I have a few more things to say about Dancing With Myself. The perspective adopted by the author of a sonnet does not have to be a youthful one, but it tends to be. The youthful voice, exploring feelings of confinement, isolation, or (conversely, as in Keats' sonnets) euphoria and expansiveness, tends to hit us with a sense of something bubbling over or overflowing. The protagonist of Dancing with Myself adopts, uncommonly, a weathered voice and perspective, a voice already scarred by a lifetime of painful experience, even if the voice still believes in the redemptive powers of love and companionship. I think of Wordsworth and "The world is too much with us...", probably the gravest, most profound sonnet of the nineteenth century; my exiled-from-paradise protagonist shares with Wordsworth's the sense of disenchantment and alienation from the dreary intercourse of daily life and its vagaries. Yet the melancholy of age and experience vie here with the poignant sense of not-yet-atrophied emotional responsiveness, and not-yet-atrophied intellectual curiosity to go right along with it. This protagonist is weathered but not defeated.
Another bizarre Romanticism tangent, this time to Keats' Odes: the protagonist of Dancing with Myself finds himself exploring all the silence and slow time he needs, as Keats' does when he beholds his Grecian Urn.What these sonnets are drained of is the sense of original innocence engraved into the urn; that the urn celebrates youth, ecstasy, conflict, faith, and mythology, and Keats ricochets them back into his poem, mirroring the themes reckoned, adding his own gloss and prosodic richness; while Dancing with Myself explores age and aging processes, keeping the conflict, faith, and mythology, losing the youth and ecstasy. Part of the aged or weathered quality of the Dancing with Myself sonnets are expressed in their approach to form: rather than aping the Romantics, as a younger poet might, I employ what I call "clustering" or semi-formal techniques. Thus, I avoid the merely imitative, and express the maturity of a poet who can make formal compromises towards the creation of new forms.
As I've recounted elsewhere, the middle portion of When You Bit..., Dancing with Myself (mp3 locked in here PennSound), was completed in 2007 but then had to be scrapped and re-written in the spring of '08. Listening to how this twenty sonnet cycle worked out, it strikes me that the ambivalence of the protagonist, how he is on a hook he might or might not want to be on, is the dominant theme or motif which emotionally charges the piece with pathos, longing. That pathos and that longing, expressed both directly and with imagery/metaphor, raises Dancing with Myself above the first and third sections of the book (Sister Lovers and Two of Us) so that it is the most fit to stand alone.
In terms of where the Dancing with Myself protagonist is headed: if he cannot admit how many bets he is hedging about what confronts him in this relationship he's had to push (briefly) to the side (this is in "Palliative"), it is because he probably cannot decide himself how many bets need to be hedged himself. The construction crew grinding away at pavement on 21st Street ("Whiskey"), and how this protagonist "lives in his churned guts," both make visceral the cognitive-affective meat-grinder he's been placed into. Yet, looking at Dancing with Myself in relation to the history of the sonnet, other meat-grinders, which have ensnared the likes of Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder and Sir Philip Sidney, have tended towards more of a sense of grievance and complaint. Wyatt and Sidney whine, where I offer up resignation. Lingering in the back, also, is the issue of duration; how long can I get this love-object to commit to me? While Dancing with Myself is more than loosely based on a situation which really did happen to, and isolate, me, I will leave it to my readers and listeners to decide whether the sonnets justify the suffering or not. That, by the way, is one function the sonnet has as a poetic form (more than, say, an ode or an elegy): to let a protagonist show us why and how he or she is suffering, and then to ask us to accept and bless or sanctify their suffering in an embrace of the literary moment.
Though no sustained narrative buoys it up, “Apparition Poems” is meant to be sprawling, and epic. An American epic, even one legitimate on world levels, could only be one made up of disparate, seemingly irreconcilable parts— such a state of affairs being America’s, too. The strains which chafe and collide in “Apparition Poems” are discrete— love poems, carnal poems, meta-poems, philosophical poems, etc. Forced to cohabitate, they make a clang and a roar together (or, as Whitman would have it, a “barbaric yawp”) which creates a permanent (for the duration of the epic) sense of dislocation, disorientation, and discomfort. This is enhanced by the nuances of individual poems, which are often shaped in the dialect of multiple meanings and insinuation. Almost every linguistic sign in “Apparition Poems” is bifurcated; either by the context of its relationship to other linguistic signs in the poems, or by its relationship to the epic whole of the book itself. If “Apparition Poems” is an epic, it is an epic of language; the combative adventure of multiple meanings, shifting contexts and perspectives, and the ultimate despair of the incommensurability of artful utterance with practical life in an era of material and spiritual decline. It is significant that the poems are numbered rather than named; it emphasizes the fragmentary (or apparitional) nature of each, its place in a kind of mosaic, rather than a series of wholes welded together by chance or arbitrary willfulness (as is de rigueur for poetry texts).
This is the dichotomy of “Apparition Poems”— epics, in the classical sense, are meant to represent continuous, cohesive action— narrative continuity is essential. “Apparition Poems” is an epic in fragments— every poem drops us, in medias res, into a new narrative. If I choose to call “Apparition Poems” an epic, not in the classical (or Miltonic) sense but in a newfangled, American mode (which nonetheless maintains some classical conventions), it is because the fragments together create a magnitude of scope which can comfortably be called epic. The action represented in the poems ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the heroic to the anti-heroic; there are dramatic monologues set amidst the other forms, so that the book never strays too far from direct and directly represented humanism and humanistic endeavor. The American character is peevish if not able to compete— so are the characters here. Life degenerates into a contest and a quest for victory, even in peaceful or solitary contexts. Yet, if the indigenous landscape is strange and surrealistic, it is difficult to maintain straightforward competitive attitudes— consciousness has to adjust while competing, creating a quandary away from the brazen singularity which has defined successful, militaristic America in the world.
