Monday, December 24, 2007
Valleymount's unusual church is the result of emigrant stone workers absorbing local influences in New Mexico in the early nineteenth century before returning home to West Wicklow. It also features stained glass windows by Harry Clarke. The inscription on one of these, 'Rex Regum', would I think make an excellent name for a Catholic detective who specialised in theology-themed crimes, such as despoiled holy water fonts or typos in editions of Thomas Aquinas.
Monday, December 17, 2007
The extract I quoted from Ned Kelly’s Jerilderie Letter lately put me in mind of an equally rough and ready folk autobiography, that of William Hanbidge, a native of Tinnahinch in the Glen of Imaal, Co. Wicklow, who lived from 1813 to 1909. He belonged to a society for the ‘discountenancing’ of vice, which always conjured images, for me, of a nonagenarian Quaker dropping into his local pub to gurn threateningly at the local drunk. Anyway, here is Hanbidge’s account of the descent into sin of the
Straford was a prosperous little place but it was also a most abominable wicked place
The scenes to be seen of a Saturday night and on Sundays were awful.
Drunkneness, prostitution, cursing and fighting.
There were always a wordy warfare carried on between the country and town lads for the country lads when they saw the weavers would shout A dish of kailcannon and an iron spoon would make any calico weaver jump over his loom with other scurrilous epithets which the others resented very much.
All used to meet at a low public house about half a mile from the town on Saturday evenings and Sundays the sights which followed I cannot describe.
After a time the downfall of the town began.
Mr Orr found out that he could buy the calico ready wo much cheaper than it cost him to have it woven so he dismissed all his weavers who were scattered over many parts of
The slated houses which they lived in soon fell into ruin.
Mr Orr still continued the bleaching and printing business for a short time till his correspondent in
All the remaining employers had to seek work in
Those in the mood for more will be pleased to know that W.J. McCormack edited Hanbidge's memoirs for UCD Press a few years back (scroll down a bit). The above picture, which I found here, is not of Stratford but nearby Valleymount. The combination of Wicklow place-names and water reminds me of a bridge I encountered there once called Pennycomequick Bridge. Or am I making that up? I can't be sure.
New from Tom Paulin: The Secret Life of Poems, an ‘encounter with some of the most celebrated poems in the language’. Starting with Anon, Wyatt and Herbert we gradually approach the choppy waters of the contemporary, and after Hughes and Larkin find the following names: John Montague, Derek Mahon, Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, Craig Raine and Jamie McKendrick. While it’s true that Craig Raine is not demonstrably Northern Irish, though at least Oxonian, his poem has the great advantage of being called ‘Flying to
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Perhaps in homage to the seventeenth-century divines who reserved their most stinging remarks for their footnotes, Geoffrey Hill used a note to see off Philip Larkin in Style and Faith; and now in a note to an essay on Sidney Keyes in Tim Kendall’s Oxford Handbook of British & Irish War Poetry I see he’s at it again. ‘The speaking voice’, he writes, ‘has its own systems of betrayal, as is demonstrated by many poets from “Movement” to Mersey Sound.’ Footnote: ‘See e.g. Robert Conquest (ed.), New Lines (London: Macmillan, 1956), passim, uses of “yet”, “but”, “so”, “we”, “our”. See also The Mersey Sound, Penguin Modern Poets, 10 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983; 1st pub. 1967), passim.’
Saturday, December 15, 2007
This is a discarded poem. Consider it buried hereunder.
Pay two visits on the same day: your first and last. ‘We’ve come on holiday by mistake.’
The view from a mile up. Then lying prostrate in the back garden. Find the correct perspective. Change it.
Don’t tell them anything. Them meaning you. Don’t tell yourself anything. Starting now.
The little rasher of overexcited loquacity in your mouth, trailing its delicate fronds of drivel. Give it the back of your hand.
Find the thing, prod it, sniff it, turn it over. It would appear to be dead.
