Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mad Mad Knobheads

I just received an e mail which is both laughable and interesting as it raises a fundamental question about Freedom of Speech:

Dear Background Artist:

I just ran across your article entitled Guest Poet: CAD Laureate, posted on May 6, 2009,, and I would like to raise an issue that is of concern to Selling Power magazine, which is the use of our trademark.

The word "Selling Power" is sometimes erroneously used as a synonym for sales effectiveness. For example you wrote: “Duffy looks like she couldn't give a hoot about all that, and so could use her position to achieve her political thrills, whilst also elevating her own selling power sky high.” We do not condone such uses of our trademark.

As a practical matter, when you describe sales effectiveness, there are a wide range of terms available such as: sales excellence, sales savvy, sales mastery, sales acumen, sales efficiency, and many more.

The reason for this letter is to educate writers like yourself that we want to protect our trademark, since we don't want to risk Selling Power being declared by the courts a generic word. Therefore we ask you not to use Selling Power as a phrase since it is our legal trademark.

We would like to receive a written acknowledgment of this letter stating that you will in the future identify Selling Power as a trademark if you should write about our magazine, and not use Selling Power as a phrase. If we do not hear from you, we will need to take further action.

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

All the best,

Gerhard Gschwandtner
Founder and Publisher
Selling Power
1140 International Parkway
Fredericksburg VA 22406
Office: 540-752-7000 Cell: 540-273-2555

P.S. Watch Selling Power videos online


Not only does Gschwandtner want to own the rights to two common words, but to stop others from using them in the normal course of speech, without paying him, and also to sell me stuff.

Dear Gerhard Gschwandtner

What planet are you on?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sven Hassel

The 14 psuedo-autobiographical second world war books of 91 year old Danish author Sven Hassel, (translated into 19 languages), stands up to numerous re-readings. Danish, he joined the German army, he claims, because it was easier than getting to England and joining the army there.

He deserted and when caught, was put in a penal tank regiment made up of "criminals and dissidents" and the material for his books is based on his time in the penal tank regiment. However, Hassel has one strong critic who claims he was in the SS and his wife really wrote the books. Whatever the truth is, they are compelling reading and like Frank Zappa, his work tilts towards inspiring culthood more than than fandom.

His books follow the experience of the cast of out-cast characters, the deserters, court-martialed soldiers, political prisoners and death row cadre of the (fictional) 27th (Penal) Panzer Regiment, the lowest form of military life, closest to the front line hells of the Second World War, who take us from Finland to the Russian Steppe, Normandy and Monte Cassino.

Hassel's novels transcend cultural and national boundries. There are no good guys or bad guys, merely the killed or not killed, pawns of death traded on the whims of those engineering the slaughter far from the front lines. The horror, terror and nihilism of this godless period is recounted with a dispassionate veracity in which the insignificant quotidian human events of daily existence, play out in the hearth of history's flame. The minor parts speaking for a human whole screeching of the authentic experience. His stories capture a banality of the acclimatised individual pawns resigned to fate, whose only loyalty is towards one another in a dog eat dog daily life.

The web of hatreds, tensions and fights between the members in the most expendable of regiments, rippling in a pool of human relationships history has ravelled these men in, are exposed in such a way as to offer a glimpse; a view into the real world behind a rhetoric of sanatised nightly war-news in which the emblems of order, parade ground, spotless uniforms, flags hoisted and draped in clean symetrical lines - disguise the truth of what we do not see and which Hassel's 14 books do not censor of flinch from describing. The characters are not pretty, nor nobel, but criminals and chancers killing men women and children, stealing from corpses and cracking the blackest of gags whilst doing so, infusing the narratives with a logicality of real experience.

We are brought in to see a birds-eye view of what hell on earth is really like, from the remote, safe distance of pseudo-autobiographical fiction-fact which can be re-read again and again. Like Flemming's Bond books in the sense of re-readability, but without the plasticity and veneer of wishful thinking and imperial self-congratulatory romance which idealises and makes attractive the notion that there is a natural order, morally on the right side of murder and killing. In Hassel, killing is a dirty business carried out by flesh and blood men and described without the patina of loyalty to a cause.

"After that he blessed the weapons with which we were to exterminate barbary, but I do not think it helped. For a miserable little priest to stand up and make the sign of the cross at a great tank can be scarcley very effective magic, even if you believe in magic, which I cannot. At the most you might imagine such a creature bewitching small arms. And anyway, they lost the war."