Suddenly, American consciousness is beleaguered by shifting sands and multiple meanings— an inability, not only to be singular but to perceive singular meanings. Even as multiplications are resisted, everything multiplies, and often into profit loss, rather than profit gain. The epic, fragmentary narrative of “Apparition Poems” is a down-bound, tragic one, rather than a story of valor or heroism. The consolation for loss of material consonance is a more realistic vision of the world and of human life— as a site of/for dynamism, rather than stasis, of/for multiplicity, rather than singularity. “Apparition Poems” is a vista into “multiple America” from Philadelphia, its birth-place, and a city beleaguered also by multiple visions of itself. No city in America has so much historical heft; nor did any American city suffer so harsh a demotion in the brutally materialistic twentieth century. Yet, as “Apparition Poems” suggests, if a new America is to manifest in the twenty-first century, it might as well begin in Philadelphia. If the epic focuses on loss followed by more loss, rather than eventual, fulsome triumph, then so be it. And if “Apparition Poems” as fragmentary epic imposes a lesson, it is this— the pursuit of singularity in human life is a fool’s game; the truth is almost always, and triumphantly, multiple. If multiple meanings are difficult to assimilate, there can still be no recourse to anything else, for the scrupulous-minded and cognizant.
They say it's some barbaric banker
in Athens, Berlin, Dublin, London,
New York, LA California;
not your average American gangster.
'It wasn't the Klan or the Skin heads Or them that blows up' different 'Churches, reincarnates us on Death Row',
But Bush, Rove, West, Limbaugh, Beck
Trump, Palin; and the rest of the fanatics
Cast on the wrong side of history, failing,
Exposed, the ignoble motives & forgettable
Lie upon lie of McCarthyen Propaganda.
24/7 falsifying public records, forged
By the immensely unimportant human ego,
Senators, governors, chiefs Of police, FBI,
CIA, State Dept, reach in illogical costume
inhumane reasoning, the lowest moral order
and poorest sanity,
Most of humanity leasing happiness
Freedom, democracy, in empires of potentates,
Hidden kings embodying powers in the blocks
Of billions they stole. Somebody stole America
A witless moron with wealthy parents
Bringing yawl tha good ol' Geronimo vibe;
Cartels and cabals plundering Columbia
Dumbocretin dem and repugnicon sneering
English we do not speak, beckoning away,
Away with Columbia's gilt, Kansas city
Banks, masses of private capital living
Breathing federal transfers of bullion
Murmuring in micro-second millions, in a blink
Numberless billions and far fetched trillions,
Olowalu, Ottawa, Oklahoma; everywhere it is
Printed, the financial system; somebody stole
It; a handful of assholes, somebody stole
America, Fort Knox, Greenwich Village, Dylan's
Soul, Hartford, Halifax, happiness, blessings,
fantastically eloquent experts on all things
modo, of the moment, contemporary American
talkers in bright bold mush, cool, detached
and lofty orators, aping toobs, ranting fools
bring it back, bring it back, bring it back
exquisitely conducted on philosophical branches
of inquiry in the salons of Cyberville.
The mannered dictions, outrageous positions,
sheer affronted vitality reflecting, perhaps,
metaphorical masters and mistresses of ancient
Cree deities, knowers of Graeco-Roman gods
from Apollo to Zeus, Eamhain, of the Apple trees
of swans and yew trees, Emerson, Eliot and Poe
tu-wit tu-wooing an American conundrum
conflating in flyte what is wrong or is right,
correct or inaccurate, kerching kerching kerching
O the memory of it sings, city shining on a high
and hollow hill, America be true, America be
brave, Columbia come wipe away our original
stain of Slavery, tears, culture, sanitize our founding
facts, transmute to modern American myth, God-
father, Pulp Fiction, inhabitants of darkness, noir
ma, on top o the world, a saintly scholar mam,
the noble arted one, hallowed jangling scripture
with conviction, true make our dream become.
That language, used to create musical effects in poetry, is not arbitrary; does, in fact, depend on meaningful or artful arrangement to establish and consolidate its effects; chafes against the confines of Deconstructionist discourse. The Deconstructionist commonplace, derived from Saussure- that linguistic signifiers are arbitrary (and this dictum is usually presented as iron-clad)- does not deal adequately with either the musical potentialities of language, or how they have already manifested significantly in the lyrical poems produced both by French Symbolism and English Romanticism. Deconstructionism is notoriously soft on dealing with poetry in general- key texts like Roland Barthes The Pleasures of the Text lean heavily on fiction, as Barthes deals (for example) with Proust and Robbe-Grillet rather than Baudelaire. Poetry, especially lyrical poetry, is a direct threat to the sanctioned discourses of Deconstructionism- as a tactile, manifest testament to not-arbitrary language (which advertises, in both its intentions and its effects, its own artfulness and non-arbitrary quality), created by individuals, often to make metaphysical inquiries, and to induce sensual, visceral cognitive pleasure and enchantment simultaneously.
