I found myself inspired to write another piece that this poet of the everyday female experience was nominally the impulse creating its birth. In response to a response to a post on social-media, which quoted a sentence of a linked to recent short interview with her, that was published in the Irish Examiner: 'Poetry has always changed with the changing world': Eavan Boland keen for poetry to move with digital age.'
"But I’m afraid that society issues permissions to people to be a poet" oh gurl you speak truth. Love this woman!"I may well have wrongly interpreted this quote, based on the reaction to it, but certainly the author quoting it seemed to think that Boland's point is that women are still somehow facing similar challenges to the ones she faced starting out in what was a totally different Ireland:
"I did raise certain issues and the conversation changed but I'm afraid that society issues permissions to people to be a poet.And whilst it is very true, to quote the translation of a line from an ancient Irish law text, that: "tendaid breo tengaidh tuilbretha: the flame of the tongue kindles hasty judgments", the below text did end up documenting what I wanted, regardless of the accuracy of the initial impulse and assessment of what Boland meant or not in the above quote.
"What you worry about is that someone of great value, a woman, a person of colour, or someone disabled might think 'I couldn't do that or I don’t feel I have the permission to do that'. What you really want to do is to begin to try and change those permissions."
I thought that she was inferring that women are still at a cultural disadvantage in the world of contemporary poetry and writing. Which I do not at all think they are.
I repeat myself from the previous blog post for the first four paragraphs, after which the writing was worked into what it is now over the course of a day and a half. Returning and editing and expanding the text published as a live comment, and getting into a readable, if somewhat structurally dense format, the information I have held in my head for many years; but until recently, because it is such a sprawling and voluminous topic, found challenging to wrap spontaneously up and write into a coherent form.
The patriarchal theocracy Eavan Boland grew up in might have been the issuer of permission slips to be a poet in Ireland during de Valera's time and beyond, but not anymore.
There is now more than poetic and gender equality and parity across the board. For example, women, from the director to the editorial assistant, make up six-sevenths, or nearly 90% of the state-appointed and employed staff at the Official Verse Culture body of the republic, Poetry Ireland.
And this figure does not include Boland herself, who began with, as she stated, the "Irish nation as an existing construct in Irish poetry (that) was not available to" her when she started writing in the oppressively grim, dull, miserably bitter patriarchal theocracy of de Valera's Ireland.
But who is now sitting atop of the Irish Republic's poetry tree as its Official Verse Culture chooser in chief and Editor of Poetry Ireland's Poetry Ireland Review, directly deciding the state-sanctioned poems for inclusion into Official Ireland's flagship domestic and international poetry journal of global record and note.
A culturally inspiring and positive state of being when we consider that it is only in the last three decades that Irish society has from the often dark and barbarous past of recent tragic histories of oppression, cover up, scandal, and silencing by all the various implements of Church, organs of State, and the Ulster Troubles - emerged into a long overdue light of seismic social and economic change, spiritual growth, mass shifts of cultural consciousness, and now; full poetic and gender parity of opportunity across the board in the literary arts.
The only blind spot in all this fabulousness of total female administrative dominance of Official Verse Culture in Ireland, that "is committed to achieving excellence in the reading, writing and performance of poetry throughout the island of Ireland", and "securing a future for Irish poetry that is as celebrated as its past"; is that so few have much, if any, interest or knowledge of the past literary bardic and Filí poet Tradition.
One that existed for ten times longer than the contemporary post revolutionary Yeatsean model of modern Irish poetry.
Founded on the unequalled superlative Irish excellence of teaching the Auraicept na n-Éces, Precepts of Poetry, on a voluminous set-textual curriculum; that in the original Gaelic was delivered over twelve Samhain (Halloween) to Beltane (Mayday) semesters, and consists of a dizzying number of learning requirements.
That taught trained and turned out Irish and North British poets from the birth of vernacular writing in the 5-7C, to the swift and sudden collapse of literary Gaelic civilization in the 17C in Ireland and in the 18C in Scotland. This (1722) Dissertation by Thomas O'Sullevane contains (towards the end) one of the only surviving first hand witness accounts of the day to day doings of a (Scottish) bardic school in operation.