The reward of re-reading Hassel, is that he reminds us in the most graphic terms, what's possible when the world goes insane, and in the absence of affirmation in the good of man, we are rewarded with an almost religious sense - the firm conviction that we must remain vigilent to the truth of his fictions, to not be fooled that war is noble and that a cause not our own individual concern as a human being, in far flung lands - deserves our personal attention.

If the politicians want to go invade some far flung stone age place, why not settle any disputes as those they pay to kill on their behalf? One on one, man to man, bravely and for the cause their own actions wrought? Why ask others to do something we ourselves will not? Because we are needed more, our life more important?

There is no nobility in the face of mechanised and wholesale butchery, merely animal man at his most naked and primitive self.

"It is odd seeing a person lying or sitting or running or hobbling away right in front of you, and for you not to turn aside but drive straight on, over him. Odd. You do not feel anything. You are aware only that you cannot feel. Perhaps some other day, in a week, a month, a year, fifty years. But not just at that moment. There is no time for feeling; the whole business is just something that is happening, going on, pictures and noises, most acutely perceived and immediately shoved automatically to one side to be analysed later."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Flarf's Guardian

Rupert Brooke was dreadfull bore
who never wanted da de da more
de da de da de da de da da and
who wrote with a rubbish hand
de da de da de da because he
could not write for effin toffee

And now here he is held up high
To us the plebs, as high as sky
Just because he could rhyme
But not do enjament ever at all
Which even a ten year old can
de da de da de da da da da and
so we have him now as the man.


Dear Editor of Shagma Magazine

Please accept for consideration the above piece I wrote in a workshop I attend, run by the very prestigious Daryl Mann Fluffy, who won last years Backward Prize for poetic innovation and is the Creative Literature Professor of the award winning online college and centre of excellance with ten gold stars awarded by the Society of Higher Imaginative Technology in Barnsley, the premier portal for getting on in the industry.

The poem is part of a sequence which investigates the space between desire and objectification of the contemporary symbols which alert us to the act of definition and of post-avant ironizing the ineffable force which interrogates meaning in its most specific sense - in light of something different, urgent, pressing and which I hope is self-evident in the piece.

This poem came second in last years Totley Twitter Poetry Prize, garnering praise from the likes of Martin Ashberry who lectures at Bridlington College for Excellance and who said in the commendation:

"Flarf De Da has written a seminal work, taking the notion of banality and undercutting it with a wry comedic slant which undercuts and wrongfoots the reader, forcing is to question the material itself, using all the metrical and musical tools to effect this cross-graining of the material, in lines such as:

de da de da de da de da da

the first eight syllables dancing along with a metronomic regularity, and then the stunning surprise of da da, where we are expecting a de da. A simple, effective and hugely intelligent strategy which opens up the poem to a multiplicity of mappings. Never one for the tired and predictable, Flarf De Da is a name to watch."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Adam Rudden (Live from Temple Bar)


For Gillian

Decommissioned by sleep
I wrestle a dream’s surface tension
to near breaking point-

disarmed in her weightless arms.


Housed in a natural tilt
like an unstoppable river
looping through a slope’s eyelet;
my laced-up touch
skims her impalpable rush.


Her ghost-lips
meet and part
my transparency.


Adam Rudden was born in 1983 in London to Irish Parents. He has been living in Dublin since 1986 and has published two collections of poetry with Lapwing Publications: “Fallen Eyelashes” and “Braille Lips in the Dark,” in which the above poem appears.

His work has appeared in a number of journals. These include: Poetry Ireland Review, Cyphers, Electric Acorn, Jacobyte Poetry, Agenda and Horizons.

He studies at the Milltown Institute in Dublin, where he has earned a BA in Philosophy and Theology. He's currently studying for an MA in the academic study of Christian Spirituality.


I bumped into Adam on Friday, at his poetry reading in the foyer of the Temple Bar Information Centre on Essex Street and recorded him.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Guest Post: Rev. Ian Paisley (Reminisces)

I was never a rugby fan. I hated it. Rugby was a shite game for thickos.

The rules were more baffling than cricket. A load of fat fellas huddling into each other every two minutes, throwing in and lifting each other into the air and all in all, utter wank.

Then i got a number stewarding at Lansdowne Road when i was dossing in Dublin's premier homeless hostel.