Lyrical poetry signifies a set of imperatives or complexes- aesthetic interests which, when fulfilled, can appear serendipitous without stumbling into the disarray of the random; and, the more exquisite the verbal music produced, the less random it seems. The materiality of this kind of text (be it Keats or Baudelaire) has its own meaning and purpose indigenous to it; it is self-sustaining and self-justifying, and manifests its purpose in its own material subsistence. Deconstructionists would, if they could, disavow lyricism; however, to disavow lyricism is to disavow all music; to discard Keats and Baudelaire would be to discard Bach and Beethoven, as well. Music can be justified qua music or qua language. Roland Barthes leaning heavily on fiction is suspect- both because fiction reinforces master narratives (of cohesiveness, of reality) of human life which may be false, and because novelistic language does not have the hinge to being irreplaceable, singular, individual which accomplished lyricism does. Unless Deconstructionism in the twenty-first century can develop a discursive chiasmus with poetry and the lyrical, there will remain suspicions that the motivations of/for Deconstructionist discourse are destructive, rather than creative ones; and that the Deconstructionist elevation of fiction over poetry has in it the contradiction of willful ignorance of musical language (melopoeia) which, in both its motivations and its effects, is not arbitrary. It is another frightening realization of an alignment between Deconstructionism and post-modernity- an alignment based, metaphorically speaking, on killing.
It is natural that the burgeoning twenty-first century have some questions for the remnants of the twentieth. To re-interrogate Deconstructionism, its aims and ethos: would it be transgressive to inquire whether certain Deconstructionist formulations employ roughly the same imperative spread-sheet employed by post-modernists and post-modernism? If Deconstructionism and post-modernism do share a number of imperatives, will that create a conception of Deconstructionism acceptable to us in the humanities now? These questions would not arise in my consciousness unless I harbored suspicions that The Death Of The Author, the dissolution of the constitutive subject, and there is nothing outside the text might have been meant perhaps more literally then some have supposed. As in, the Deconstructionist game consisted, at least partly, of wiping out the potentialities of individuals and individual authorship, and obliterating (as post-modernism did, in destroying both aesthetic formality and metaphysical inquiry) any sense for the potentialities of being an individual against conglomerate interests at all. These are dark surmises, and may end as nothing more, just as looking for depth consonance beneath the surface of Deconstructionist textuality may or may not find anything jeweled, behind the veneer of crabbed hermeticism which constitutes most Deconstructionist texts. They may be games against metaphysical inquiry or not, and indicate whether Deconstructionism amounts, at least in part, to a disguised, baroque-seeming enforcement of post-modern rigor against aesthetic formality, metaphysical inquiry, and the potentialities of the individual against society.
I am thinking of these things as I continue my own inquiry into values around aesthetic formality, via examination of Keats' Odal Cycle. Keats has his own, individual manner of enforcing the form of his forms; how he makes the Odes preen (and I do not wish to use "preen" pejoratively, though it may seem so) and pirouette in advertising their own sumptuous gorgeousness, and every form becomes meta-formal in advertising itself. The liberation possible in this century, expedited through myself, Abby, and PFS in general, has so much to do with the potentialities of individuals, both in alignments and against conglomerates and conglomerate interests, that I cannot help but laugh at the post-modern illness, which blusters boldly forward, proud never to seem to be retreating, from nothingness into greater nothingness, while poor Abby and I are forced to blaze a trail that, where formality is concerned, must begin from nineteenth century models (Keats, Shelley, Ingres, David): shame on us! Metaphysics, formality, individuals! The dark supposition of a secret alignment between Deconstructionism and post-modernism is just one vista issuing out of what we have accomplished in the last ten years of Philadelphia, and it remains just that for me: a supposition. It will take a few decades for Deconstructionism to demonstrate just how much was (and is) actually there beneath the surface of its dictates, and for what manifests around PFS to respond adequately.
Is the music enough? If the point of John Keats' Odal Cycle is to lead the reader back to the vista that the prosody's the thing, can we accept, as we would accept in Bach or Beethoven, that the rich formality of the Odes is its own aesthetic justification and reward? If I can, it is because (as I said) what we accept in Bach and Beethoven we should be able to accept (also) in Keats. What I want to discuss here is that, in Grecian Urn, Keats' stages a demonstration of melopoeia, poetic music, for its own sake, in stanza three, and the achieved "mad for it" effect is clearly meant to be euphoric ecstasy:
Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
Forever piping songs forever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
Forever warm and still to be enjoyed,
Forever panting, and forever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloyed,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.
"You and I are gonna live forever," indeed. To me, stanza three stands as self-conscious mimesis of pagan or tribal spirit, which is angled (as is suggested later in the poem) against cognition and towards the passion and the rapture of purgative, self-expressive celebration (whether in a creative context, as with those who created the urn itself, or not). Ultimately, whether magnificent prosody alone can justify the Odes is an important question, specifically because how you answer is an accurate barometer of how well you do or do not relate to forms and pure formality in major high art consonant art. If form and formal rigor were benched, as from a ball-game, in the twentieth century, it is for a reason few suspect- superior formality in art is just as threatening and dangerous as narrative-thematic levels, both to the unenlightened and to conglomerate groups who would like to subject art to its dictates. It is an expression of extreme and supreme individuality, and as such encourages individuals who are moved by it to attempt to find an individual voice for themselves. This, the twentieth century could not abide. If a significant number of individuals go "mad for it" in the twenty-first, once again the human race, at least in some sectors, can come to terms with the vagaries of individuals who bother to do things for themselves.
