Friday, July 17, 2015

Three of Amergin's four poems explained.

In the mythological history of Ireland, Amergin, from Amhairghin - which Ireland's most prolific Irish language poet, Gabriel Rosenstock, in his book, Beginner's Irish, defines as: 'born of song' - is the druid poet of the seventh and final otherworldly race of people that took possession of the island. The Milesians, or Sons of Mil Espaine. He is the last of the otherworldly poets of ancient myth and considered the founding poet of the modern day Gaels.

The annals accord to Amergin's voice, 172 lines of poetry, spread over four texts.

His most well known of these lines is a twenty line riddling poem and 7C text written in the drudic form of 'rosc', Song of Amergin/Duan Amhairghine.

It is considered to be the oldest and first poem written in Ireland, and the one Amergin text of the four that Irish poets know of and give themselves license to sound lala about when responding to.

Aul Plumdoon Paul Muldoon himself spends an entire Oxford Poetry Professor lecture allusively punning on it in a speculative experimental discourse, that, if any of us had written and published on social media, it would, perhaps, as recently happened to me, have garnered what Amergin calls in a different, and longest of the four texts: 'the abundance of goading one receives when they take up the prosperity of bardcraft.'

The coming of the Milesians is dated in the the early 17C Annals of the Four Masters, as 1286/7 BC.

And in 1700 BC, in Seathrún Céitinn/Geoffrey Keating's: Foras Feasa ar Éirinn/Foundation of Knowledge on Ireland; more usually translated History of Ireland.

Whilst the 17C Galway noble Ruaidhrí Ó Flaithbheartaigh/Roderic O'Flaherty, in his own history of Ireland, puts the date at 1000 BC.

In the pseudohistorical High Kings list of Ireland, believed to be a construct of the eighth century AD; the first Milesian king comes after eight Fir Bolg, and seven Tuatha De Danann high kings.


As already stated, the annals accord to this mythical figure, Amergin, 172 lines of poetry spread over four texts.

Three of the texts (poems 7, 8 & 9 at the link) are virtually impenetrable riddling poems of the most metrically ancient 'rosc' variety. Old alliterative druidic blessing and battle-magic spells written in the most archaic 3-/5C Goidelic text, originating in the very first Irish letters, Ogham. A singularly interesting two to three hundred year reality that represents the transition period from oral druidry to literate bardic Old Irish letters of the 5C.

In the Medieval prose narratives these are the most metrically ancient alliterative verses, that are set apart from the prose, punctuating it as direct speech from the mythological poets' mouths. And signifying by the verse that what is being spoken is the most profoundly antique and eloquent words, that come out from the mouths of the numerous poet-characters, as spontaneously spoken poems - at the most significant parts of the tales they appear in.

Of which we have one hundred and ninety-eight remaining primary tales, of the 250 prim-scéla 'primary tales' we know where the number taught, and learned by rote and heart, and that made up a very large part of the Gaelic poet's education, on the seven step, twelve to fourteen year, bardic filidh poet-training curriculum.

When metrical poems are recorded directly from the mouths of the character, they are usually serving the purpose of changing the narrative entirely by means of spoken magic.

However, the fourth of Amergin's four pieces, appears in the Trinity College Dublin manuscript 1337 (formerly H 3.18); and though it is untitled, it is the most important, by far, imo, of the four texts traditionally attributed to the founding poet of the Gaels. And it is a very different, far less densely riddled poetic text.

That the student poet at grade one, foclo, was, I suspect, introduced to during their first Halloween to May Day semester, in the poet-training schools, that taught the art and trade of fíliocht / poetry - in one form or another (fíliocht originated in druidry, then evolved into literate bardic, before filidh 'poets' practice) - for twelve hundred years; to forty generations of poets.

The untitled text (link to Eryn Rowan Laurie's most recent scholarly translation.), that has no title, I suspect, because it didn't need one, as everyone knew it; is a mixture of short alliterative-lines of rosc, and longer lines of hybrid prose-poetry. It spells out in black and white the earliest verbal druidic ars poetica. The purest bardic voice on record, telling the reader exactly what poetry is, and how it works in a person, 'body and soul'.

It is an extremely fascinating document that very few readers, and even less poets, are aware exists. Because it was only first translated in 1979, by the late (2011) Professor Emeritus, N.U.I. Galway, Patrick L. Henry.

