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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Post Postmodern Sunday

So commentators have said that the postmodern era is now dead and gone so where does that leave us.  I suppose we are in some melting pot of the present out of which may come?  In a creative sense it is very exciting as you may imagine yourself as an alchemist playing in the ether, careful how you tread though.   What kind of a world do you want to live in?  Some movements begun are New Sincerity and Metamoderism.

I watched The King's Speech yesterday.  Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush acted wonderfully.  It is a good movie, slow paced.  It was interesting to see the origins of the child Queen Elizabeth II, hardly any wonder that she casts a cold eye and remains firm in the passing of life.  I also watched The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, wonderful to see justice done and the bad guys get their comeuppance at last, what a great trilogy it was and a fantastic character in Lisbeth Salander.  Now I'm going to indulge myself in Science Fiction and work on my poems later, I hope!!

Friday, May 27, 2011


I'm just going to get a coffee to help me along with this.  Before I go to get it I must say that I received a lovely email from Nonnie Augustine, poetry editor of The Linnet's Wings and they've accepted one of my poems for publication in late July this year.  And I have to clean the kitchen now too.:s

Right I may have bitten off more than I can chew here.  I think I am experiencing the hermeneutic circle that Heidegger wrote of in that I am having to read one thing to understand another and then having to read more again.  I get a sense that being postmodern means questioning everything and taking nothing for granted.  It is about skepticism and seeing the world in relation to individual experience rather than accepting any truth that claims to represent a group.  It is about concrete experience.  Postmodernism is highly suspicious of the modern world.  I would liken it in a sense to a rebellious child?

A poem I found that is classified as postmodern (but then is it or is it just that I think it is) is thinking I think I think by Charles Bernstein:

"Postmodernism may be seen as a continuation of modernism's alienated mood and disorienting techniques and at the same time as an abandonment of its determined quest for artistic coherence in a fragmented world: in very crude terms, where a modernist artist or writer would try to wrest a meaning from the world through myth, symbol, or formal complexity, the postmodernist greets the absurd or meaningless confusion of contemporary existence with a certain numbed or flippant indifference, favouring self‐consciously ‘depthless’ works of fabulation, pastiche, bricolage, or aleatory disconnection. The term cannot usefully serve as an inclusive description of all literature since the 1950s or 1960s, but is applied selectively to those works that display most evidently the moods and formal disconnections described above. It seems to have little relevance to modern poetry, and limited application to drama outside the ‘absurdist’ tradition, but is used widely in reference to fiction, notably to the novels (or anti‐novels) and stories of Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut, Italo Calvino, Vladimir Nabokov, William S. Burroughs, Angela Carter, Salman Rushdie, Peter Ackroyd, Julian Barnes, Jeanette Winterson, and many of their followers."

from Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms

Lawrence Weiner


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Modernism - 2

The modern writer was influenced by the emergence of city life as a central force in society.  He/she experienced a shift from a knowledge based aesthetic to a being-based aesthetic.  Central to literature were individualism, the randomness of life and the mistrust of government and religion.  Juxtaposition, irony and satire were used.  Writers turned away from Romanticism to concentrate on the mundane.  A movement to which Ezra Pound was central was Imagism.  Key to Imagism were exactness of observed detail, apt metaphors and economy of language.  This formula is still very influential to free verse poets. 

This would be a literature to suit an era of technological advance and global violence.  American poets such as Wallace Stevens, e.e. cummings, William Carlos Williams and Robert Frost questioned and reinvented their artform.  I won't move on to post modernism yet and of Andy Warhol I haven't much to say, except that he made art of his popular culture.  I didn't know that he had been shot in the 1960's. 