It was a uniquely Irish set up. There were two types of steward, voluntary and paid. The vols were all Leinster Blackrock chaps who brought their own packed lunches and fruit, and worked in the stands showing (more pointing really) people to their seats.

They exuded an earnest and serious manner, there to cheer on the BOD (captain of the irish rugby team, brian o'driscoll) and the boys, a hint of blue sticking out of the standard issue orange flourescent jackets handed out at the start of the match to both sets of stewarding staff. These boys were not messing about. They were there for a civilised game of rugger, whilst doing their civic duty for the paying fans, mainly blokes and the odd stunner, from all over Europe and beyond who teemed in radiating well heeled and wealthy bonhomie, never leary and a sizable minority with painted faces and double scarves which displayed the name and colours of both teams - flogged outside the ground by the canny dub street traders for a tenner a pop.

A day out for the celtic successes spending two hundred quid at least, on watching 30 fellas throwing themselves into each other for no visible reward other than whatever cash it brought them, hearing 40,000 people roar them on and a chance of gaining immortality in the pantheon of sporting legends were the Irish greats gaze out in fading sepia tint from behind glass as young scangers size up the frame working out how best to have it away and sold to some dodgy nutter addicted to owning a piece of history.


The paid staff however, where a wholly different breed of stewarding professional. One could immediately apprehend by visual identification alone, whether an orange clad worker was paid or vol.

The paid blokes (for it was inevitably thus) stood by the step-entrances to the stands, within the grey concrete bowels of Lansdowne, making sure the tickets of the punters who had already shown them coming through the turnstiles, were in order (which they inevitably were) and our only view the jacks, burger vans and practice pitch (if we were lucky).

To secure this role of immense responsibility, it was necessary at first to go and que up outside the portacabins with the rest of the casual drop-ins and drinkers who congregated there before the match to secure a few hours work.

A bit like the old dockers' pens, the whiff of ale present, the faces betraying what our primary interest was. The lads.

The difference between us and them, the paid and the vols, was obvious, plain to see. We were the baggy, craggy faced pissheads, and they, ones who could have been playing on the pitch if things had been different: if the gods of sport had smiled more kindly and not put them out of contention in the final year at Blackrock. The docks versus D4.

And also almost to a man, we couldn't give a toss about rugby. The motivating reason for our attendance, 45 quid, cash in hand at the end of the match, which meant a night on the lash in town straight after coming from the game a whole nation of sport nuts would have sold their least favourite granny's ghost for being at.

The first game was Wales Ireland, and a very strange thing happened, because a fellow (welsh) steward who was a rugby fan, as the action was happening, gave me the low down on why they were stopping, throwing in, scrumming and all the rest of it. And though little of it stuck, enough of the bare bones were dilineated to make it comprehensible.

Interesting, but still, i wasn't getting stiff watching the cream of Irish talent and fantasy objects in a fair few wet dreams, tossing the ball about in tight shorts.

But at the end of the match, we all had to assemble in a cordon on the pitch for the final few minutes, theoretically to repel any attempt at invading it, which never happened, and so more of a ritual than serious activity.

And it was then, being close up, feet away from the physical action, the beauty of it all hit me and I got to see what all the other nutters were wetting their nickers about.

There was grace, great skill and athleticism, a benign trace of the old cattle raiding spirit, something alive, something from the ancient yore of long ago still present. As though the men on the pitch were the thoroughbred inheritors of some sporting celtic flame which had once possessed Cúchulain and Ferdiad at the ford, or Finn McCool on the slopes of Ben Bullen.

Live, close up, I saw the soul in rugby and fell for it hook line and sinker. At least, enough to watch it now on the TV and remain interested. Strange, before never, now, i caught the second half of Leinster Glasgow at the RDS, and witnessed some of the best passing game ever. No long balls, all flow and physical running skill.


The most memorable game was Munster Leinster in the European cup semi final, the one before last. A day the gods of sport laughed at Leinster Blackrock public schoolboys of D4 as the dockers of Limerick grabbed the game by its scruff of the neck and stuffed the opposition from the off.

The sun itself had conspired against the East coast team, as the bulk of their fans were housed in the West stand on a freezing cold late spring day, sunny and warm in the East Stand were the Munster lunatics had gathered, and yet sub-zero the shade of the West stand were the huddled and cold mass of blue turned the colour of their shirts as the Munster riot-squad let rip.