Who birthed it into English as the subject of a specialist scholarly article in Studia Celtica #14/15, 1979/1980, pp. 114-128, 'The Cauldron of Poesy'.

The second translation was by co-editor of the annual Royal Irish Academy journal Ériu, and Ireland's preeminent Old Irish expert on Early Irish law texts, poets, poetry and metrics; School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, Professor Liam Breathnach.'The Cauldron of Poesy,' Ériu #32, 1981, pp. 45-93.

In my opinion this ancient rosc and prose-poem text is a/the holy grail of (Irish) poetry. Clearly detailing the most brilliantly simple yet also most authentic and most ancient poetic we have with which to understand what it is we are doing in letters. That only a handful of people have ever read.


Amergin's first (and his most famous) poem, Song of Amergin, is commonly accepted as the earliest Irish poem ever written, in the 6/7C AD.

It is twenty lines, that in the tale it appears in, The Coming of the Miliseans, Amergin spontaneously recites as he steps off - with his eight brothers and a large group of warriors - one of the thirty-six Milesian ships that arrived and set anchor in Kerry, at the mouth of the Kenmare river, around Beltaine/The first of May.

We're told, in an eleventh century Clonmacnoise annal, Chronicon Scotorum: 'On Thursday, the Kalends of May, on the l7th of the Moon'; 'the Year of the World 3500'.

There to face-off with the Tuatha De Danann, for killing their uncle, Ith, whose death at the hands of the De Danann occured after he'd spied the island with Mil his brother, from the Bregon tower in Northern Spain, and had gone to the island on a reconnaissance mission with a handful of relatives and retainers. Ith's enthusiasm for what he found on the island concerned the De Danann as a threat to their own possession of it and so they killed him rather then let him leave and possibly come back with an invasion force.

The Tuatha De Danann had been in possession of the island for three hundred years, after seizing it themselves in the two Battles of Moytura/Magh Tuireadh, 'plain of pillars'. Keating dating their arrival to 1477 BC, and the Four Masters dating it 1897 BC.

The First battle of Moytura was in Cong, Mayo, when they defeated the Fir Bolg, and the Second Battle of Moytura was by Lough Arrow, in Sligo, when the Formorians were vanquished.


The act of speaking this ancient alliterative riddling poem, Song of Amergin, that there's is no agreed set translated text of (tho there are numerous translated versions by various Celticists and poets) is traditionally interpreted as 'born of song', Amergin himself, as he steps ashore, claiming and taking possession of the island for this seventh and final mythological race.

That forty generations of poets traced their own existence to and wrote of for 1200 years in their own literate vernacular language.

And immediately after Amergin speaks aloud his most famous Song, our mythical druid then spontaneously recites the second of the texts attributed to him.

A short eleven line poem-blessing titled, Bríocht Baile Fharraige/Bounty of the Ocean (poem number nine at the link.).

After this blessing poem the eight Milisean brothers and their forces wade ashore. Where they briefly skirmish with Tuatha De Danann forces in the Slieve Mish mountains as they make their way to Tara.

At which point in the narrative they parlay with the De Danann chiefs, and with Amergin the mediator-poet negotiating between the two sides a battle plan is agreed by both the mythological races. The events at which become the next part in the tale, The Coming of the Milesians.

It is agreed that the Milesians will return from the middle of the island to their ships, and set sail over nine waves out. Then, if they can make it back ashore, the island is there's to fight the Tuatha De Danann for the possession of. 

However, a trick up their sleeves, the De Danann druids magically speak some roscanna (rosc pl.) to conjure up a storm that sinks five of the Milisean ships; that triggers the third of Amergin's texts, a twenty-one alliteratively lined rosc poem titled, Invocation of Ireland (Professor Eoin MacNeill's 1922 translation), that is spoken as the druidic counter-spell spontaneously recited by Amergin onboard one of the surviving three ships the storm does not sink. And that beats the magic of the De Danann druids and quells the storm.

The three surviving brothers; Amergin, Eber and Eremon, make it ashore and then take the island when they beat the Tuatha in battle three days later, in the Battle of Tailtin, modern day Teltown between Navan and Kells in Meath.

After which Amergin, in his mediator-poet-judge-druid role, divides the island between his two surviving brothers, Eremon taking the North and Eber the South.