The poem I have chosen to highlight from the modern period is Eliot's The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufock (which I have always loved, even though we didn't study it in Leaving cert it was still available to read in Soundings) even though The Wasteland is considered to be the greatest poem of the 20th c.  I've only ever read excerpts from The Wasteland.  I can't tell you the amount of times I have said to people Let us go then you and I when the evening is spread out against the sky like a patient etherized upon a table only for them to look at me strangely!  In this poem the poet places himself as one who is on hell on earth.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question. . . 10
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap, 20
And seeing that it was a soft October night
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep

from The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufock, T.S. Eliot

Monday, May 23, 2011

Modernism - 1

Liberty Leading the People - Eugene Delacroix

In order to better understand my writing I've been reading about modernism tonight.  It is a movement dated from the 1860's to the 1970's but some say that it has its roots in the Renaissance when humanists revived the idea that man and not God is the measure of all things.  In humanism we can see the trace of the modernist confidence in our potential to shape our own destinies. 

The 18th c. saw the rise of Enlightenment when the flame of reason was held aloft.  New found truths discovered by Kepler, Galileo and Newton during the scientifc revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries rocked the traditional viewpoints held by the church and society.  A Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns had broken out where the individual asked whether the moderns were artistically and morally superior to the writers and artists of ancient Greece and Rome.  This quarrel was satirised famoulsy by Jonathan Swift in The Battle of the Books.  (Now where have I heard this before???)

Now people felt rebellious as they had been subjugated in ignorance and superstition. Revolutions occurred in the United States and in France. Education was seen as a way forward to the creation of a better society.  Yet Modernists came to reject the seeming certainty of the Enlightenment just as they did the existence of a compassionate God.

At the beginning of the 20th c. the avant garde arose.  Impressionism  had been born and a painting had the power to cause great political unrest.  Surrealism came to be known as "the avant garde of modernism."  Yet what I found was really interesting was the shattering of old ideals with the devastation caused by Word War 1 to the human spirit.  The 1920's were defined by modernism.  Is modernism soulless and mechanistic?  A trait of modernism is self-consciousness.  Surrealism grew, writers such as Virginia Woolf of the Bloomsbury Group developed the stream of consciusness.  Society was fractured. 

One cannot say that modernism is either politically to the left or to the right.  Dali, Yeats, and Eliot were to the right while Brecht, Auden and Breton were to the left.  Picasso developed Cubism while Jackson Pollock went on to work in abstract expressionism.  What about Andy Warhol and Pop Art?

I want to read more about this movement and to learn how it is different to postmodernism.  What is postmodernism?

Printemps, Tamara De Lempicka

Sunday, May 22, 2011 - Issue 6 - Summer '11

Wordlegs Issue 6 has just been released.  I have a poem in it which I wrote about 8 years ago.  I changed the end of the first stanza before submitting it to Wordlegs.  I actually hadn't submitted the poem to anywhere before that. 

Wordlegs is edited by Elizabeth Reapy and is divided into sections for poetry, flash fiction and short story typically but she also welcomes novel extracts, lyrics, plays, scripts, non-fiction and essays.  The deadline for Issue 7 is 30th June.   The magazine is a very enjoyable read.  Find it here

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Book of Celtic Verse

I received a present of this book and it is quite enchanting.  Edited by John Matthews it is divided into 5 parts, Spells and Incantations, The High Dream of Nature, Lovers Under Leaf, Warriors and Warlords and fifthly, Voices of the Spirit.  These all touch on strong Celtic themes.  The Celts are the peoples of Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Cornwall and Brittany.  Originally of Indo European stock they spread out from Central Europe approximately 500 BC. Wow @ BC!! 

There are some lovely pieces in this book including an invocation by Amairgin and Taliesin's nature.  The magician Merlin features a lot and poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins and Francis Ledwidge are included.


T. W. Rolleston (1857-1920)

In a quiet water’d land, a land of roses,
Stands Saint Kieran’s city fair;
And the warriors of Erin in their famous generations
Slumber there.

There beneath the dewy hillside sleep the noblest
Of the clan of Conn,
Each below his stone with name in branching Ogham
And the sacred knot thereon.

There they laid to rest the seven Kings of Tara,
There the sons of Cairbre sleep—
Battle-banners of the Gael that in Kieran’s plain of crosses
Now their final hosting keep.