The motivation of this pdf is to collate and consolidate what I deem to be the cream of the Philly Free School’s artistic achievement. I have taken into consideration what I have not taken into consideration— that this judgment is mine alone. If other artists would like to argue for other placements/arrangements, they are welcome to. Nevertheless, for me: what do Abby’s “Nine Paintings” and my “Apparition Poems” have in common? I have been stunned by the parallels (and parallelism) between the two— I’ve already addressed many of the key motifs. They include: a certain approach to depth and complexity involving multiple and multiplying themes and potential meanings; a sense of “queerness” or oddity which is intermittently sexualized (for Abby, the application is more literal); an urban, rather than suburban or pastoral orientation, which is often site-specific to early twenty-first century Philadelphia (which, by not being New York, builds another level of queerness into the construct); a lack of indigenous American aesthetic influence, and a mistrust of twentieth century art in general (bloodlines running from Abby to nineteenth-century France, Ingres and David; from me to nineteenth-century England, Keats and Wordsworth), while the work does thematically engage contemporary America; and a generalized ambience of darkness, moodiness, the eerie and the haunted.
The difference between Philadelphia-via-England and Philadelphia-via-France (and the twentieth century largely being passed over) is rather pronounced; my approach has in it many levels of directness and earnestness which could comfortably be called English levels, and an adjunct to English Romanticism; Abby’s lateral sense of perversity and absurdism, her inability (thematically) to be morally or ethically earnest, is quintessentially French, while the French sense of darkness has a perception of absurdity built into it, and English gloom can be just plain gloomy. To bring the male/female dichotomy to bear on “Nine Paintings” and “Apparition Poems” is even trickier, and more lateral; Abby’s approach has some feral energy and some tenderness to it; it is as androgynous as the highest art tends to be. About “Apparition Poems,” it would probably be inappropriate for me to comment on. I will remark that I call these two collections together "Rising in Scorpio" specifically because, in this context and in 2013 America, it seems to me that the darkness, depth, and complexity of the two collections will be experienced in many contexts as more feral than not, with many “stings” built into it, for lazy post-modernists and semi-comatose centrists. Good art has always been capable of stinging mediocrity to death, if properly placed and contextualized at the correct moment; for the Philly Free School, the time is now.
It is also my idea (and, honestly, it could be called a pretense) that, if the Philly Free School plants the right seeds, the twenty-first century might be more germane for serious art than the twentieth was; even as our politics, sexual and otherwise, import the best of what the twentieth century had to offer. The higher connotations of the Scorpio archetype have to do with depth, complexity, and the darkness of unsparing truthfulness— the imperative towards unsparing truthfulness (against “eerie” effects which are easily generated and can be superficial), primitive though it is, was important for Abby and I. Even more than myself, Abby suffered in her life from a desire for absolute purity on all levels. “Nine Paintings” and “Apparition Poems” show Abby and I at a point of maximum and precarious balance— able to be truthful and artful on profound levels at once. To do so was, for both of us, in the America we inherited, an act of almost foolhardy bravery; but we did it anyway.
(Originally published as a comment on the Facebook of Welsh poet Brett Evans, co-founder and co-editor of independent literary journal, Prole. Also published at the Irish Poetry Blog.) *** Although
he later deleted and blocked me from his Facebook for not agreeing with
him that Carol Hughes was somehow awf for not allowing a biographer
access to all her dead husband's papers; the best advice I ever got was
from Bloodaxe Books founder and Editor, Neil Astley; in Conway's pub on Parnell Street, Dublin, after the
joint launch at the Irish Writer's Centre, of the Selina Guinness edited
New Irish Poets (Bloodaxe, 2004) and Leanne O'Sullivan's debut, Waiting
for my Clothes (Bloodaxe, 2004).
At that time, I think in September 2004, I had recently graduated in May of the same year, from my home town Edge Hill University (Writing Studies and Drama, 2:1) and had been living in the Iveagh homeless hostel in Dublin for three months.
a short several minute chat he advised me to get out and recite live in
public as much as possible; and that the biggest mistake people make is
sending out a collection of poems for consideration before they are
ready, and that they should first build up writing experience,
publishing credits in magazines, and work work work, write, write,
write, and wait, wait, wait until they've enough experience and what
that time I'd been writing for three years and my conception of what
poetry and Publishing was all about was very different to what it is
now, because I had very little experience of writing or publishing and
viewed the process thru the lens of the novice, at best at bardic grade
two (of seven) MacFirmid (son of composition) thinking that becoming a
published poet was a semi-mystical process similar to that of finding
fame as an actor; in that it was all very opaque and mysterious.
poems would be spotted by a fairy godfather of poetry publishing who'd
take me under their wing and do all the hard work and all I'd have to do
is show up and star reciting (at that time only from memory) the poetry
I'd accumulated on the page up to that time.
think just meeting and getting the real gen from one of Britain's most
knowledgeable independent poetry publishers was in itself a very
valuable lesson, because for the first time I'd spoken with someone at
the top of the tree and the whole thing had been humanised and I was
imparted something no amount of reading about publishing could ever do.
that point I had been methodically sending out poems for about a year,
beginning sending out in the third year of the writing and drama course,
and getting published here and there. In that short time what struck me
is that you'd never know what an editor would want to publish. Stuff
you thought strong was not picked and poems you thought had no chance
the spring of the following year I lost all interest in seeing my poems
published in small magazines, and playing what I increasingly viewed as
a psychological game of submit-reject/accept, in which the submitter is
seeking affirmation and validation for what can often be a lonely and
unrewarded business of writing poems for the purpose of seeing them
published by others in the mags they edit.