A long arduous, intellectually challenging and creatively joyful course of modular-like continual assessment; the classroom lessons of which happened in the form of a traditional question and answer catechistic style of rote memorized oral instruction, that was standard in the bardic schools and Poetry Colleges.
The only quibble I would have with this worthy and noble Official Verse Culture mission of ensuring modern bardic excellence is being promoted because the administrative mandarins want it to be "as celebrated as its past"; is that the past bardic tradition is nowhere to be seen being celebrated by the poets and principle cheerleaders of Irish poetry in the online age. But, in my view, has also to be celebrated and taught to the next generations, because if it is not there will be no one left to know exactly what it is.
The learning requirements of the three bardic sub-grades, of ollaire ("apple"), taman ("headless trunk"), drisac ("thornbard"); and from the second to twelfth year, the learning requirements of the seven literary filí poet grades.
Fochloc ("so called because their art is as slender as a (two leaved) sprig of brooklime, "fochlocain"); macfirmid ("son/child of composition"); dos (four leaved) "bush/shrub"); cano ("whelp"); clí ("pillar/ridgepole"); anruth ("noble stream"); and the final apical grade of Ollamh (poetry "professor").
With a very clear distinction made between the literary Filí poet who completed it in the minimum of twelve years it took when done thru the medium of its original language, Gaelic, (or the sixteen years it takes the 21C student when done in English translation)-; and the oral bards of live poetry and their fellow equivalent contemporary conductors of bardic letters on the modern mixed book and online page/s that do not permit themselves to learn the art and science of Irish letters on this set-textual course that forty generations of Irish and North British poets were taught and trained in the 'speckled art' of poetry on.
So called because their metrical compositions consisted of a mix of praise and satire. The etymological source of the word for poet, as the student learns in the Glossary of 1400 Irish words, and Ireland's first dictionary, compiled by 10C Munster cleric and petty royal king Cormac mac Cuilennáin: "Filí, from Fi, toxic in satire, and Li, splendor in praise; and it is various the poet speaks."
The contemporaries of which do not have a fixed set-textual path because the course of poet-training in the age of Facebook, Twitter and Instapoets can be anything from having completed a forty thousand euro a year's professional networking course at an Oxbreligious MFA (Toilet Paper) Poetry Centre, to attending a few expensive classes at the Poetry Brothel, Big Iambic Powtsleb Factory, the Happy Clappy Smiley Nicey Institute of Bardic Bog Standards; or any of the numerous other novelty modern poet-training methods that the self-taught bardic prophets of contemporary poetry market peddle promote sell and teach in their individually self-created and ubiquitous Makey Uppy Model of the Everything Is Poetry school; where any study and teaching of the real poetry programme and historic literary curriculum is conspicuous by its absence.
As we learn from a line in the ancient 8C status text on the various grades of poets, Sequel to Críth Gablach, "Sequel to Branched Purchase", translated by Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies Celtic Studies professor, Liam Breatnach, in The Poetic Grades in Early Irish Law (1987, p98.):
"Bard d(an)o: cin dliged fogluime is indtleacht fadeisin."
"A bard, then: without the prerogative of learning, but intellect alone."
And in the same text, according to the online Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language (eDIL): "a mbeith gan tothchusa / their being without qualifications", they are "dependent on intuition rather than training."
And as we are told by Professor Fergus Kelly of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, in his 1988 book, A Guide To Early Irish Law, that "gives a general account of legal practice in the seventh and eighth centuries with discussion of social background and later brehon' families": "the essential difference between the fili and the bard is the latter’s lack of professional training" on the recognized literary curriculum that taught forty continual generations of Gaelic Irish and North British poets.
And as the student learns from Provost of Trinity College, Dublin from 1927 to 1937, Edward Gwynn's posthumously published 1942 article on Bretha Nemed Déidenach, "The Last Bretha Nemed (‘Judgments of privileged persons’)" in Ériu xiii titled; "An Old-Irish Tract on the Privileges and Responsibilities of Poets":
Gé ni dleghar dona bardaibh eolus i ffedhaibh ina i ndeachuibh dlegar doibh a cubhaid techta do urmuisi, do aithne fria cluais aignedh.
"Though the bards are not required to have a knowledge of letters and syllables [or versefeet], they must be able to distinguish and recognise correct consonance by ear and by thought."