There's a dedicatory poem written by Padraic Colum, which prefaces one of his editorial masterworks, Anthology of Irish Verse (1922), that recounts this incident.

To George Sigerson, Poet and Scholar

Two men of art, they say, were with the sons   
Of Milé,—a poet and a harp player,   
When Milé, having taken Ireland, left   
The land to his sons’ rule; the poet was   
Cir, and fair Cendfind was the harp player.          

The sons of Milé for the kingship fought—   
(Blithely, with merry sounds, the old poem says)   
Eber and Eremon, the sons of Milé   
And when division of the land was made   
They drew a lot for the two men of art.           

With Eber who had won the Northern half   
The Harper Cendfind went, and with Eremon   
The Northerner, Cir the poet stayed;   
And so, the old Book of the Conquests says,   
The South has music and the North has lore.           

To you who are both of the North and South,   
To you who have the music and the lore,   
To you in whom Cir and Cendfind are met,   
To you I bring the tale of poetry   
Left by the sons of Eber and of Eremon.           

  A leabhráin, gabh amach fá’n saoghal,   
  Is do gach n-aon dá mbuaileann leat   
  Aithris cruinn go maireann Gaedhil,   
  T’réis cleasa claon nan Gall ar fad.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Mel Bradley poem, The God of my World.

Originally a comment on Derry poet Mel Bradley's facebook.

Lovely poem there, Mel.

There was an interesting article in 2008 by a New York rabbi and Torah bible scholar, Mark Sameth, who spent 20 years study on the appearance of the Tetragrammaton in the Torah. The Hebrew theonym יהוה, commonly transliterated into Latin letters as YHWH, most commonly pronounced as Yahweh and Jehovah. Strict conservative Jewish traditionalists 'avoid reading it as יהוה exactly as it is spelled, either aloud or to themselves in silence, nor do they read aloud transliterated English forms such as Jehovah or Yahweh.

Instead the word and pronunciation is replaced with a different term, whether used to address or to refer to the God of Israel. Commonly substituted Hebrew forms are: hakadosh baruch hu “The Blessed Holy One” or Adonai “The Lord” or Hashem “The Name”. Such terms are believed to equally refer to the same as One as יהוה or Jehovah, in much the same way that the English terms “God”, “LORD” or the “Creator” are used to refer to the God of Israel.' (wiki)

There is no agreement on the etymological root of the Tetragrammaton, tho there's a school of thought that it comes from a triconsonantal root היה (h-y-h), a verb meaning "to be", "exist", "become", or "come to pass".

Sameth's own conclusion of his twenty year textual investigation appears in an article in the summer 2008 issue of the CCAR Journal, published by the Central Conference of American Rabbis, an association of Reform rabbis: "Who is He? He is She: The Secret Four-Letter Name of God"

He theorises that a basic druidic ogham trick is behind cracking this literate mystery, because when the Tetragrammaton is read in reverse and the four letters are flipped, the sounds become, he says, the Hebrew words for "he" and "she." So, God, is not He, Lord, etc, but He/She.

When I read Sameth's conclusion of a life long study into God, i independently had come to the same conclusion, by a different route of study. I'd been four years post-graduate, independently studying the voluminous mass of textual material that made up the bardic filidh poet-training curriculum; all in Irish, and relying on English translations, that only since the turn of the 21C it's been possible to access, all virtually. The source material i was reading, all in Irish manuscript; was pointing to the exact same thing. That God is a gender-neutral spirit, and within us all as our disembodied mind and intelligence, that in everyone, regardless of our gender, is the wholly spiritual s/he Sameth theorises he found in the Torah.

That is hidden and visible only to initiates with knowledge of a druidic trick taught to forty generations of poets in Ireland, as the very founding concept of their trade. And that they were introduced to as a newly arrived grade/level one trainee-poet, foclo (word-weaving beginner) - starting their first Samhain to Beltaine semester in the singing schools of yore. With a further six grades to go on the twelve to fourteen years of study ahead of them, before they graduated, at the seventh and final ollamh grade, and took their place as a Doctor of Poetry in the Gaelic literary tradition. (5-17C).