I was having a good publication hit rate I was increasingly bored with
the novelty of seeing my poems and name published in small circulation
magazines. A short sugar high followed by business as normal and a
return to writing and studying the mass of Irish mythology that makes up
much of the bardic curriculum.
that at that point was still a voluminous sprawl of confusion, the
skeleton of the poetic that came around year five/six, still yet to firm
up and appear in the mind. And so in a very real way, trusting that by
just studying the material on the fourteen year course would in itself
reveal what I hoped to find.
because of my thoughts about the future of publishing in the online
age, at that time the consensus still very much an old-guard gate-keeper
mindset, was beginning to view the process of submit-accept/reject as a
redundant one, in which both sides are seeking affirmation in what
vision of poetry we have and what we are doing, for the purpose of
accumulating and increasing our sense of contemporary poetic relevance
and (minor) cultural importance.
is because some editors would write back rejecting what I'd submitted,
not with a simple, thanks but no thanks, but a note that made it plain
that, on their part, they were playing a different game with themselves
to the one I was, making their intellectual confusion unintentionally
comedically plain in pretend pretentious toff voices not their own.
own thoughts where that in the near future (ie, now) we would all
effectively be publishers on an equal footing able to reach anyone in
the world with an internet connection, and so, I reasoned, the thing to
concentrate on was not getting published by other people, but cleaving
to the idea that I was a student with ten years learning the material
from the fourteen year writing course that trained forty generation of
filidh poets, and trusting in that process to teach and deliver the
lessons and experience with which to publish one's own writing on my own
terms when the time was right. Knowing I had another ten years as a
student, a decade before I'd need to publish anything, meant I felt zero
pressure to get published, even though for most this would be a
laughingly far too long time to try oneself out having a crack at the
aul poetry game.
I was very lucky to have had the first three years of my writing life occur at home in Ormskirk bygone times,
in the very best and most supportive place it was possible to evolve
creatively and intellectually, and without which I would perhaps not
have been laughing at the amadán poetry editors up their own holes we
all know and are familiar with from experience, but getting depressed by
their exclusionary spirit and sense of being custodians of only the
most special and greatest English poetry that appears between the pages
of the few hundred copies of their rags.
this is not the reason I lost all interest in playing the
submit-reject/accept game. The final nail in the coffin that sealed the
deal and made all interest evaporate, was chancing across online,
Washington state Ogham expert Erynn Rowan Laurie's English translation
of a 120 line 7C Old Irish text, that states an in-depth and
comprehensive definition of what poetry is, where it comes from, and how
it works, 'in the body and soul of a person.'
a druidic voice from the earliest founding mythological bard of
literate Ireland, Milesian poet Amergin. It is one of only four
attributed to this figure and three times longer than the next longest
piece, a riddling roscanna poem he is most well known for, Song of
Ireland, that Aul Plumdoon Muldoon made an entire Oxford lecture of
punning allusive gobbledegook prose in response to.
was the druid of the seventh, and chronologically final, mythological
race of 'takers' of the island documented in the 11C Lebor Gabála Érenn,
the Book of the Takings of Ireland, who, with his surviving (of twelve)
two brothers, Eber and Eremon, had seized the island from the Tuatha De
Danann, in 1300 BC according to Geoffrey Keating's, or 1700 BC
according to the Four Masters' version of mythological history, both
compiled in the early to middle 17C.
untitled Old Irish text is found in the medieval Book of Ballymote, and
was first translated into English in 1979 by Professor Liam Breatnach
of the School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies,
one of Ireland's premier Old and Middle Irish experts, with a deep
knowledge of the texts that make up the fourteen year filidh (poets)
curriculum, having translated such important pieces as Uraicecht na
Ríar: The poetic grades in early Irish law, and numerous other bardic
now known, due to the triple-cauldron imagary used as a metaphor to
explain how poetry works in a person, as Cauldron of Poesy, the text
didn't have or need a title in its original form because, I suspect, it
was one of the most widely known and first texts introduced to a grade
one foclo turning up on the first day of singing school at Samhain, to
begin the six month Samhain to Beltaine winter semester, that over the
following twelve to fourteen years led through another five grades,
MacFirmid (son of composition), Dos (bushy-tree shelterer), Cano
(cub/whelp), Cli (ridgepole), Anruth (great stream), before terminating
at the apical grade of Ollamh (ullav) Doctor of Poetry.
which point they were the equivalent of a secular poet-barrister
practicing in the highest forms of strict and straight (dán direach)
verse, that they were introduced to only at the sixth grade Anruth,
around year six/seven; as it needed six years of study before they'd be
competent to tackle the head-wrecking complexity of the fourteen or so
dán direch meters and work out if the prophetic, mantric side that set a
fully formed fíli poet apart from the lower grades, was there and
that point I was on a roll publishing wise, and was playing the game
like everyone else. Living in the Iveagh homeless hostel and centering
myself on acquiring experience and a live skin, out two or three times a
week on the thriving closed and open-mic scene in Dublin during the
height of Bertie Ahern's time in office, when, it has to be noted, the
collective Irish cultural mood was right up itself, ostentatious and one
of nouveau riche smugly delusional optimism that the economic good
times were here forever, and that Irish people generally were a very
special sort of precious English language snowflake, and the chosen few
blessed with an invincible sort of otherworldly speaking magic, that, as
we discovered on the morning Brian Lenihan (rip) made the announcement
of the Bank Guarantee he laughably stated would be 'the cheapest in
history' - was subsequently proved by events to be a crock of
self-delusional sales crap everyone had swallowed hook line and sinker.