Led by a man (i will never forget) singing The Fields of Athenry through an electric megaphone, at the edge of the hardest of an already infeasabley harcore bunch of red painted bodhrán wielders in full vocal frenzy, and then turning to the tier above and motioning them by way of swinging his full body and free arm upward into the air, as if punching the head off a paedophile in his child's playpen, and roaring they adopt his behaviour as a template for their own.

I had been drawn away from my station at the bottom of the steps, because on hearing this very tinny yet abnormally loud voice singing The Fields of Athenry, i was at a sheer loss to work out what it was, until spotting the ringleading cheerleader.

And as I was taking this short scene in, the voluntary Leinster-fan steward responsible for maintaining peacable order in that section of the East stand, his freshly scrubbed glowing healthy non-smoking, un-alcoholic face, had composed itself into one which clearly signalled displeasure and on the verge of vomitting disgust.

He was glaring at Munster's most intelligent fan, with all the ferocity of Mary Harney or Rosanna D, being asked for a quick ham-shandy in the cubicle of the East wing bogs, and it was at this point I decided to pledge my support to the red team, as being a plastic whose loyalties are 3/4 far west Mayo and 1/4 deepest Desmond Munster, i too had caught the buzz of the clearly most passionate bunch.

Ah, happy daze..

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Guest Poet: CAD Laureate.

We love the English, Irish
and Welsh
but not the Briton
preaching imperialism.
Trevor the Tramp

Carol Anne Duffy is a much cannier choice for Poet Laureate of Britain than the previous incumbent.

A red brick gal, more or less polytechnic class, who knows how to parry and jab; how to stick the stilleto in and make herself the centre of things with a few choice words her supporters in the press, eager to publish any of her musings and goo themselves silly over no matter what the quality - will hotline to the front page.

Once the tories get in and Duffy's no longer in a scenario of having to go head to head with her natural political pals, she may well prove herself a potent weapon. A realist - unlike Motion who we can legitimately suspect really fancied the royal bit - Duffy looks like she (hopefully) couldn't give a hoot about all that, and so could use the position to achieve her political thrills, whilst also elevating her own selling power sky high.

It's like the Kate Moss cocaine picture furore, the more outspoken she is, the more success she'll draw. So instead of going for the unobtainable removal of the monarchy from politics, she'll limit herself (i am guessing) to sticking the boot into the freshly scrubbed toffs of the all male tory cabinet, and all they'll have to defend them is Boris. Heady days ahead, and fair play to her.

She is the type of talent to make a man go dizzy with envy, but at the end of it all, a straight goer, and potentially one of the best ever. She has the passion for it, i suspect and being an honorary sister myself, committed to the Feminist cause, i will be rooting for her to do the smug tory automatics whose version of England and Britain will be far removed from Duffy's, who for all her weaknesses in the past, of CBE and OBE, in the long-game, could prove to be the biggest noise yet.


Being human and a mass of contradicting and polysemic realities all vying for expression in an age where distraction and ephemera, the one minute of fame telescoped into a bewildering array of format and potential which can spin one's focus dizzy and lead to poetic shallows more than the depths -- I was a victim and perpetrator of prejudice against this talented poet.

I fell prey to behaving in the very same way we rail against as self-appointed moral guardians of our fellow humanity, and it was only on hearing her speak this weekend that the appallingly sloppy and misinformed manner i had exhibited in relation to her, fully hit home.

Until then, I had decided on the basis of ignorance and jealousy, to cast her as a wicked witch, based on nought but double standards, heresay and the tittle tattle of commentators with a comedic bent, swimming in seas of misanthropy and sexism dressed up as the gauche longueur of world weary Larkinesque figures who claim verbal ability can legitimise what harm their self-expression may cause, seeking to negate any psychological impact by excusing it through their wholly male genius.

I had damned her on the basis of gender and talent, attempting to disguise it as something noble and in the public interest to rant against her poetry, on the simple basis of begrudgery. But her appointement set me free and brought into focus the similarities, comedically outweighing any miniscule differences my theoretical speculative discourse aiming to demob the house of Windsor might effect in existential reality. A shouter on the boards, unheard and ignored until the truer note appeared, slowly emerging and finally freeing into song on the appointment of the new laureate.

Reading back the po-faced pose of the narrator/s in those experimental apprentice works of prose, I see them now for what they are - the seperating of substance from what is soulless and unworking. A different route, wholly new, understandably so, the online method of practice for the purpose of poetic attainment being an impossible reality prior to Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau creating a world wide web reality out of thin air 20 years ago.