Robert Graves also concluded after a lifetime of deep study of Myth, and writing hundreds of books, that what he calls the 'unimprovable original' Stone Age poetic was gender-neutral. And it was only with the Greek Iron Age Appollonian falsifying of the previous more Maternal s/he religion, that all the 'God is solely male' nonsense took hold, and really made its mark with the spread of the Roman empire. Because it was grafted and forced onto the stable and peaceable s/he religion, that was a couple of thousand years old when the Mediterranean Levant civilisations began seven centuries of mass implosion and collapse, after the Minoan eruption of the island of Thera, (now called Santorini) around 1500 BC. The new deathly man-cult spread by the new Iron technology, that represented a scientific quantum leap at the time.

The new Man is God religion was spread in much the same way the deluded murderous morons of Daesh are doing now. 'Bow down and devote every waking second of your life to what our He god commands you do in life, that is the one God, or it is His will you be horrifically tortured and murdered as a non-believer, by His earthly good guys' engaged in all the genocide and proselytizing about this wholly bullshit Male God and Creator. All for the purpose of legitimizing as being divinely approved of, their acts of pedophilia, mass-murder, rape, torture and terror that is the Male death cult. What Graves calls intellectual homosexuality. The elevation and worshiping of a solely Male deity as Creator of the real world and all us men and women in it. Yeah, right.

Desmond Swords 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Cuchulainary Music of Gamblers' Bodies

Learned a poem that will carry its own weight
through the use of its quatrains and stanzas,

on its own feet speak and stand in spoken song,
upon a stave of the Creator's making stage

a strophe of inventively voiced syllables that speak
the contract from lip to ear, in a mouth binding

oaths that pledge this demi-realm of spirit,
slate green sea, by the music of what happens

in its own paradise & mind-blue mystery,
to the oneness that and this, that and this, that

& this, that literate on the pages of our memory is.

An absent anarchic body of light, blind presence,
attentive ear, the eye of tradition and lore

one must listen to and learn the fundamental
tenets of before claiming in canto, section

and rann, movements from cosmic to singular
and back again 'be the branches of genealogy

off-spring are born from, extending to summon
the living'
, in the same line of spoken psalm

carry weight by sound alone; and be not bold,

slapdash, timorous, or touchy, brought not
to ruin by low drunken tricks; but the law-abiding

hand-of-mind form, imbhas forosnai, spontaneous
manifestation of knowledge in a poem carrying

its own weight; created slant, spun & set airborne
by the power of prayerful wings; alone within

and without us - 'taken from the mysteries
of the elemental abyss.'

Desmond Swords


Cuchulainary is an adjective coined by All Ireland Slam Champion 2013/4, Dublin Coolock poet, John Cummins.

Update on a Poet's Public Blobble

Fame at last, fame at last, fame at last. Top of the world, Ma! You may not have got there with me, but we reached the promised land.

Following the previous piece assessing the state of a public Facebook feed of one of the new breed of independent know-all ye poets, Bethany Pope, she blocked, blocked, and blocked some more, because she hasn't the faintest idea of what dán ('poetry') is, or what i am talking about, dearest Reader.
 'Desmond Swords' wrote a blog-post in response to yesterdays status about my frustration over Amazon not making Oprah's notes optional in my kindle copy of a book that I was very much looking forward to reading. It's funny, but the thing that I find the most irritating is the fact that he got my bio very wrong (I've published four books, dammit) and he misquotes several of my friends. Needless to say, this fellow is blocked. If you know him (we had 58 mutual friends) I suggest that you handle him with caution. What I'd really like to know is what kind of person writes 2k word blog-posts in response to a stranger's 50-word status update?

I've just discovered that Desmond Swords also goes by the name All Ireland Poetry Slam. I've blocked that pseudonym, too, after he posted a very long, very weird spiel on the status below this one. Does he have any other pseudonyms that I should know about? This is getting really old, really fast. Like club music, but thankfully without the teen-sweat.

Awh, poor Bef, stuck behaving with the rest of the ultra-confused as if its the 1990s. Inside a social-media bubble and public echo-chamber, where a handful of harmless language experts spread the positivity and goodness their practice of poetry returns, in the kind and supportive discussion of one's poetic retardedness and questionable mental-state. Thank you gods of fame and poetry.

Ira 'Who' Lightman: 'He's a monologuing twerp and always has been.'

Bethany Pope: 'No way was my status worthy of an enormous blog post.'

Louise Larchbourne: 'wow, what is he on? and what is he talking about?' (Poetry, Louise, you know, what you qualified at on Facebook.)