And in Clonmacnoise they laid the men of Teffia,
And right many a lord of Breagh;
Deep the sod above Clan Creide and Clan Conaill,
Kind in hall and fierce in fray.

Many and many a son of Conn the Hundred-fighter
In the red earth lies at rest;
Many a blue eye of Clan Colman the turf covers,
Many a swan-white breast.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Boyne Readings & Open Mic, May

Kate Dempsey, Triona Walsh, Barbara Smith (The Poetry Divas)

The Boyne Writers' Group was well represented last night in the Open Mic and thanks to Frank Murphy of The Meath Writers' Circle and Honor Duff of the Cavan/Meath Litlab (sorry I mispronounced your name Honor) for attending and reading. 

The Poetry Divas themselves were fantastic to hear.  Thank you Kate, Triona and Barbara.  You can read more about the night at

Monday, May 16, 2011

Poetry Divas for Trim

If you are around Trim this Thursday night then be sure to pop into the Knightbridge Retirement Complex Coffee Shop, Longwood Road, for the Boyne Reading and Open Mic.  This weeks featured readers are The Poetry Divas;  Barbara Smith, Kate Dempsey, Triona Walsh and Niamh Bagnell.  Kate Kempsey blogs under the Emerging Writer and has been a featured reader in Trim before.  Since being there last she has won the Plough Prize for a short poem and been published in Poetry Ireland Review.  You can hear her reading the winning poem by following the link below:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chase Twichell

I first read some of Chase Twichell's poems in The Bloodaxe Staying Alive and/or Being Alive anthologies.   She's an American poet and I really like her voice.   Her poems have appeared in literary journals and magazines including The New Yorker, Field, Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, The Paris Review, Poetry, The Nation, and The Yale Review.  I love Hunger for Something

Sometimes I long to be in the woodpile,
cut-apart trees soon to be smoke,
or even the smoke itself,

sinewy ghost of ash and air, going
wherever I want to, at least for a while.

Neither inside nor out,
neither lost nor home, no longer
a shape or a name, I’d pass through

all the broken windows of the world.
It’s not a wish for consciousness to end.

It’s not the appetite an army has
for its own emptying heart,
but a hunger to stand now and then

alone on the death-grounds,
where the dogs of the self are feeding.

"the dogs of the self", what a great description.  I found some more of her poems online.


I’ve never seen a soul detached from its gender,
but I’d like to. I’d like to see my own that way,
free of its female tethers. Maybe it would be like
riding a horse. The rider’s the human one,
but everyone looks at the horse.

To the Reader: If You Asked Me
I want you with me, and yet you are the end
of my privacy. Do you see how these rooms
have become public? How we glance to see if--
who? Who did you imagine?
Surely we're not here alone, you and I.

I've been wandering
where the cold tracks of language
collapse into cinders, unburnable trash.
Beyond that, all I can see is the remote cold
of meteors before their avalanches of farewell.

If you asked me what words
a voice like this one says in parting,
I'd say, I'm sweeping an empty factory
toward which I feel neither hostility nor nostalgia.
I'm just a broom, sweeping.

To the Reader: Twilight

Whenever I look
out at the snowy
mountains at this hour
and speak directly
into the ear of the sky,
it's you I'm thinking of.
You're like the spirits
the children invent
to inhabit the stuffed horse
and the doll.
I don't know who hears me.
I don't know who speaks
when the horse speaks.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Poetry Ireland Introduction Series at The Irish Writers' Centre 12/05/11

Michael Farry

It was wonderful to hear Michael Farry reading his poems on Thursday evening just past and I thoroughly enjoyed being in the Irish Writers' Centre for the first time.  I came away from the event feeling inspired.  The general consensus was that the four writers selected by judge Alan Jude Moore were diverse in their voice and the readings manifested this.  Ainin Ni Bhroin read long, almost prose like pieces, Kimberly Campanello echoed confessional poets like Plath and Sexton, Michael brought us on a journey through parts of his life in a captive way and Donna Sorensen left me wanting to read more of her work.  All poets were interesting.  This is how it appeared to me, from afar.

