Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Lost Heifer by Austin Clarke

When the black herds of the rain were grazing,
In the gap of the pure cold wind
And the watery hazes of the hazel
Brought her into my mind,
I thought of the last honey by the water
That no hive can find.

Brightness was drenching through the branches
When she wandered again,
Turning silver out of dark grasses
Where the skylark had lain,
And her voice coming softly over the meadow
Was the mist becoming rain.

Austin Clarke on the deleterious effect of the Irish Civil War on the nationalist ideal: a wonderful depth, a deep appreciation and understanding of symbolism and imagery, a true visualisation of Ireland in the interplay of its weather and landscape. The poem has a wealth and richness that few poets achieve today. The imagery succeeds wonderfully even without its meaning.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Natural Light

Orcadian is a dialect of Scots, spoken on Orkney. Lau means 'natural light' in Orcadian, and Lau is the name of a folk band set up in Edinburgh in 2006. Their music is exciting, beautiful, and inventive. The band,
Martin Green, Aidan O’Rourke and Kris Drever, (all award-winning musicians individually), for three years in a row, from 2008 to 2010, won Best Group in the prestigious BBC Folk Awards.

Here is a link to ‘Saint Monday’, the beautiful first track from the album, Race The Loser, which is due out in October. http://soundcloud.com/tomreveal/lau-saint-monday-from-race-the 
And if that doesn't convince you, you may as well drop you ears in the bin before going to bed.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Love, Lust or What Else?

Sex is a complicated working of the mind. An expression of love or possibly hatred, a weapon sometimes, often no more than a pastime, sometimes an abuse of power, a cruelty, sometimes a selfish satisfaction, a lustful craving, a whim.

I have often found the stereotypical movie representation of the culmination of a love, (a night of passionate sex), to be very limited at best, and grossly misleading for many young people learning their way into relationships. Are these sex scenes purely for titillation, sales reasons; are they an easy option: a visual expression for a visual medium; or do directors believe that passionate sex is the summit of expression of true love.

The following poem might express love, but if I tell you that the words belong to a dangerous pervert, it becomes very disturbing. Love requires real affection, and that has a whole range of other expressions.

When I am sleeping
you come
softly over these stones;
I turn deeper.
You slip words into my ears,
liquid syllables,
sickles sliding down.

Night-time turns drunk;
longing for more,
your tongue to enwrap me;
I turn deeper.
You trickle down dreams;
our limbs braided,we slip into one.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Sound of Rainfall

Rain falling, it's a melancholic sound. Millions of droplets landing on millions of leaves like they did on your best days and your worst, days embedded in our memories, (the good and the bad), as they will in your childrens' and grandchildrens', as they did in your parents' and grandparents.

It's the permanence of things in the face of our own impermance: the beau
ty of the world hath made me sad; this beauty that will pass.

This is why we must hold onto our past, appreciation is relative. Beauty imprints itself during childhood, its value appreciated in adulthood.

And that's my thought for today, tomorrow tornadoes!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

What the future brings ?

I’ve never gone to a school or college reunion and doubt I ever will, but I do sometimes wonder what became of old friends and acquaintances. No doubt, there’d be stories of all kinds running from the roaring successes to the tragic.
Sometimes the stories are all too apparent in faces: the open faces, the weary faces, electrocuted, wary, bored. And sometimes it’s in the cut of the cloth: ostentatious, careless, bohemian, carefree, down at heel; sometimes it’s the demeanour.
It’s intriguing to look back at the old photos, to see happy young faces, knowing how lives unfolded subsequently. Sad oftentimes. Happy carefree people already on their journey towards………………..

Margaret.     (d. 1961)

Child that played and skipped
and ran, 
climbed among the trees
when the adult was as far away
as death itself. 

Woman in a countryside
of old men and their wives
turning spidery;
rain and years
between herself and old age. 

London: Irish skivvy;
that rolling unrolling knot
of mop, bucket and woman 
paid with poverty for accepting

Spitalfields and squalor;
A dark coat, bark-rough face
beaten to a glower;
culprit and victim,
drink took them both.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Retaining Customs

It seems to me that there is more regard for the old customs now than there used to be. In the 60’s and 70’s there was great emphasis on getting ahead economically and culturally. There was, among many in the population, a sense of inferiority about Irish culture: language, music, dance etc. The future was the American way, as indeed so many Irish had freed themselves from the constraints of Ireland and taken themselves off to the U.S. In those days, American flags, icons etc were commonplace in towns and villages throughout the country, the flag almost as prevalent as the Irish flag on occasions when towns were in festive mode.

That time is gone, even through the current hard times. We have come to be proud of ourselves. Witness the number of  times a tricolour is seen waving at sporting events all over the world. Under each is an Irish person proclaiming his/her nationality.

Part of this is a new found pride in old traditions and customs. Even though the original beliefs behind the activities are gone, people see the value in retaining the practices, for their colour, social implications, for the difference i.e. we are Irish and this is how we do it.

And so, for example, wakes which were heading for extinction a number of years ago are surviving;  mirrors are covered as in the old days, the viewing rituals have been revived, the social aspect is recognized as valuable.

A step back from the globalisation of culture; and a good thing too.

These two poems were inspired by images from John Minihan’s book “Shadows from the Pale, Portrait of an Irish Town” published in 1996. They were first published in The SHOp, A Magazine of Poetry.

  At Katy Tyrell’s Wake
When Katy Tyrell’s eyelids were closed,

they stopped the clock,
covered the mirror,
and she was waked.

Entwined in her hands, a rosary beads,
‘Je suis L’imaculée conception’
was embroidered on her shroud;
everyone said she looked every inch a Cherokee.

After she was laid out, and the ticking stopped
and a sheet blocking the devil’s door,

he said, “ Let’s sit down to a game.”
“Shuffle the cards, dale herself in.”

“Layve the window open
and mind, don’t step in her way.”