Duffy's appointment is a good day for Poetry.


She is just like me, a private person with a clear poetic focus and desire to spread the gospel in order to materially improve the inward and outward lives of they for whom poetry is capable of doing so.

She started out, like me, at Liverpool's Dead Good Poets, in the Everyman Playhouse Bistro basement. Bestrode the same floor, saw the same faces, cut her creative teeth in the same no-frills plain speaking scouse milleau where humanity and horror, comedy and heartbreak founded the local culture there. The one place in Britain where soccer is the sole religion, all there was and is to cleave to when everything else fell away and poverty forced people to pool together in communal bond.

The Liverpool Echo is the voice of the city, and poems appear there sincerely written on the death of loved ones, which the more sophisticated, better spoken, will openly snigger and dismiss as being not pukker English, as though the English *we* is but seven or so people in the South East whose speaking voice cuts the air with inbred class. By comparison, scousers have the hardest uphill fight to verbal gravity, because they have so many strikes against them from birth. Born in Toxteth or one of the identikit swathe of project housing, the city's inhabitants are overwhelmingly working class, a deep substrata and cultural flux on which the sing-song mix of Lancashire Welsh and Irish, combine into the uniquely Liverpool accent whose borders are firmly fixed, ending at Maghul in the North, Halewood to the South and Prescot in the East.

A strictly defined band beyond which accent marks one out as wollyback outsider, the unmistakeable voice itself proof of status, belonging, religion and cult of being a scouser. A hard tough, lovable place with planetary potential for any artist working in the area of social change by words orated in a musical grace that is very difficult to imitate convincingly, and still to this day, a long and double edged shadow of the Fab Four hanging o'er any prospective balladeer and songsmith, poet and person seeking to inhabit that space the mop tops got by natural wit and ability to connect.

Liverpool's too small and even its poets have these four to thank for what happened to them. The centre of gravity there makes it difficult to break away into one's own note and only now, nearly fifty years hence, does a dreamy bluffer stand any chance of
wearing a different brand of rainement. Ditch the curly wig and lightwight nasal yer know there lah abhorrence middle class comedians foisted on the city before their routine of cod-socialist imposters proved exactly that. Elton and Enfield no more for the people of Liverpool than Motion will be rapping with Tupac.

Up the republic of Poetry !

Monday, May 04, 2009

Guest Post: Norbrit Pesky.

Rooms. Writing-rooms writers reconnoitre and delve into, in search of some spine-tingling inspiration begotten by chancing upon notebooks, draft manuscripts, pens and even the clothes of everyday wear our scriptural gods and goddeses wore as they peered through inward windows contemporary literate polity rotates out from and into. Revealing day to day around this business of being human we all share regardless of our capacity for reading - some spirit-spun sentience and psychological insight on the animus homosapien.

In a writer's case, they are also recorders of what manifestation of reality appears before them - spooling reel upon reel of fantasy, fiction and fact: wheeling page after page onto paper and electronic composition the reading-world has for its joy and woe. And from which we charge-in or stand-back, silently saying nothing. Silence itself investing rational animal civilization on which we measure ourselves itself as one species, with gravity.

Released to a literate mind via the eyes and aural ear: us placating in the charge of light, love, happiness and despair, their finely calibrated intelligences weighted and freighting forth into what's fought over and for; before being ultimately lost in a final breath. Forever spumes of Literature, serving whomsoever belongs in the gazing of such things, once and for all, for evermore - so we fantasize.

The exploratory telling deemed to inform, confuse, trick, whisk off to an island where nothing happens beyond the border of a skull - fulfilling what promise of the intellect and imagination, harnessed to Dickinson, Emerson, Fitzgerald, Greer, Hollingsworth, Imlah, Joyce, KKK, Lordan or Molière - names the name upon named entities in the act of live prayer. Evil backward mouthing a litany and list of authorial deities the addicted tick off in the activity of sayer-spotting.

Julian Barnes writes marvelously on his own obsessive hobby of perusing and owning all sorts of material objects and off-cuts from the lives of once living writers. A form of ghost-chase, habit and communing with spirits who inspire his own divination (divinare - to be inspired by a god), speaking for the ultimate author. Silence, prior to its forming into words.

