Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Colm Keegan. All Ireland Live Poetry Slam Champion 2010

Ireland Is by Shirley Chance

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

Ireland is an on-the-road machine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St Patrick standing with his fire on the mound

honestly now that money was just resting in my account

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Unpublished Writer's Epistle

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Highly Tutored

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Prose Doggerelism

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

After Banksy.

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

It works.
We blew the love into them.

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

Blew their hate away
It suffocated in their own awakening.

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

They are eating it.

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

Sahred Stimlae.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Open Call for Forgiveness.

Dear England F.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Monday, June 21, 2010

Liam Clancy reciting Raftery's Mary Hynes

Mary Hynes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 11, 2010

We Are (not) the Centre of the Universe

(From the Herschel Space Observatory)

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 27, 2010


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

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

Friday, April 30, 2010

Writing Program Expose

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OK, what do I study?

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

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


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

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

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

Hmmm. I don't think so.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mayo Dindsenchas


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

Skreen, Strandhill - Tourlestrane, Tubbercurry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus the forest spake.

Welcome to Balony TV

I'm Mike Igoe

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

'Rosanna You Muppet.

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

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

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

When they buried the machete in your honour.'

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

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

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

Get over it.

Thanks very much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simon and Garfunky

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

Take no notice.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Authorial List Poem

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

Langston and Charles Bernstein

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

Washington, Horace and Wittgenstein

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

Silliman, Vendler and Sophocles

Desmond Swords

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cork Poetry


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

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

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

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

In your heartbeat; a sacred fire, the flame within

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

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

Tommy Livinsgstone.

Friday, April 09, 2010

The poet below is Ailsing Fox.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a nice day.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Merrie England

I've just been watching a news-video on the Guardian website English Defence League march in London.

The opposing, anti-facist marchers, are a mix of black and white, both genders and lots of non-accented voices, chanting:

We are black, we are white, together we are dynamite.

The EDL chant:

'England till I die, England till I die, I know I am I'm sure I am I'm England till I die.'

A black man in the anti-fascist camp on a megaphone addresses the anti-EDL crowd:

'If we don't stand out against them, then what happens is they start to grow, and when they grow they start to act like people did in the past, and one day people say, what happened? Why didn't people stand out? And that's why I'm proud to say...'

(shot cuts to EDL)

The EDL are all male, white, wearing lots of Burberry, baseball caps, sporting regional accents, left arms across their breast as they voice themselves publicly in unison, hands touching their hearts, wistful looks on their faces and cans of Carling clutched in their right hands.

'I'm with the EDL mate, yeah. There's thousands of us, all round the country', the first interviewee tells a person holding the camera, as he folds and rolls up a red-crossed white banner proudly sporting the name of his group, his accent sounding anywhere from Devon to Norfolk.

Do you feel part of a big movement? - he is asked:

'It's not a case of I feel part of a big movement, I am part of a big movement mate', he replies.

'E, E, EDL, E, E, EDL' they chant (aggressively), squaring up across the police lines against their opponents, who chant:

'There are many many more of us than you, there are many many more of us than you ...EDL go to hell, take your fascist place as well.'

The English Defence League are upset about 'Muslims'.

We will never submit to Islam, one of the placards reads, opposite a large burly thirties male on a loud-hailer administering political rhetoric in what sounds like an East midlands working class accent, the men, many of whom have shaven heads, bonding vocally in support:

'...today your brother, your son, your grandson, and I say to you now, don't worry, it's gonna be OK, the English Defence League is here, and we are here for yooooo (wild cheering) ...d'yer know what, even God bless the Muslims, they'll need it, when they're burning in fuckin hell.' (more wild cheers)

One young man, short, close cropped ginger hair, middle England working class accent, tells us:
'I'm not racist whatsoever, not one bit, but the thing is yeah, they're the racists, coming to our country and blowing the place up, yeah. How can I be racist?'

Another chap standing near him, more senior in years, the same sort of look and dress, hoodie, can of Carlsberg in his right hand, the alcohol bringing out his loquacity, in a heavily working class Manchester accent:

'The thing is yeah, if a white English Christian speaks up for White English Christians, we are branded racists. The Muslims can say what the hell they like, but if we say something bad about Islam, about the Pakistanis, about the Bangladeshis, we are branded racist scum.'

Another man standing with him, East Midlands accent, looks like he's had a few, interjects:

"What the fuck are they even doing in this country? Fuck 'em else where. Go back to your own country. Go back to your own country coz you're not welcome in this country."

'No, no, they are welcome, as long as they abide by English Christian rules -- the Manc philosopher counters in heavy nasal emphasis a la Liam Gallagher, turning 'christian rules' into kristeeaaan roooles -- ...they're welcome. They come here, but they scrounge and they plot to kill and bomb us at every occasion they can get..

With this final piece of insight, he shrugs his shoulders, the can waving upward and an EDL steward, his face covered by a scarf, whispers something into the ear of the Manc, who instinctively moves his left arm with the Carling can in it, across his breast and attempts to shift the emotional pitch of his voice into sombre and sober address, as the can touches his heart momentarily in a sign of respect:

'The fallen troops. God bless 'em. God bless the fallen troops.'

Monday, January 18, 2010

Thanks Jah

There are some achingly mental thought-pictures and scenes in those eloquent sentences; useful because bodies live in constant flux and borrowed forms that are transitory; the same beloved name a language-ghost we ourselves inhabit; the eight-four-two-one persons in a derbfine and temporary matter chained by this present mind, to inherited form of bodies and people disappearing in sequence, each a physical poem brought to every one of us - veiled at the entrance in shrouds of skin: we cannot remove them, our beginnings in..this absence you know; non-presence and big eye bang that cannot measure, only print ‘I’ who cannot speak separate from one’s own course. The dead who made us.

You recognize two distinct ways from the many one things you love, unequivocally appropriate, you’re poetically everything, all moments gone that makes a lineage not so much you, but the multitude who went before and live as you, in translation, not lent, borrowed, nor asked for, but imposed by an active force within, mirroring without, in perfect balance, in the space between what you make and what I make, in that intermingling reflectional text and conversation with of the other: wise perhaps insofar, as poetics, this is a relational art — it is what happens when utterance declared, not ‘I’ who speaks, but something borrowed that speaks for me, you who inhabits what construct, attached to our race of human s/he, is that genderless marker of formless state reason formed, which thus, because it is possible, to move thankfully within, they are us and we them, already gone — who shape-shifted into us, the ineffable form and formula few speak. It is through them life comes. The dead make us thus.



We’re the sidhe alive, buried silence of a faery troop, airing, fourteen streams of poetry composing me and you. They are us.

8-great-grandparents, it’s who we are, fourteen streams of poetry make a derbfine, the bass of clan-measure, cards, people marking who we are, all potential as the first and fifteenth roll, Danu’s dice decides.

Sunday, January 03, 2010