I met Paddy Smith, Evan Costigan, Honor Duff and Kate Dempsey on the night.  Well done to the selected writers.  Four more will read on Wednesday night, same time, 6.30 pm, same place.  They are Eleanor Hooker, Susan Lindsay, Barbara A. Morton, and J.S. Robinson.

Donna Sorensen

Monday, May 9, 2011

Poetry Ireland Introduction Series 2011 - Michael Farry

Poetry Ireland presents the Introductions Series 2011 featuring Ainín Ní Bhroin, Kimberly Campanello, Michael Farry, and Donna Sørensen.

Venue: Irish Writers' Centre, 19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1

Time: 6:30pm
I'm delighted that Michael Farry, a founder member of our writers' group, Boyne Writers, has been selected to participate in this years Introduction Series.  Michael is the editor of Boyne Berries magazine and the secretary of our group. 
I'm up very late tonight so it's afforded me the chance to dwell on some of his poems.  I've always liked Grow Up Slowly (For Cian) which can be read in Boyne Berries 3.  Another poem of his that comes to the fore is My Interest in Polish Poetry has been Aroused which was published in The SHOp.  However right now Five am in Perth, Australia from Boyne Berries 2 is poignant.  My sister is living in Perth at the moment.  Michael has a pleasant and strong reading voice. 
Five am in Perth, Australia
We keep a clock at Perth time here
and as I do my final tidy round
I see it's five am there.  Are you
restless, roused by milk deliveries
and heavy bin collecting trucks
or by the swish of dead leaves
dashed against your window?
My mistake, it's spring there now,
dawn chorus, perhaps a discord
of bowerbird, bushlark, thornbill.
Here our sycamore stands stripped,
its rough leaves filthy litter.
At verge of sleep I am befuddled.
Are those pert rooks on the roof
or you sleep-walking in the attic?
And you, I hope, confuse the
clamour of your neighbours waking
with my dressing and descent to put
the kettle on, release your terrier.
Michael Farry

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mslexia Women's Poetry Competition 2011

The prizes for this are great.  2000 pounds sterling to the winner and a weekend writing retreat, 400 for 2nd and 200 for 3rd prize.  20 other finalists will recieve 25 pounds and all winning poems will be published in Mslexia magazine, October, November and December issues.  So it's well worth taking a shot and entering if you have a spare, really good poem or maybe you have one up your sleeve waiting to be written.  The judge is Jo Shapcott and she says that she would like to read "poems which, as Emily Dickinson famously said, make me feel as if the top of my head is taken off."  Oh yes no problem, I have one in the oven that is quite so. :s

The entry fee is 7 pounds sterling for up to three poems, again not bad at all.  The closing date is 18th July.  Poems can be in any style, of any length and on any subject.  Poems should be doubled spaced on A4 pages.  If entering by post put your name, address and details on a separate piece of paper as the poems are judged anonymously.  You can enter online too.  Follow the instructions carefully at

or post to:

Women's Poetry Competition
Mslexia Publications Ltd.
PO Box 656,
Freepost NEA5566,
Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 1BR.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


I have a poem in May's issue of Riposte called Going to Portmarnock which I wrote about two years ago to enter a competition about railway journeys.  I went to Portmarnock on a date at the time but the best thing by far to arise from the situation was the poem.  I don't know what became of the competition or who won it but I'm happy my poem found its destination at least.  It's a sonnet.  I was writing a lot of sonnets at the time.  They must be nearly all published now so I will have to write some more. 

This time last year Frank Murphy advised me to send something to Riposte and a few weeks ago at the Boyne Berries 9 launch Evan Costigan told me to do the same.  Evan had a poem called Conch in the broadsheet recently and Frank had a poem in it too recently I'm sure.

Thanks very much to Michael O'Flanagan who edits Riposte.  It is in its 16th year and has a very impressive mailing list.  To subscibe to the publication for one year costs 15 euro and you can contact Riposte by email; or view the website at