Bethany W Pope: 'No idea. He just came after me again with a pseudonym, so now I've blocked him twice.'

Ingrid Andersen: 'Did you ever reject any of his poetry, Bethany? He's off his rocker.'

(Alas, for you,  Ingrid, no, i never sent a manuscript to any publisher. They never tempted me, I'm afraid. Lucky me, with fourteen years of unpublished spontaneous speculative discourse and the odd poem.)

Kathryn Gray: 'Desmond Swords is a well-known troll who has been around for about a decade.'

Danica Ognjenovic: 'Sounds like you need The Morrigan'

Tim Turnbull: 'Desmond', Bethany. That's who. His ability to fill up threads on social media, forums, blogs &c. is legendary.'

Mark Wallace: 'Back when The Poetry Foundation blog (out of Chicago) had open comments on its blog posts, this guy posted non-stop attacks on pretty much everything.'

Bethany W Pope: 'That's very, very sad.'

Angela Topping: 'I think he's a known trouble causer.'

Richard Copeland: 'I don't know this Desmond Swords character and, after what I have read about him so far, I have no wish to know him. You were right to block him.'

Fiona Pitt-kethley: 'Anyone who writes 2k words unpaid is a plonker.' (aw, luka yu)

Sarah Coles: 'What the very actual?? How horrible.'

Sharon L Zink Freak! 'Is he in love with Oprah?'

Julie-ann Rowell: 'Bizarre, people can be figured out.'

Clarissa Aykroyd: 'Wow. I believe this gentleman is what is known as "a crank".

Bob Gillham: 'I don't read ANYONES NOTES and you know fuck making it mandatory! Surely there must be a way of blocking them... As for Mr Oddity,mtheres a lot of them about!'

Tiffany Atkinson: 'Good grief'

 Neil Fulwood: 'What kind of a name is Desmond Swords? Sounds like a pseudonymous writer of cheesy 60s thrillers with a Matt Helm style protagonist and no respect for woman. Actually ...'

 Kok Wei Liang Hahahahhaah, oh this is comedy GOLD!


'Thank you, thank you, thank you, too kind, too kind. I'd like to thank first my English teacher, Miss Burns. Playing Malvolio at fourteen opened my mind to the majesty and power of the English language and for this, I thank you. God bless, may we all live long and become noble laureates.

Thanks Tim. You're seem to be the only one of this lot enjoying what you write.

Hello, Fulwood Neli, Fuwldoo. Darling, sweetie, 'what kind of a name is Desmond Swords?' 'Not hard'; as forty generations of trainee poets on the fourteen year Gaelic poet-training curriculum (5-17C) used to begin - as Campion tells us - the croan with; or, in English; croon out in singing school the set memorised texts they learnt by rote and regurgitated in front of the ollamh; that, er, you are, hey Sir Neil, luvvie, dearest. A fwitefilleh pwitteh name, Neil, angel, darling, most beloved little boy.

Desmond is my paternal surname, from Macroom, West Cork. The myth in every West Cork Desmond family is that we are the last living remnants of the Munster Earls of Desmond. There's a cluster of us from there and nowhere else in the world.

And Swords, Sir Neil; far from having 'no respect for women' - is, I'm afraid, one's mother's maiden name. A Dublin woman, emigrated to Liverpool aged twelve, both her parents from Bahola in Mayo. She passed away suddenly four months ago next Sunday. And with my paternal grannie-spirit, Winnie Masterson, from Achill island, I'm a three-quarter Mayo quarter Cork soul expressed through the mouth of a daft Lancastrian Spacer.

Joyously 'trolling'/playing with language, in Dublin, dudemanbrosis of the disembodied poetic s/he intelligence. Mind, spirit, the aboriginal voice there, in Nottingham, old boy.

Which explains the Byron template you wrongly project onto the reasons behind one's real name, and is, as my name itself proves, so utterly an incorrect instinctively, er, poetic guess.

You reveal what sort of phantasmagoria's working your linguistic intelligence, and pleasing well-spokenness. 'Ye gerrin mashin wen ye gerrin, duk?' Ah, yes, of course.