the time of discovering it I was in my 'office', an internet sweet shop
at the foot of Ha'penny Bridge on Aston Quay, and I remember thinking
at the time that I was reading for the first time one of the most
important bardic texts written. A belief that has only deepened in the
had just had a poem and prose piece about the live poetry scene in
Dublin published on the website of the Galway Arts Centre, and it was
with this publishing credit that I lost all interest in sending out
anymore, buzzing with the belief that my writing needed no more outside
validation, just at the very point the untitled 7C Amergin text popped
up on my computer screen at Aston Quay.
it for the first time I instinctively knew that this was a textual
guide one needed to progress in writing without any input or
intellectual validation from others, not least because few, if any,
poetry editors are aware of it to know that there exists a holy grail of
Gaelic poetry as important as Horace's Ars Poetica.
suspicion confirmed when I began publicising the find around the
English speaking world to a wall of complete ambivalence, disinterest,
and non-engagement, confirming what I thought then and now know; that
many people are not into writing poetry to write the best poems we can,
but to see our name in lights and on longlists.
having got on the nerves and displeased a very long list of
self-important poetry folk around the English speaking world, always for
something very petty (the straw that broke the back of British-Hungarian poet George Szirtes'
tolerance, replying to his question of how I knew something, 'because I
don't spend all my time on Facebook'), I am in a way unintentionally
lucky to have stopped sending out when I did, because though I am
sitting on fourteen years of unpublished material, I have observed other
people trying to get work out there, usually with something interesting
to say on the page in prose, who have got on the wrong side of
important editors for displeasing them over something very petty and
minor, that the pasha-editors then trash and contextualise as being just
bitter failures because they had a manuscript rejected by them.
Anyway leave it there, globble di baglady de dye doi dough...(am hearing this as i hit send) KTF!
One mua time and listen in the new key
to a tale of the bardic bluffas bullshitting lidl aul moi, dreaming
their high cultural jinks in the Tir na RTE realm of Gobnam Boglady
& Their Bans of ambitious literary cut-throats in shmokin
shpokin feerz peroppa wurda. Lisen Newky, Nesil Kewny & Enils
Names oghamically changed to protect the lidl diks-ed 'n kids skiddin abo nuwir in tha paja liov witten pothutrae en litowary Bubbalin.
After eight years of funding the All Ireland Live Poetry
Shlam Competition i am increasingly unable to stop myself from
involuntarily laughing at the unintentionally comedic vibe and plastic
sense of poetic entitlement emanating from some of the most
self-important self-appointed cultural healing energy workers in Bublin,
that are involved in tha shmokern liov puthotrae 'n sham shleen in the
capital of Bullshitland.
This is because all but a few
of the filidh have - several days ago - made it very plain they assume I
am a social-media poetry dinosaur and special kind of English mug that
likes nothing more than giving away free money to them; and someone
whose own live poetry is never gonna be good enough to appear on any
stage with any of their own, regularly outed and touted works of
heartbreaking mediocrity, I mean, staggeringly beautiful eloquence.
can only conclude after eight years of side-lined and silent
observation that our live spoken word shlash slam scene in Bubbalin
consists of a handful of Bublin-based foet-fwend principles that are in
an organisational thick of it with themselves, the new brooms team at Poetry
Island, n' waydeo n' telievwishun stalwarts of RTE, and, to repeat the point, have made it
plain over the years, by silence and short evasive utterance, coupled
with a refusal to engage with me (proved by an eight year absence of any
written replies to the handful of messages I've ever sent them) - that I
am the very last foet they're gonna do their vibrational healing energy
events with in the realm of live and (by its very nature) competitive
oral poetry happening today in Bubbalin.
A scene in
which the worst lack all conviction or interest in the bardic
curriculum, and the best are laughably overrated. Swamis swanning round
the city in smugly self-congratulatory bubbles, their shallow
social-scene entitlement masquerading as a revolutionary come all ye
welcome and democratic open-access poetic pulse of the real poetry
movement reflecting what's happening on the streets, yeah!
may have been the way it was for the first few years after its birth, and before our new scene started, at a
four-year (2004-8) weekly occurring come all ye, truly democratic,
regular weekly open mic, Write and Recite
(WaR), but puleez, c'mon noi, the alphas in the zoo of a live shpokin
wurda sheen are now very well established, n' tis all vewy peroppa
However, all but one or two of the principle actors and high-literary judges,
juries and executioners in Bubbalin's right now eight year old 'new'
(yawn) team-scene of happy hand-wavers, not once recited their shmokin
shpokin wurds liov on the weekly WaR scene.
I know of
the current mob of very ambitious and self-important liov poetsa
Bubbalin tuawn through them wanting to win the Title of the All Ireland
Shlam competition, that I created, for nothing, off my own back, whilst
living in the Oivaay homeless hostel, and have been funding every year
since it started in 2007.