The energy, implication and force before articulation shatters its one True meaning, silence understood by all of us has the silence of ultimate literacy, visually communicated. Pictures.

The pictures of writing-spaces. A modern IKEA lamp on smooth pearl gray panel, spotless, hi-tech, arranged beforehand to reflect a message, subtle, speaking a thousand words: This is Writer X - Invest.


I read an account by the English poet Desmond Swords going to a Yeats exhibition at the National Library of Ireland on Kildare Street, in the political district of the city, next door to the daily business of government - and on seeing Yeats' tattwas and other magical documents, carefully and methodically created and laid out by the author and the museum staff - had felt some Yeatsean force of immense silence pass through him and disable the mind, freezing it momentarily as though invaded by an alien form of far greater intelligence than our own.

Swords was mesmorised for several hours in the environment of this evocative Georgian building. Unlike the usual writer's objects he had witnessed and (ocassionaly) handled in person at the writers' houses he'd visited over the years - an acute sensation of being overcome by an alertness of some alien sapience whose intelligence rendered his own "but a speck on the mottled canvas of ink-veined brilliant night beneath the Aurora Borealis."

The experience, he said, could have been a milisecond or an eternity; but that wasn't the point. The point was, he'd connected to something which had come from without; from the mind of a dead writer whose magical and paranormal interests and research had led to Controllers becoming a prime source of mystical commune with those in the anima mundi who guided his intelligence and creativity to two poles in convergence, embodied in the initiation oath Yeats took on 3 March 1890, at 17 Fitzroy Street London.

Demon Est Deus Inversus, where good and evil neuter in an exapanse of nothingness. Becalmed silence and balancing cosmic fate of the universe Yeats mirrored in poetry of stone and sky, earth and sea - primary symbols of his fascination with Spirit Worlds in which he composed in the oppositional dead-centre of life's storm.

The pin-drop informational store of True knowledge for this esoteric Order he became Adeptus Exemptus (7=4) in during 1916, on reaching the eighth grade of the Golden Dawn's Inner Order.

"We are weighed down by the blood & the heavy weight of the bones
We are bound by flowers, & our feet are entangled in the green
and there is deceit in the singing of birds
It is time to be done with it all
The stars call & all the planets
and the purging fire of the moon
and yonder in the cold silence of cleansing night
may the dawn break & gates of day be set wide open"

Friday, May 01, 2009

Birds and Poetry

Birds, the symbol of our souls and deeply embedded in myth and mystical literature the world over, represent the ultimate freedom a poet can attain upon qualifying after their course yields - in original voice long imitative study and practice sets free to sing in its own note -- a spread of wings spanning the spectrum of skill and artistry needed to swim out amongst one's peers and capture the public imagination.

The 4500 line Persian poem منطق الطیر, Mantiq at-Tayr, (The Conference of the Birds) composed in 1177 by Sufi herbalist Farid ud-Din Attar is perhaps, besides being an exquisite example of Persian poetry - one of the most sublime and moving of anagogic texts of the Medieval Middle East.

The world's avian race, led by a leader in the form of the brightly coloured hoopoe, set out on a journey seeking the land of Simorgh.

Simorgh is the benevolent, female phoenix-like creature with the body of a peacock, claws of a lion and human head, large enough to carry off a whale and who roosts in the mythical Gaokerena tree (trans. ox-horn), or Tree of Life in Persian legend - with the juice of its fruit being an elixir of immortality in both Vedic and Zoroastrian tradition.
Rigveda (8.48.3, tr. Griffith) states:

"We have drunk Soma and become immortal;
we have attained the light, the Gods discovered.

Now what may foeman's malice do to harm us?
What, O Immortal, mortal man's deception?"

This being was a messenger between earth and sky and symbol of fertility and purification. So old it was said to have witnessed the destruction of the world three times, and every 1700 years, cast itself into flames and was reborn.

The birds of the world were seeking out the land of Simorgh and the name of the poem hinges on a very clever bit of wordplay, as simorgh also in Persian, means "thirty birds."

They travel through seven variously named valleys, each one bringing trials and tribulations, and one by one the birds drop out until thirty of them arrive at the fabled destination, and on doing so, discover that there is no mythical bird, only their own reflections in a lake, and this point attain transcendence on the realisation that the seed of enlightenment leading to the highest spiritual plane of understanding and acceptance, comes from within and is a process of drawing out. That we are merely a reflection of the Creator and cosmic pattern.

