have been told by many different people is that he and another man took over a decrepit building in Temple Bar and turned it into an artists' collective. Everyone handed in a photo of themselves he cut in half. You kept one and he the other, which he pasted onto a board and the only way to get past him as doorkeeper was to show the matching half of your photo. People said you could be talking to him and say
"I'm just going to the shop I’ll be two minutes"
You would then return, knock on the door and Aidan would ask
"Who are you?"
To which the person seeking entry would say
"But it's me Aidan. I only left you 40 seconds ago to go the shop."
And to which he would reply
"Have you got your photo?"
"But I was here less than a minute ago. It's me"
"How do I know it's you and not an alien who has taken over your body and is impersonating you?"
I heard that his power of reasoning is such that he deals with people only on his own unique wavelength and terms, such that they end up having weirdly hilarious interactions with him.
However, behind the legend lies the tale of a tragic childhhod in a Cork orphanage and a story so unique film director Shimmy Marcus made an award winning cult documentary about his life and it is people like him, James Kelly and many others whose mythical currency increases in value after darkness snaps and swallows them back into the womb.
Temple Bar Music Centre is now very successful and I was told that his original partner was the business head who made all the money, and Aidan's only reward was to become a living legend.
Here is a link to the documentary and one to his website.