Bretha Nemed Déidenach is one of the two principal surviving remnants of the celebrated Old Irish Bretha Nemed law school, believed to have been written in the early eighth century in Munster. The sole surviving copy is part of Trinity College, Dublin MS 1317 H.2.15B, and was transcribed by Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh; one of the final traditionally trained Gaelic scholars from a scholarly northern Connacht family; a translator, historian and genealogist who died in 1671.
And whose most well known book was published in 2004, more than three-hundred years after it had been written: Leabhar na nGenealach, The Great Book of Irish Genealogies.
"A bard, then: without the prerogative of learning, but intellect alone", is not a literary poet "fobith na frithgnat / because they do not study", the eDIL also tells us in one of the many citations of ancient texts for the page-filled word "bard".
Citing this second part of the above line ("because they do not study") as being in the second volume of Swiss linguist and Celticist Rudolf Thurneysen's great four volume masterwork on Irish metrics, translated from 10th and 11th century Middle Irish into German from the mass of metrical material in the Book of Ballymote.
Mittelirische Verslehren II ("Middle Irish Versification II"), also known as Córus bard cona bairdni ("The hierarchy of bards with its bardic composition/craft - bairdne"), the precised contents of which are in the table of learning requirements prefacing George Calder's seminal 1917 English translation of the four primary critical bardic books contained in the Medieval Irish and North British student poet's primary critical text, aka, Handbook of the Learned, Auraicept na n-Éces.
Thurneysen aided in his endeavor by fellow 20th and 19C Celticist without whom the Yeatsean greatness of modern Irish verse would not have happened, Whitely Stokes.
That covers everything in the science of Irish verse from the meters specific to each of the sixteen grades of bards in the two classifications of Sóer ("Free") Bard, and Dóer ("Servile") Bard, to the learning requirements, meters and fees charged by each individual grade of literary Filí poet for their compositions.
When bardic intellects "without the prerogative of learning" the trade on the twelve/sixteen year curriculum, are devoid of curiosity for the Filí curriculum, ignorant of Auraicept na n-Éces, the Precepts of Poetry, they can and often will wander directionless without a formal discipline imposed by this felicitously fixed literary course.
And without knowledge of the basics; amorphous, orderless, at a perpetual beginner's level, the tenth-grade ollaire remains an "apple" at the bottom of Her island's courtly poetry tree.
As we learn from one of the glosses in Uraicecht na Ríar ('Primer of Stipulations'), the Old Irish law tract on the status of poets, describing the ollaire as: fuirseoir gan dán - "a buffoon without skill"; whose specific metre was buaingnech, from the root word for "drinking cup", and a satirical composition due a payment of nothing at all.
One that has not transitioned through the twenty-tale learning requirements of the three bardic sub-grades: ollaire, taman, drisac, and without even knowledge of the two-leaved fochloc, "their art as slender as a sprig of brooklime" facing upward to diligently climb five more literary grades of poetic wisdom, before reaching the "noble stream" of the penultimate literary grade of Anruth: "at the heart and in the middle of their disciples who are learning from them."
Said to be named for four reasons; that we learn from the scholar of Irish linguistics and uncle of Dalkey novelist, Maeve; in D.A. Binchy's translation of a 16C copy of a 7C legal tract Edward Lhuyd acquired from Ó Gnímh (Agnew, a bard belonging to the O'Neill of Clannaboy), published in Volume II (of VII) Corpus Iuris Hibernici, Early Irish Law, informing the Reader that the Anruth is known for: "the splendor of their teaching, for the numerousness of their interpretations, for the eloquence of their speech, for the extent of their knowledge. Indeed they are found in each division of learning, whether poetry or Latin learning, or historical learning, the only thing being that they have not reached the summit."
Boland herself is on record as stating she was put off this very male Gaelic poetry tradition that has no female role models in it, and has no life-long interest in it, and I assume no real knowledge of it, because she was repelled from the Irish bardic tradition because there are no women poets in it, and more importantly, perhaps, by all the patronising patriarchal pseudo-poets in the Dublin pubs when she was a young person.
These poets, as most are today, were wholly ignorant of the textual nuts and bolts of the bardic tradition, having not read many if even any of the texts themselves; but, as poets today do, pretended they were experts on it to those without any experience or knowledge.