As for being a troll, well, the angelic Seren Gray alien claiming i am a well known 'troll' (eye-roll). Yes dear, that's right. Keep plugging away and the faeries will come and join you in Edmonton. And if you're really well behaved they will take you away on an Imram, otherworldly journey. And one of the fourteen genres of tales forty genrerations of poets had to know, so which, of course, you'll know all about as well. Seeing you're such a committed anti-trollist taking stands on important social-media fora issues. And a marvelously well regarded member of ultra-polite society, speaking very little in spontaneous conversational public prose. You can come back and sell us what you saw in your next amazingly profound head-shot. Luv those erudite updates.

A voice the poetry loving public can trust on the question of who is and isn't a troll in the faery language game you play so, er, eloquently, in the many prose screeds of critically experimental speculative discourse and self-reflective conversational global poetry phone-booth business (yawn) talk, that you're churning out there in lala land. Love tha nu tewns. Great tone.

This is not trolling, it is shooting fish in a barrel. I learned a lot writing that piece, accompanied by a poem that came out via the act of telepathic wish-fulfillment and knowing what the eye and ears are doing. Fine. Finally, after years of being a well known troll, i can relax and just carry on without any need of validation from the editorial titans of poetry and publishing here at Bethany's place. Awh.

May you all live happily ever after in the one line model
May you all find success and happiness with your poems
May you all buy wisely and time the absence to fit rhyme
May you speak song sweetly and love life always, gudbai.

Seriously tho, i mean, i spent a lot of time on that piece and it is now a stand alone piece in which Bethany and her friends are only really the excuse for me to shine on my own page and in one's own voice. Any reader, especially doctors of poetry teaching in universites, can see that. Can't you? I mean, c'mon gals, what are the critical parameters to what we are doing here, talking of, er, what we are pretending to do, or actually doing.

Discovering exactly what was taught to the forty generations of forgotten poets few of you could give a rats ass about because it is soo easy to do, learn the fourteen year course and come out the other side a rhymer in Bubbalin tewn.

Adios amigas, don't listen to the trolls that don't even know they're trolls. My name is Kevin Desmond Swords, Ormskirk, Edge Hill University, Conceptual and Experimental Poetry Centre. You should do the MA there. It's grrreat.

Grá agus síocháin. #luvnpeez.

Kevin Desmond Swords

Friday, July 10, 2015

Six Tercets Triggered by Ian Duhig

Duende amigo salwaygo an sean-nós
- the capricious imp 'that climbs inside
you, from the soles of the feet'

to the throat, a song-singing ghost -
it is the darkest note from 'earth's
very navel' speaking the sound of our

ancestral voice. A pyramid of flesh,
the bottomless depth of a cauldron,
slowly dripping in it, 'drop by tortuous

drop', 'true living, the style of blood'
divine inspiration, imbhas, anwyn,
sorrow to wisdom turned by the joyful

grace of God. That spun from bottom
to top, by the power of filíocht, fate & dán,
lines that cannot be changed or altered

chthonic spirits at twilight and dusk
the aboriginal state of unconsciousness
wholly within us, a source of poetic love. 

Comment on Bradenton Poet's Echo Chamber

The trigger for this piece of writing was a pseudo-personal public update published on the social-media echo-chamber of Florida Bradenton's Bethany Pope.

In the past two decades the publishing model has been utterly inverted. We've gone, historically speaking, very briefly from one extreme to the other. From a highly talented and committed handful of poetry writing lovers specially accepted and supported by the even rarer and more expert god-like Poetry Editor, to a come all ye everyone is now an hour and a handful of clicks away from qualifying as a bona fide published poet.

Exponential hoards of newly qualified-by-social-media poet-publishers selling wares, that range from excruciating doggerel to the work of arch spacers with decades in the ultra-competitive faery language game. That, when engaged with consistently and methodically, leads, by a process of mathematical luck, chance, happenstance, and regular spontaneous speculative discourse; to the authentic ineffable and prophetic source of the aboriginal unconsciousness.

At which one can sit, sue and prosecute the theoretical cases and judge, contemplate, and ask the oracle simple existential questions of material and spiritual life. And from which one draws the parallel self-reflective series of trial and error correct and wrong answers, that, cumulatively accrue into a discernible pattern, process, and strand of critically accurate practice successfully mapping the contours of our singular mind 'closest to thought'. Speaking in one's own voice. You. The published poet. Everyone.

