Thursday, October 13, 2016

Poem of the Week, Dragonfly, by William Stanley Merwin.

The choice of this poem from this second new Bloodaxe collection on the trot, is a sterling poem in a modernist punctuation-less form that flows vurrih vorrih verrih verrih wull, and has only two instances of surprise in one's own eye and ear.

The first one at the beginning of the fifth line, as though they were memory / now there are grown-ups hurrying; that is clearly a new sentence. And in the absence of punctuation, reading across the enjambment the Reader's ear and eye naturally carries over a forward thinking impetus assuming that the meaning is to carry across to the beginning of line five; but s/he the Reader is pulled up short by the lack of punctuation.

And so instead of one reading onward the eye halts in confusion and returns to the start of the line to endure a micro-intellectual exercise of finding the meaning and carrying on.

The other instance is the same thing of reading across the enjambment, aware by now and on the lookout for changes in meaning, when s/he lands with another thud on a statement that is not only an unflagged new, and concluding sentence, but one that felt very out of sync with what the eye had been reading.

In the sense that perhaps one was expecting some consoling positive conclusion to the poem, but instead one's eye and ear arrived at there will be no one to remember us, thinking, woah! what's all this about and where's all that come from?

Immediately one is aware that this is not perhaps the effect the voice is intending to create. One in which the poem, in this Reader's apprehension of it, is rendered not very memorable at the final line.
Merwin is after all an American master and legend publishing since before many of us were born, and perhaps it is one's own lack of poetic perceptiveness and literary training in letters that is unable to immediately grasp something that is there, but one's own intellectual deficiency means it goes over my head and I am missing the very thing the poem is all about.

I do not know. I do know that there's a lot of abstract verbs and conjoining words threaded together in a very challenging and high level abstract meaning, where all the action is occurring cerebrally, within the mind of, not only a dragonfly, which is a tough call to get right, but the mind of an ethereal narrator made of disembodied genderless spirit, and very much tucked behind everything as a disembodied spirit voice of some all perceiving narrator that, by the sounds of the speech, is supposed to be imparting something deeply profound in the manner of whiskey and strong spirits, poetically speaking.

Because we are at heart good people and worshippers of the good people from the Aos Sí.

Merwin's faery hand guiding to write this poem, is so different from the average local faery-loving dreamers' in la la land here, that tho challenging to respond to in as plain and crude a way as one used to here when I was still a werking-klaws voice, it can with care and consideration for language itself be negotiated to a handy voice of stability and honest integral loving memory-keeping on the right side of the faery lore that one strives to achieve today, fifteen years further up the road and route to Her that really I think poetry is all about. What we seek to praise.

And in this poem She seems totally absent.

The end line is suggestive of a voice that is resigned there is no spiritual Mag Mell, Plain of ever-living joy, Tir na Og, land of the every living youth, and so in its place there is an absence of this conceptual spiritual heaven and a nothingness, insect-like, aloof, warm, spiritless state which perhaps the voice in the poem is trying to get across to the Reader?
I enjoyed most of the poem, but was expecting, or perhaps more hoping, it would end on salutation, a declaration of poetic faith, a deepening of it, and not the abandonment of it exhibited here in this week's poem-voice number nearly five hundred.

Thanks Carol & Mr. Merwin. May we all go to heaven in a shared rowing boat and find there our faery one with Her loving warm embrace of light-loving home leading s/he through a trans-migration of the soul She is and we all return to.

The voice of Liam Stanley in this poem this week, seeming to believe otherwise.
I dunno.

50/50 is the bardic poetic balancing act between satire and praise, Fili/poet toxic in one splendorous in tuvva, and it is various the poet speaks, as Cormac tells us eleven hundred years ago in the Kingdom of Munster.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Naming of Solitary Art

Art's brother, Connla, is sat at the side
of his father on the summit of Uisnech,

Conn Cétchathach, Conn of the Hundred Battles.

Seeing an unfamiliar woman of otherworldly
bearing, beauty, mien, and dress, Connla asks:

'Whence have you come, O maiden unknown to us?'