And so, I am speculating, perhaps what turned one of Ireland's most significant female poets off all this ancient learning is that she mistakenly associated the poets in the pubs' complete ignorance of it, hidden behind their patronizing boasts and claims about being experts in and from the bardic tradition -; with what the actual reality of the Tradition's set-textual curriculum would be like and is.
Like a young person put off becoming a doctor if they met in the pub a collective of conmen who were really a team of toilet attendants, telling them they are all brain surgeons, and although the gullible newb believes them, their instinct feeling something isn't right, they decide, "urrgh, I am not gonna study medicine because it is all men and the subject matter must turn out everyone to be just like these w*nkers".
That is how Boland would have felt, I am speculating. The previous generation of misogynist patriarchal poets in the pub of theocratic Ireland couldn't easily access the texts and translations of the curriculum unless they were part of a tiny network of Old Irish academics at Trinity and UCD who did have access to the originals and translations.
And today it is the same, as the majority of poets across the world and in Ireland know little and seem to care less about the historic reality of this curriculum, and how it can serve as an example of attaining excellence in the field of letters without needing the permission of anyone at all but ourself to undertake it. And only an internet connection and computer to do so.
And apart from the traditional poets in the pub and bluffing bards of our online whirl claiming this tradition as their own, like someone with only ten words of Irish and more front than Youghal harbour can fool the tourists into believing they are native speakers, sadly the arts administrators of Official Verse Culture, whose role it is to put bums on seats, take their cue from them.
Realistically it was impossible to even dream of undertaking this course and learning the Tuatha De Danann trade of the people of the goddess Art on the unimprovable original curriculum, until 2001; when the individual texts that make up this voluminous set-textual curriculum began becoming easily accessible online for anyone with an internet connection to access, read, and learn their trade with, on this superlative unequalled course and educational journey of the mind.
And after sixteen years repetitive cerebral ingestion, scholarly study and write-thru, the student will come to hold in their head and heart all of it; with each piece of the jigsaw fallen fully into its correct place and the entire curriculum complete, with all I's dotted and T's crossed: "That is a poet whose qualifications are complete and genuine, who is not found to be perplexed in the mass of their craft." (Uraicecht na Ríar: The poetic grades in early Irish law, translation Liam Breatnach, 1987.)
And so the course of this learning the art and science of Irish letters is also a journey of the intellect, imagination, and spiritually gender-neutral individual student's mind s/he, beginning at the bottom satirical bardic subgrade, fit only for mockery, an ollaire ("apple"), that is glossed in one of the poetico-legal texts as an "apish scorner" engaged in "the bastard sport of the juggler's apple"; and the learning requirements of which were the memorization of three tales.
Then memorizing the seven compositions that were the learning requirement of the second bardic subgrade, the taman ("headless trunk"), glossed in the Uraicecht na Ríar, "Primer of Stipulations", as: "trunk" "stock" (of a tree), that "assaults everyone with their recitations", "do not make the apportioning of the truth", "oppress the chiefs of the court", and "spew their brute mouthfuls".
"Do-fairce nath nemtius, do-fuasluice laid laogha, ni toipgither tresa tamun - "a nath (poem in the meter by Anruth grade) brings about privilege, a laíd (poem meter specific to the Dos ("bush") grade of poet) releases calves; the compositions of a taman do not levy anything."
And from spewing their brute mouthfuls and oppressing the chiefs of court, s/he the mind of the student poet moves on to memorizing another ten texts that were the learning requirement of the final bardic subgrade, drisac ("thornbard"); so called because their recitations "stick in the face of all".
After which they moved into the second year of the course undertaking the learning requirement of the first literary grade, fochloc.
So this ancient learning is a moving in the mind from the start point of being an unlearned buffoonish apple spitting only satirical slop, to becoming after many years slog a warm inclusive ollav speaking in song their anamain praise of the people of the goddess Art.
Sixteen years of scholarly methodical study, keeping faith in the fact that the ancient curriculum is the most historically authentic set-textual poet-training method one can cleave to and trust in a world of contemporary poetry, and everything eventually comes right and the graduate can get to work doing what s/he loves.