Cheques payable to ‘Friends of the M62’.
Allow four working days for us to do what we want with your money. You’d only waste it anyway.
Champagne all round at the motorway service café, we’re walking home.
The hearses speeding again.
The world’s first telephone sex baby.
The caller has chosen to scribble your number on a shithouse wall.
In this reconstruction the role of the missing girl has been taken by the missing girl herself.
Ditches on the estate have been drained and filled with tears and lemonade.
A CCTV camera has been arrested and charged.
Kicking the ladder away before climbing up it you have effortlessly reached the top.
Don’t let’s just agree, let’s agree to the point of violence. But our vast and endless differences – no, we can’t be bothered.
Let the caption read ‘Alderman Chubb receiving the applause of the chamber for her remarks on the relationship of base to superstructure.’
I told you I’d help you find your odd socks. I lied, I lied, I lied.
Speak a swear word, the clouds form into it.
You put on a record, I dance a little, I dance a little and sing.
The man in the street when the hero runs past, bodychecked by him and shouting ‘Hey, asshole!’, every film has one – oh my God, that was me!
This gruesome weapon, requiring only a short piece of string, half a diced carrot and an old envelope –
A bumble bee flies into your mouth, beds down, stays there.
Be sick of it. Keep being sick, sick, sick. Or, if you must, rejoice.
Night thoughts of the morning train in a room in the Royal Hotel: ideas above your station.
A big yellow skip outside the front door: your transport awaits.
Your whole body covered in tattoos, have the image of the skin underneath tattooed back over them and start the performance all over again.
Monday, December 10, 2007
DNA Scientist Who Thinks Black People Are Stupid Learns He Has 16 Per Cent Black DNA, Apologises For Previous Stupidity and Racism, Blames It on His 16 Per Cent Black DNA.
I would have used this as the post title but it didn't fit.
Read the news story here.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Ned Kelly’s Jerilderie Letter, picaresque auto-apologia with a larrikin contempt for the mere comma, agent of bourgeoisification that it is:
I wish to acquaint you with some of the occurrences of the present past and future, In or about the spring of 1870 the ground was very soft a hawker named Mr Gould got his waggon bogged between Greta and my mother’s house on the eleven mile creek, the ground was that rotten it could bog a duck in places…
Shortly before his Euroa bank heist in 1879, Kelly occupied a farm property in Jerilderie and dictated 8000 words to his comrade in arms Joe Byrne. He had russled some 200 horses in his time, but when this was put to him at his trial he indignantly countered, ‘Who proves that?’ ‘Non peccat, quaecumque potest peccasse negare’, as Ovid might say. In the midst of the bank raid, Kelly tried to locate the editor of the Jerilderie Gazette, who he thought could be persuaded (perhaps with some of the drinks ‘on the house’ he provided for his hostages during the raid) to publish his tract, but Gill had absconded and the text remained buried until 1930.
The endless complaint of the badly used, the harried, despised Fenian:[Captain Brooke] knows as much about commanding Police as Captain Standish does about mustering mosquitoes and boiling them down for their fat on the back blocks of the Lachlan for he has a head like a turnip a stiff neck as big as his shoulders narrow hipped and pointed towards the feet like a vine stake…
Kelly killed three policemen, but claimed that ‘a man killing his enemies was not a murderer’. At the siege of Glenrowan he came out fighting in his home-made armour. His last words before execution, myth would have it, were ‘Such is life.’ His mother Ellen lived a further 43 years, until 1923.
I marvel at Sidney Nolan’s Kelly paintings, some of which he donated to the
‘I am a widows son outlawed and my orders must be obeyed.’
Friday, December 07, 2007
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Whiling away the wait for the megabucks Derek Mahon limited edition Somewhere the Wave (due any day now) with a chapter a day of Hugh Haughton’s Encyclopaedia Mahoniana.