Twenty years ago if one wanted to become a published poet, as the Limerick Newcastle West poet Michael Hartnett, who introduced me to the 'closest to thought' concept - knew: it took a lot of extremely hard work and dedication. Writing writing writing until eventually one is writing so much a voice readers recognise emerges. And though the odds were more than one in a thousand against a fairy god-editor plucking from a slush pile, the first manuscript you sent out; when you plug away one eventually connected with a coterie of like-minded poetry lovers and writers, producing, when compared with today, a tiny amount of store-quality poetry publications.

The whole business of getting a manuscript into printed book form was far more expensive and time-consuming than now. Someone wanting to publish their own books twenty years ago would spend years learning the many different and specialised roles needed to turn a hand or type-written fistful of poems, to a shiny new attractive publication. And the vast majority of poetry books that were published, unless it was by a corporate press, had very little-to-nothing in the way of advertising and getting the word out even regionally about their poems for sale.

It was a very socially lonely time for most poets, unlike today; with no way - unless one had millions of pounds to buy air time and pay for commercials - of reaching in print the millions of book-buying people all over the globe we take for granted are the audience and customers we can instantly connect with today. And all the things that were then in the hands of a very few globally powerful editors, are now at the fingertips of everyone. We are, finally, all on a level playing field, professionally, in relation to the publishing and business side of selling poems; because anyone with an internet connection can decide we are an independent po-biz editor, and within hours be publishing and selling books worldwide. We can create in a week what previously took years of dedicated continual studious slog and constant rejection, coupled with years of experience and learning. Not to mention many thousands of pounds, and tens of thousands of hours of writing. And the powerful attraction to that profoundly playful source of our own writing, which we're blessed to be born with in the digital age 

There has been a revolution throughout the world, in publishing, and culturally, in the way we communicate, and in how one can present ourself in public as someone whose language the Reader can trust the words of when it comes to English poetry.

If one is English, it helps, when speaking, virtually, in America, to drop the reserve, one finds, and get stuck in trolling and trash-talking with fellow Americans in that uniquely global capitalist poetic culture we share online. When one restricts one's vision to the purely domestic realms, the free back and forth conversational flow rarely reaches the anything-goes post-avant level of linguistic exchange and open craic one experiences when in the thick of debate with fellow N. Americans.

I think this is because we English are very much a product of our birth status in a multi-tiered Class and Honour System, that can be very spiritually challenging and difficult to get our head round when we are one of the 99% of English people born outside it. A child of immigrants, without a title, only with what can be subtly contextualised as that most culturally distasteful of things by posh-sounding snobs performing in letters little more than a disapproving one-line note and tone of voice; the openly working-class English voice speaking from the Republic of English Letters; in which everyone is welcome and free to write whatever the heck ye goddam wanna. Issuing not the short and snarky superior literate ejections that reveal an entire intellectual apparatus built of falsehood, fear and envy; but an honest voice.

Cheers ears.

May your hair grow golden and your heart be filled with joy
May your eyes always see and your ears detect duende
May your mouth sing from the soles of the feet up highest

May your hand and head together make the greatest poetry.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Magma's National Poetry Conversation Failure.

Magma poetry magazine is a UK Arts Council subsidised publication that bills itself 'one of Britain’s leading poetry magazines', claiming it is 'more than a magazine, but 'a community of people, open to everyone passionate about celebrating a wide mix of poetry.'

This year it is undertaking what it calls a 'National Conversation'  'designed to provoke thought, ignite debate and encourage all of us to move deeper into the art form.'

However on Magma's Facebook page, that consists of little more than the odd link to articles elsewhere, and which, accepting on face value its claim of promoting healthy robust 'national conversation' and debate, should welcome contrary opinions; this response to a link posted there yesterday (6 July 2015) to a pdf article from the current Poetry Review issue (Summer 2005) by Jack Underwood on Jennifer L Knox, was immediately hidden from public view, and, rather than being deleted, was made visible only to my Desmond Swords and All Ireland Poetry Slam Facebook accounts.

Interesting because it reveals the mentality of whoever's editing the Magma Facebook page. Rather than delete the comment and be upfront and honest about their editorial practice and where they really stand on those that take a contrary position, they attempted to give the impression to me that the comment was publicly visible, in keeping with their much publicised National Conversation, which the non-exclusionary and inclusive language blurbing the ethos of it ostensibly claims to be all about.