I rarely go to any of the
many invite-only closed-mic events that have been the norm in Bublin
since Write and Recite vanished unwritten or recorded on any official
Ireland live poetry record custoded by the New Live peroppa shpokin
wurda poetry scenestas that created the 'new' one following in the wake
of tha auld wun we all lived through at WaR.
finished a four year weekly live poetry apprenticeship in WaR by the
time the new and thrilling (now not so exciting or new)
social-media-created and organised scene was birthed in 2008, by a
handful of computer literate language and culture lovers, I was freed to
concentrate on the written side of my practise. And so, with other
filliocht studies to occupy me, I av for the last eight years took no
personal part in Bubblin's shmokin shpokin word sheen.
it is clear from observing it remotely online that after eight years of
the same faces doing the same spoken word pieces, many of the elders
and principle protagonists in the Bubblin spoken word scene-team, have
The worst are full of smug assumption and
so insufferably so far up their own holes after years of constant and
continual social-media self-publicity - and a corresponding
facebook level of critical engagement - that it makes one gwiggle, ih
rellih dez make one chuckle and titter at the unintentionally comedic
performances of their unearned sense of cultural certainty that their
literary pretensions exhibit. The Bubblin shmokin shpokin wurdas
believing the blurb and hype they've been spouting and puffing for so
many years about one another online in the corporate echo-chamber of
But so what, none of my business, woddoo i
kare? Exactly, nothing. However I found myself being roped into their
made-up world several days ago, when it was made crystal clear to me
that tha shmokin shpokin wurd team-scene now officially want nothing
whatsoever to do with me, not because I torture small animals for
pleasure, hate old people with a vengeance, troll them online and
rejoice on hearing of their deaths, but because of a piece of writing
published outside their delusional echo-chamber in which my thoughts on
di Boglady diva Deva Ardlon, and lidl aul liov poet, Newl Shwaney, are
Let that sink in. The mind of our new
Bubblin ass-lickers learning how to be a peroppa shpokin wurda, make no
delineation of publishing borders whatsoever.
to believe, or have been indoctrinated and now accept the bullshit of
what poetic superiors ventriliquise the muppets' voices, that all
creative writing is published on just one big social-media Facebook
Page; that The Boglady's Bagmon and Bagwomen, gabnom, mabnog, gonbam,
and their supporting non-oghamically trained nob rags; are the
natural-born deputy-editors of. Some mythical and non-existent happy clappy huggy no
brags group Page; appointed by The Executive Editors of Nobrag 'emselvs,
The Boglady and St Coalman of the Peroppa Shpokin Warders.
was interesting (for me), is that the quality of this trash-talk piece
of online hack writing I published on my blog, was the sole cause,
several evenings ago, of the online membership privileges of an online
poetry dump, Portry Dope, being revoked, and myself deleted, banned and
blocked from access to this New Yorker of a social-media micro-bubble,
by its creator, lets call her Elyn Newkis.
ass-kisser on tha shmokin live sphokin slash shlam block party in
Bubbalin; and young poetry dope who seems to have been in possession of
the delusional belief, (i imagine until reading the reply to her banning
order), that anyone writing all over the world must first be approved
of and cleared for publishing by awfisez fram an online poetry
inspectorate, in which Elyn Newkis, as a newly commissioned ofizor and
emerging stand out ass-licker in the Deva Ardlon Boglady's Gobwowmin Order of St
Coalman's; mimicking the elders from our gosh wow fuk yeh team-scene, by
communicating with me for the very first time, with a message, not awn.
the voice of a bwitish toff conveying their displeasure at one's
critical voice speaking what it believes in the the moment of that (or
any other) piece of spontaneously created writing that has grown out of a
fourteen year study of the bardic curriculum and practice founded on
what I have learnt from the course reading material and plain old
practise of speaking with anyone, anywhere, online, about the topic of
poetry and dán. Which is all I have been doing since leaving my home
town's Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, Lancashire.
in January, the Portry Dope is a small phazebuke group for an
assortment of creatively young oddballs and weirdos, two to three
hundred Bubbalin kids, and potential future shlam shtaws, spamming away
all things shpokin wurda, tua their hearts content. And, imo, a welcome
addition that is all part of the learning process for everyone involved.
the lowliest teen member with depression letting it all out in print to
our Group of confused and untrained bardic wannabes, right up to the
Newkis creator Elyn, in third level education attending one of the most
cliquey universities in not only Awyerland or Bubbalin town, but the
wole woid vworld: Twintity.
In, of, on, and from which the whole concept and history of modern Bublin draws the literary spirit of itself.
wrote to me several evenings ago after I'd gone to her dump to leave a
link to an unpublished poem of mine that'd just been published, and i
discovered the dump no longer appears and that I must be banned. I had
not been informed, just silently deleted and blocked, so I wrote a short
text to Elyn Newkis:
m8, a wannid teh post a link to a 2007 poem unpublished cuz tha poem is
its own reward, n wen a goes teh dump@portrydope to tell ul ma bezzies abow
ih, tha portrydope paj neva cum up n it dunt on me kevin desmond's words fb eeva
m8, n ah wuz finkin, ooh, a wunda wots ap'nin theer loik pulaze fram the
leburtaze m8y, lottsa luv a fwend
wrote back an hour or two later informing me I had been excluded and
was no longer a member; explicitly stating that the reason I'd been
banned from her self-sealed tin-pot social-media micro-bubble, is
because of my English voice in the language of a piece I wrote and
published on my ten year old Irish Poetry Blog, that (please read very carefully) 'was reported to me as abusive'.