When I finally met him myself and asked him to sign a copy of Night Crossing (still a much cheaper purchase than books two or three, Lives and The Snow Party – look them all up on abebooks and see for yourself) he somewhat theatrically averted his gaze as he signed his name. This would have been in the post-Yaddo Letter period when rumours of a proper comeback volume had the gold-dust quality of Thomas Pynchon sightings. And that book would be The Hudson Letter.For some reason the thoughts on
Why, for all Mahon's fascination with Ezra Pound, his Poundian (or is it Poundian?) weddedness to poetry in translation, does his Pound stop with Mauberley – as very publically signalled by the Mauberley redux of ‘A Kensington Notebook’? What would a
Introducing his translations from Jaccottet he briefly mentions Michaux and the cult of the ‘illisible’ in French poetry from mid-century or so onwards, and not approvingly either. Is this
If an early
How, when Mahon is on record as preferring the amiable enough minor poet and talisman-to-the-Irish-post-avant (no sniggering there) Thomas MacGreevy to all the poets of the Movement – not just some, all – can his reception among very-much-pro- and very-much-anti-critics in the never-ending Irish modernist debate have worked out the way it did? What are they missing? (For an example of anti-Mahon pro-modernist response, take a look at Donal Moriarty’s disparaging of
What was going on in The Yellow Book? Really, what was going on to make critics think that Oscar Wilde and 90s decadence was a useful template for denouncing the ‘fake in contemporary culture’ (that’s from an essay by Gerald Dawe, collected in his recent volume The Proper Word)? Denounce the ‘fake’ (fax machines, I remember, come in for his particular ire) by staging a love-in with Oscar Wilde?!
Connoisseurs of Irish Studies racial consciousness will have long cherished Declan Kiberd’s declaration in the Field Day Anthology that
Which of the following does Derek Mahon have most in common with: Richard Wilbur, Seamus Heaney, Paul Durcan, Thomas Kinsella, Geoffrey Hill? Award each one marks out of ten on a likeness scale. Your answers should tell you a lot about which
He said, ‘I just want to say one more thing.’
But then he could not think what it could possibly be.
On a slightly related note, in a transcript of a Geoffrey Hill reading I was sent recently (Geoff samizdat!), GH talks about a word Gillian Rose changed in the margin of one of his books (in her copy of the book, I mean). He now prefers her word to his and plans to incorporate the change in the ‘deathbed edition’ of his poems he is preparing.
Is there was one line, any line, you could aggressively edit and alter in any work of literature what would it be?
Sunday, December 02, 2007
No promised heaven, crucified Christ,
could move me to your love, any more
than my brief default from sure hell-fire
moved me to the fear of you I missed.
You alone, Lord, move who sees
you nailed so, to your cross, and so despised:
move who looks upon your flesh so bruised,
the wounds and the contempt in which it dies.
Your love alone that moves, and moves enough
to win, though heaven never was, my love,
and though hell too be lies, my despair,
for leaving yours as full as my heart’s bare;
and whose cheated death – love turned to theft –
no death of mine repays, or earthy gift.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
From a Teach Yourself Arabic I bought the other day: ‘We have a muscle in our throat which is never used except in vomiting. Think about that and pretend you are about to be sick. You will find that what is normally called in English gagging is actually a restriction in the deep part of the throat. If you gag, and then immediately relax the muscles in order to release the airstream from the lungs, you will have produced a perfect : (called :ayn in Arabic.)’
I was at a Will Self reading in a pub once, and decided I’d had enough of his aardvark-trying-to-hoover-the-fluff-out-of-its-bum voice. But the crush was too tight and, trapped at the wrong end of the room as I was, I was trapped. My only hope was a bookstall: I bought a Will Self and stood there reading it. Will Self’s voice behind me was very distracting though. My thought process was going something like this, in other words: shut up Will Self, I’m trying to read Will Self. Is there a word for a situation as ridiculous as that? If not, there should be.