A super allegory.


Bird symbols are present throughout the poetries of the world and can represent many different aspects of civilisation and culture, as the image of flight can be used to depict anything the poet is capable of rendering it to. Birds of peace and of war.

The Tuatha Dé Danann triumvirate of war-goddess crows and ravens in Galeic legend, Badb, Macha and Nemain, daughters of Ernmas and apsects of the Mórrígan - all appear in numerous poetic narratives and reflect the opposite of peace and acceptance.

Scavengers of the battlefield who took on supernatural motifs in the pan-European Celtic culture prior to its eradication by Rome - Cúchulainn encounters the Mórrígan in both the Táin Bó Regamna (The Cattle Raid of Regamain) and the Táin Bó Cuailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley).
In the first cattle tale, she appears as a woman driving a heifer from Ulster and Cúchulainn, not realising her true identity, insults her and she retorts with threats and prophecying a coming battle in which he will be killed. Her final words:

"I guard your death."

In the Cooley narrative, four times during the intervals in the bouts of single-combat he is engaged in with Maeb of Connacht's various championswith at river fords, she appears in various forms. The first time as a young woman offering herself to him and which he refuses, then as an eel who trips him up: next as a wolf leading cattle to stampede across the ford, as a red heiffer leading the stampede and finally as an old woman milking a cow, bearing the scars he inflicted in her prior guises. She gives him a drink of milk and he blesses her wounds, healing them.

When his death comes, after being wounded in battle, he ties himself to a pillar of stone so he can die standing up, and it is only after the Mórrígan in raven form has landed on his shoulder, those present are brave enough to approach him, knowing he must be dead.


These are just two ways that birds in two of the most ancient poetic cultures, can appear in their respective traditions, and which embody and illustrate the inherent freedom of poetic expression such avian symbols are capable of effecting within our imaginations.

Another powerful bird, particularly in the bardic tradition, is the cuckoo, whose first sound at Beltane in May, signalled the end of another six month semester which had begun at Samhain, and the various grades of students, from focloc through to anruth, would put away the Auraicept na n-éces (learning methods of the knowing ones) on which the basis of their art was founded, and set forth to sing out of the woods.


This piece originally appeared on the Guardian Books Blog on Monday, in response to a blog about Poetry and Birds - but was deleted within hours of being posted under the username Senachie.

LOADSA TV (Live from Cassidy's)

The day begins at dawn
Just before the rush of pure cut chit chit chattin
gets surround sound switch on boiling into life.

They’re talking on the sofa
Tripping out celebritelly voices and whipping up instructions
that are pointing all directions

sending out to the brainwave central space
behold no loss or trace in space because
because; the tv told us so
to listen watch and have a go
at knocking up some cupboards
and cooking back to back on the milk spill chilled out chow mein show
with real life Zen presenters hookin’ up the gods above
and there
beyond the tube that place we’ll never go.

So ho ho ho

Santa Claus is comin skatin’ through the stars on invisible reindeer
dancing prancing
kicking in to life the cool dudes in the jungle
and sellin souls by bagloads down the tube chip chimney

squeezing tight the hard core stack of good good goodies
right bang on for year round always primetime Christmas floor show
with aunty Joan
Uncle Pat
Brother Ken and
chimin in
alzeim’ old timer Grandpa
givin in the loose talk on long gone no more yesterdays,

because; it’s gotta be here to spark in now and raise that roof to cloud burst shoutin loud
comin at yer
comin in yer
comin straight right through to lose what’s left before the goins getting good and gone

whistlin’ up the wishin’ slippy image
flickin ‘n frolerckin’
fast paced
livin in the corner box space
drippin’ intravenous and suckin’ leccy like there’s no tommorow

only this
only now
never then
coz; how's that gonna work?

Aint no chance of pullin’ round the sun before the settin’s settled down and done today;
switched dates
pumpin up the numbers
stretchin them the time
one by one
bye bye

go buy another one
five four three two one left off what’s not no longer on the outside
coz insides livin’ lifesize
spending daily bit by bit by byte wise
striking up the magic onscreen constant two four seven three six five forever

till TV trip out buckle up the wheel goin’ round down town;
and blowin in litter
so’s looking like a lotta trash’s gonna be goin’ head to head
thrashin’ out whose best by pollin’ mobile textin’ vote

cheap beep beatin’ numbers
breakin’ down the door spoken in the voice of god.