"From the land of an ever living joy, eternal
faery feast, free from all guilt. A host of Aos Sí

with no inner strife, and harmonious in spirit,
I come from the good people of peace."

'Who are you talking to?' Conn of the Hundred
Battles asks his son; and with none but Connla

seeing the woman wholly spirit, She replies:

"He's talking with the Leanan Sídhe
ever young and beautiful, from a family

of Mag Mell people without old age or death.
I love Connla and am summoning him home

to the Plain of Delights; without sorrow or grief
since Bóadag the everlasting was crowned king.

Come with me, handsome sun-kissed
speckled-cheeked Connla; nut-skin pink-faced,

golden-haired, kingly-hued prince.
Come with me to where beauty and youth does

not perish until druidic judgement day."

All, without seeing her, hear the faery woman.


Conn tells his poet:

'O Corann of great druidic art and song
an otherworldly demand has been voiced that is

beyond my capacity to resist. Unprecedented,
a contest in otherworldly forms has now begun.

One that seeks to deceive and seize the mind
of my first born son, and carry off the child

from my kingly land by some Sith's witchcraft.'

Corann chanted a geisa that in everyone's ear
and in Connla's, silenced the woman’s voice,

and from his eyes she disappeared out of form.

As she left she threw to Connla an apple,
and thereafter the prince fell silent. Left

with only a longing to meet again the eternal
ever-living She his ear and eye had briefly

apprehended; dreaming alone of her, he nourishes
solely on the apple; and the very act of eating

it, keeps the otherworldly apple whole.

For a month without food or drink, and fed only
on Her magic fruit, his longing for this once

seen woman of the Sídhe deepens with every bite.


On the morning a month after; Connla is at his

father’s side in the plain of Arcommin,
when She appears, approaches, stops and & speaks:

"Grandly Connla again you sit surrounded
by the short-lived, hopelessly awaiting death.

The ever-living folk want you with us, earthly
mortal champion of the beings who behold you

daily in assemblies on your father's island.
You amidst family and friends. Me your beloved."

As Conn Cétchathach hears the woman’s voice
he tells a retinue of twelve druidic courtiers:

'Get the poet to me. The silence his spell set,
the geisa, has been today cast off from her.'

Whereupon She said:

"O Conn of the Hundred Battles, do not love
druidry. Presently the wise Queen’s fair noble

and righteous one with many wondrous followers
will reach Her judgements. Our law soon will

come to you. It will destroy all the base-taught
spells of bards without learning facing the dark

bewitching Devil softly whispering spoken song." 

Conn is perturbed that Connla will only speak
when the spirit woman from Mag Mell is present.

'Have the words of this Sidhe woman gone under
your mind, O Connla?' asks his son, who replies:

'Not easy is it for me here. I love our people
yet a madman's whisp of desire for this woman

has seized and now consumes me.'

She says:

"Come Connla encounter and fulfill your longing
away from here, towards the sea. Sail a crystal

boat and find the peace of Bóadag with me
on another isle, not the nearest one to reach.

Look the sun is setting, and though far, Mag
Mell, the land of eternal beauty joy and youth,

we shall by nightfall be where the mind of all
whom the island encompasses, it gladdens.

No race but beautiful women and maidens there.”

Thereupon Connla leaps from this earthly realm
and into a pure crystal coracle and ships his mind

and body off to an eternity of joy, watched
by mournful eyes as far as their vision could

follow the flight of Connla's imramm-voyage over
the sea, to where they are not seen thereafter.

Conn then said on seeing Art, 'Art is alone
today, because here he has no more a brother.'

'What you have said is an utterance of substance.'
Said Corann.'

“The name upon him forever is Art the Solitary.”

Thus it was how this name was struck and stuck
to him hereafter and forevermore.


Echtra Condla. The Adventures of Connla the Fair. Lebor na hUidre. Book of the Dun Cow. With thanks to Kim McCone's, and all the other translations, consulted when working up this poem.