Praising in speech and talking in letters about "securing a future for Irish poetry that is as celebrated as its past"; by ensuring everyone has access to the facts of the bardic tradition; and advocating for the island-wide dissemination of our island's unimprovable original route to the golden ollavic circle of excellence in eloquence, and the elegance in printed performance which hard won can come by hard work to every other person in the world born with the gift of poetry.
As we learn from the mouth attributed to the bard of the Milesians, Amergin Glúingel, in the title-less Irish Ars Poetica text in the Book of Ballymote that Tradition accords his name. Not needing a title because it was introduced to the student poet at the beginning of their studies and it was so well known as the founding ars poetica text of the Tradition, it didn't need a title.
And was only first translated to and published in English in 1979 by PL Henry, as Cauldron of Poesy; due to the three cauldrons described therein; one of which, Coire Ermae, which Henry translates as the Cauldron of Motion, is the one which dictates whether or not a person is born with the gift for poetry; one in every two people being born with it.
The relevant part in the prose section of the bardic Ars Poetica translated first into English only in 1979, tells its original Reader the Irish and North British poetry student; that the cauldron of Ermae is "born face downward in every second person, i.e., in the ignorant". Those that are born without an innate gift for language and poetry because the mechanism to effect it is switched off. Which is the perfect number really, when you are trying to inspire people asking do I have 'it', the talent, and one in two is a very generous number and sounds about right. Fifty percent of everyone born with the innate ability to become a world class poet.
So if you exercise the gift enough, if you have the willpower, you can become an Ollamh at the end of the set textual training and the superlative grade poetry professor if you exercise and train the gift properly. Like Roy Keane, not a particularly outstanding soccer player as a small boy, but his will, his spirit, made him one of the most decorated soccer legends in the world.
Often cited by numerous players as the world's best midfielder; not so much for his natural ability, but for his brain being able to spontaneously read, adapt and outwit opposing players, that coupled with his diminutive though fearless physical presence, dominated games, set their tempo, and conducted the winning side on the field of play.
A winner with a champion's experience and mentality, his leadership skills on the pitch were globally renowned. Ireland's greatest ever player. How many Keanos were born with more natural talent, who were bigger, were blessed with a better natural physical ability, but who didn't have the wit, drive and will and who never played a professional game in their lives?
And so we can learn how any one in two people born with the gift that permits themself to read and learn the texts, can reach for, work to achieve, and having done so, enter the Heaneyesque golden circle of ollavic understanding by the power of their words alone; as the Ballaghy bard did, without needing to send in a submission or seek the acknowledgement, praise, permission, promotion, publication, or validation of a single solitary human being in the world other than oneself, yourself, the person with the gift giving ourselves permission to reach the mountaintop with whatever literate historical reality there is which we discover and use to get there.
The most sensible one for the modern bard, in my opinion, is the unimprovable original twelve year curriculum in English translation, that will set you up for life. And it is such a long apprenticeship, the would be literary poet has plenty of time to learn and discover if it is right or not for them. If s/he the individual is suited to this course of study, and if they are going to end up in the occupation of spiritual praise poetry the end of the journey leads one to practicing as a mind that cherishes and praises the memory of this island O Ireland of fiction and beauty, here in our heads, tongue and hearts always kind and inclusive, warm, tolerant and welcoming those less well off who can't do it, singing our memorial angelic mouth-music.
Ermae appears again in the four-section Cauldron of Poesy text, consisting of thirty lines of prose gloss and seventy of rosc, as the subject of the two short lines of etymological gloss on the final word of the third section of the text, consisting of thirty-six lines of 7C rosc.
The full line: "Arcain coire ermoi"
Henry has rendered ermoi as 'sings', and the line itself as 'the cauldron of motion sings'.
Whereas current Old Irish Ollamh Érenn, Liam Breatnach, who translated an expanded version of it a year later, including the commentaries that weren't translated by Henry, publishing it in Ériu 32 (1981): 45–93, has rendered its literal translation: "I acclaim the Cauldron of Érmae".
As noted, earlier in the prose section Henry translates coire ermae in the literal term of Cauldron of Motion.
Breatnach translates the etymological gloss:
"What is the érmae? Not difficult; an artistic 'noble turning' or an artistic 'after-turning', or an 'artistic course', i.e., it confers knowledge and status and honour after being converted."