Note the tone, ethos, and poetic of Newkis's voice:
Desmond, your post about' poetry diva Deva Ardlon 'was reported to me as abusive,
and I've had words with you before over this. In hindsight I regret
removing you from the group as I thought this May have been a bit harsh,
but you have been warned that anymore abusive posts towards other
members would result in your expulsion.'
first think to strike me ass odd, lie number one, is that the parochially famous diva and Boglady Deva
Ardlon, is not a member of the Portry Dope, as they left Phasebuke years
ago and now rant on far more intellectually visible and eminent
publications, her brand of faux socialist-in-residence cat-tripe about the end of the
world and Ascension.
What made me psml
was i was being asked to accept, on face value by this person
twenty-five years younger than me, who has never written to me before,
that i am being excluded from publishing ever again in her
self-important Group, because I was breaking a talk policy and being
offensive and insulting to another member, because I wrote and published
an original piece of writing, not on the wall of this Facebook
collective group page, but a ten year old Irish Poetry Blog; that an
unnamed anonymous complainer and supposed member of Portry Dope, finds
So, if you are a member of
Portry Dope and don't like a piece of writing someone writes and
publishes elsewhere outside the echo-chamber; then that is a legitimate
ground of complaint on which an other anonymous member of one of your
poetry dumps' can have you slung out. Madness. Intellectual facism, a
very very backwardly dangerous and dog-shit illogical critical basis to
found and implement as your come all ye pill for literary enlightenment and great
new re-invention of the poetry wheel.
a sixty word piece of literature by someone who was 13 or younger when I
created the Irish Poetry Blog, I thought it most unimpressive because
it fails to make any positive impression on me, because the contents are
entirely untrue and total bollix. With the mind boggling at the banal
depths this uncritical tissue of falsehoods and balderdash reveals; I
replied, at length, beginning, as I do in all social-media
echo-chambers when such crucial poetic cases are
before a theatrical bench of live written craic 'eds:
'You've 'had words' with me? Can you produce these 'words' you've 'had' with me, please?'
Told 'you have been warned before', about 'abusive posts towards other members',
not a thing pop'd into my mind, and I knew it was utter bullshit; and i
wrote back, having a great time on the light side with a trusty shield
of poetic truth, Kevin Desmond's words, and my mother's memory here in
her name, Swords.
After firing off a few fastly
written (in her ears), heretical home truths (and, it must be noted,
enjoying the process) - to this new and decent enough filliocht/craft of
poetry student, a second level (of seven student bard grades) MacFirmid
at best, that was contacting and addressing me for the very first time,
with a complete fairy story; I worked it all out on the page
spontaneously writing; and shortly into the process wrote it was ok, she
didn't need to reply, and that i'll 'spare you the embarrassment of having to open your gob and makin a dikhed out yerself.'
the end of the reply i had worked everything out and left on a cheerful
note, wishing the newkid Newkis love; but feeling a tad bad with myself
for writing such poetically potent home-truths in such adult literary
language to one so tender and ignorant, and so i wrote a second reply
telling them not to take anything srsly i'd written in the first reply,
and that I was just a humble servant of the soul with fourteen years in
the game (to their own one or two years writing) and that life itself
was a poem, dán also meaning 'fate' in the orginal druidic comprehension
of the word; and that life is great 'wen ye study of the bardic
curriculum brings you blessings that can only be described as
otherworldly, once the writing in your life attracts the positivity of
angelic spirit that makes your writing practice not about other people
reading or publishing it, but you writing the best poems you can.'
Signing off with love,
grá agus siochain, and ending on a blessing for the 'divine poetic
force of positive good in' her 'own life, dán, poem, shlukyable
beduklyivvle, adios amiga, sal waygo de shlaedoh.'
repeat, again, looking thru the communication records between us, of
both my personal and all island accounts, i discovered that this was the
very first time Elyn Newkis had got in touch and written to me. Though
of course I may be mistaken and Elyn has written something that I
haven't read, until proven otherwise, my original assessment of
'bullshit' stands, beduvil, shtel.
Next on Irish Poetry Blog
after the Newkis affair, a complaint was published by St Kewlmain
Gaekern, decrying 'The Bogman, A Public Reflection', as 'bollix', and
stay choon'd to read the documenting of this most recent and epic
competitive critical conversational shlam between several of Erin's
finest peroppa shmokin liov shpokun wurda-wardens and Poetry Police
Gurdmins that fail to show up on the page of a now deleted social-media
conversational catastrophe initiated by Sir Coalman and lost by his
cronies just as fulla bs as Elyn Newkis's original faery story written
and sent as part of, what I can only conclude, was a joint-effort by
Bubbalin's team-scene to shut an English rhymer out by all means
What is the essence of a too-brief kiss?
The rigor of reaching the
from subject to object, chaos to bliss,
our frail intuition of heavenly
Our love is not molecules, dumbly colliding,
nor is it knowledge, formal and
nor is it accident, reasoned and
it's real, meta-rational, soaring and gliding,
felt like an earthquake, bringing up
taking our parts and achieving a
The greater part of love is sacrifice—
flesh intermingled, tensing and
this is the secret I learn from your eyes.
Giving my body, knotted, single,
tiny eruptions that come from my tongue;
plunging down surfaces, slicking the
thoughtless as leopards or
watching you shudder, watching you come,
rapt in the throes of an innocent
giving my life to an inch of your
Thus, we trade in secure oblivion
for reckless reality, messy and
Such is the cosmos - creation, carrion,
motions of molecules merging and
Nothing is lost but notions of self-ness,
hard ideations that close and
rages of ego that strain at
nothing is gained but a sense of the deathless,
"there-ness" of spirit,
"there-ness" of matter,
that scares as it calls.