I only discovered this after writing and publishing the comment, by using another Facebook account I use for the uncovering of such social-media duplicity by those claiming they're all about fostering freely expressed dialogue and critical conversation, when they are clearly not.


'I am not a huge fan of either poets' writing, because I think that the language of their 'poems' is very overrated and much closer to that found in quirky narrative prose anecdotes with the odd poetic flourish. Reliant wholly on that irony of speaking tone that can only be written by the very young unable to recognise that 'ironic voice' alone does not transmute the pedestrian prose it is speaking into some sort of high-poetic intelligent comedy-magic on the page just because a few people bray loudly at their own in-jokes.

That we're encouraged to believe, by a few well placed editors and their supporters, as having a cutting-edge conceptual pedigree wholly new and exciting to the English line. Don't read the words literally, we are urged, but think of them as being really great ironically rendered poetry arising out from some kind of deeply intellectual and experimentally innovative literary play by England's finest new poetry custodians being all very American.

Championed and peddled by a handful of editors as the latest seismic innovation in post-pomo English poetry that has escaped its factional British Poetry Revival antecedent and is now an inclusive come all ye mainstream variety of the New. But of course is really reliant on little else but a sub-Monty Pythonesque crazee narrative tone and shock-value voice that is all very middle-class and connects with very few readers, but a handful of smugly self-congratulatory nerds and geeks that find this sort of thing funny.

Underwood quotes extensively from Knox, but in my ear it all sounds very anti-intellectual, depressingly childish and banal. This line being pretty much standard fare: “Hey check out that dog’s ass wow that dog’s ass is hot that dog’s got a hot dog ass I want squeeze that dog’s ass like a ball but a hot ball a hot ass ball.”

Underwood's stuff is little better. Slowly enunciated prose anecdotes that rely on the ubiquitous and wholly unearned i-know-better-than-you-because-i-speak-with-a-posh-accent, Oxbreligious intonation, by a self-congratulatory pleased-with-itself middle-class English voice in print through the vagaries of passing literary fashion and a small micro-scene of hipsters and expensive editorial blurbing, that, I am certain, will be assessed in the not too distant future for the somewhat, only in my own opinion, over-praised and unremarkable pedestrian language it really is when stripped of the inessential background po-biz noise blurbing how great it all is, and left on the page to speak for itself.

What i find interesting structurally, in a general sense, is the disconnect between poetry and prose in contemporary English poetry culture. We are given the impression anything goes and it is a great time to be an independent experimental crazee doing your own thing, but as soon as you become satirical about it in spontaneous critical conversation, most of the self-declared crazees suddenly become very precious and straight squares, making it plain that there's an acutely conservative and exclusionary agenda in operation behind the tenor of inclusion and social revolution that the rhetorical surface of the critical language surrounding this 'new' poetry ostensibly suggests.

One in which coteries and bands of poet-friends are ruthlessly not engaging in real debate or critical conversation, but communicating, in the main, in a Facebook micro-bubble language in which brevity and witty one liners are the norm, and those keen to test ideas by live conversational print, are very much in a minority and not at all encouraged to speak. With any of this kind of new experimental creative-critical spontaneous prose writing comedically deleted and blocked from the social-media pages claiming to advocate conversation and contemporary critical debate. Not for the language itself being inappropriate or offensive in any way, but purely for speaking honestly in a voice trained not by a process of seeking validation from publishers, but by the act of just doing it, critical prose, anywhere there's a free online page and an audience.

Finding one's long-term literary faith by continual free-writing practise and the methodical study of bardic tradition and its fourteen year poet-training curriculum, rather than the Tudor poet-courtier model, in which knowing your place in a pecking order and prize-culture is the paradigm most cleave to from the very beginning to the very end of our writing journeys. Rather than developing and evolving over years of practise, our authority on the page reliant solely on the approval of one or two of the dreaded pasha Poetry Editors.

A majority of whom were unable to embrace the online revolution because it undermined their own roles of being the gate-keepers of 'good' poetry. That can only ever be the opinion of a person, expressed in varying degrees of eloquence and relevance. If, for example, a voice were to appear on the majority of social-media pages claiming they promote conversation and debate, The Poetry Society being the most obvious one, speaking the hot ass argot and sweary fuck off blah blah blah that Underwood finds so titillating in poetry, that voice would be deleted for being offensive; yet somehow the same banality in this prose-as-poetry, is lauded.'