We can imagine this as the nobility and spiritual dignity and honour the act of writing an inspired poem or text confers on the praise poet of the higher grades. And concords with one of the four bardically human Joys the second prose section enumerates (1): the joy of the binding poetic principle.
Which Breatnach translates as: "the joy at the prerogatives of poetry after studying it well.."
Whilst Henry translates it as: "joy over the law of poetry after diligently applying it.."
The sense of quiet joyful inner peace and contentment one experiences after finishing a piece of well-written poetry or prose.
The other three bardic joys are (2) sex, (3) what Erynn Rowan Laurie translates as: the "joy of fitting poetic frenzy".
Which is the joy experienced when in the white hot compositional center drawing letters from the inner Well of Segais and imagination and fashioning them closest to thought, bringing to life a piece of brilliant writing that gets peoples fingers clicking and their mouths a whoopin' 'n' a hollering at the various heats of the twelfth annual All Ireland Slam, Spoken Word & Live Poetry Championships this fall. (See Facebook Page for details).
And a very apt one of the four bardic joys and most relevant in the modern age of social-media with its prevalence of unkind and hateful speech (4): "the Joy of health untroubled in the abundance of goading one receives who takes up the prosperity of bardcraft".
The joy of being able to study write and publish in the modern era not caring what others think, say or do to your face or behind your back to blackguard, exclude, sabotage, and shut you out in the hope of seeing you fail, fall, be unhappy, stop writing and publishing altogether and give them a laugh doing so. Laughing in the faces of the rival bardic haters and trolls' green-eyed emotions frothing in the eight classifications of base-born unfree doer-bards of the lowest oral order.
The authentic model, all there in black and white, all ye gotta do is reach out online, spin the word 'bard' through a search engine, read how this oral guild evolved out from the druids at the birth of vernacular Irish letters in the Ogham alphabet, and from there learn how the bard became the literary Filí trained on an exhaustively comprehensive set-textual programme.
No permission needed, only a desire to learn it, free to access what texts in their original and English translation are published online, stick at it and attain whatever grade you end up at.
There is another Old Irish poetico-legal tract, Uraicecht Becc / "The Small Primer'", composed in the heavily alliterative rosc style that is the first form of poetry written in Ireland, and which details in the greatest breadth the various honor-prices, obligations, privileges, rights and responsibilities of the many grades and ranks of clerical, commoner and privileged persons in ancient Irish society. Founded on the principles of an immediate four-generation family unit of the Derbfine, banded together into tribe, clan, and the smallest political geographical unit of the tuatha.
According to Fergus Kelly's Guide to Early Irish Law, one hundred and fifty of which, each with three-thousand members, made up a quilted island-wide patchwork of ever-shifting tribal loyalties and allegiances, in a pastoral culture of seasonal rhythmic existence, cattle-raiding and continual petty warfare between various tribes living a thousand years out of sync with the European mainland due to the legions of Rome not reaching and colonizing the island.
And we learn that the poetry student who was successful in their vocation and graduated at the top grade is described in Uraicecht Becc as: "An ollam i.e. greatly s/he protects i.e. great is what their rod of security protects (while travelling) across tuaths ... Or an ollam i.e. a great cave i.e. a cave which under a cliff: as that is impossible to attack likewise it is impossible to ‘attack’ the ollam on account of them having the four peaks of knowledge of poetry."
Echoed in the entry for the word in clerical Munster royal and poet Cormac mac Cuilennáin's 10C Glossary: "Olldam i.e. great their retinue, the twenty- four. Otherwise ollam i.e. a cliff-cave i.e. as it is difficult to attack a cave which is underneath a cliff or to approach a cave which is underneath a cliff thus it is difficult to ‘attack’ the craft and learning of the poet."
As the Primer of Stipulations states you too become with nobody's permission but your own: "A great sage then, s/he does not apolgize for their ignorance of anything in the four divisions of learnedness" (traditionally History, Latin, Gaelic Lore/Law & Poetry).
An ancient course of superlative Irish and North British poetry learning open to all who are born with the gift of language and possess the wit, will, desire and touch of the maternal faery magic that causes us to dream the impossible, and by the power of love alone make manifest what once was the living cultural nobility of literary learning bestowed from this earthly human light of otherworldly excellence singing from the warm kind side of the mind cherishing in the memorial mouth-music our ever loving spiritual mother muse all Her.