Monday, October 19, 2020
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Thursday, October 15, 2020
Dr Arthur Broomfield is a poet and Beckett scholar from County Laois. Among his publications are The Poetry Reading at Semple Stadium (Lapwing 2011), Mice at the Threshing (Lapwing 2015), Cold Coffee at Emo Court (Revival Press 2016) and his critical study on the works of Samuel Beckett The Empty Too: Language and Philosophy in the Works of Samuel Beckett (Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2014). His poetry has been published in journals and anthologies in Ireland, the UK, the USA, and India. He holds a PhD degree in English literature from Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick.
Broomfield leads me down a rabbit hole of surrealism in The Giant's Footsteps... (Revival Press 2019) and therefore Alice's first task is to get a grasp of what surrealism is. And thank you Arthur for reminding me of Breton's Always for the First Time.
Surrealism was an artistic, intellectual, and literary movement led by poet André Breton from 1924 through World War II. The Surrealists sought to overthrow the oppressive rules of modern society by demolishing its backbone of rational thought. To do so, they attempted to tap into the “superior reality” of the subconscious mind. “Completely against the tide,” said Breton, “in a violent reaction against the impoverishment and sterility of thought processes that resulted from centuries of rationalism, we turned toward the marvellous and advocated it unconditionally. (MOMA Learning)
Broomfield dedicates the book to the memory of André Breton who pictured the roses as “blue” and the wood as “glass” as he flitted between “living and ceasing to live” in the epigraph. The opening poem Bloom 2016 visits a prize-winning exhibition (Bridging the Gap) at the annual gardening festival in Dublin, and the poet might be walking this bridge himself between reality and fantasy, “The arch carries me from the escapable/to a notion of reality that mystifies the senses/I at first avert;”.
The Bee Woman Works At Her Hive describes a scene in a painting by Mansfield in detail with language both rich and energetic. The Bee Woman maintains the hive as caretaker “During lulls in the natural order,/when the dead have been buried/and the laws of seed time and harvest/are reinstated,”. This omnipotent presence is much like the writer himself, in charge of his eclectic, wordy world. “I am here in the hum and whirr/of these zips and zooms,”. October Evening Clonreher is another beautiful piece, evoking the spirit of Kavanagh from A Christmas Childhood. Broomfield recalls “the silent moon”, the radio, “the beet train” and “a backdrop of glittered stars”. In Costa Coffee Shop is a light hearted re-enactment of an ordinary day's eavesdropping I imagine.
I was taken with In The Beginning Was The Word, a poem written after Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ. I have written a poem about this painting myself. Here Christ appears as an unwanted actor, a has been who has “lost the dressing room”. This delight in subversion and shock can be found throughout the collection, not least in Eamonn De Valera Had A Twenty-Four-Inch Cock and The Archbishop. The poet perhaps expresses his disdain for those two pillars of the formation of the Republic, Fianna Fáil and the Catholic Church.
Broomfield sees himself as an outsider in He Ponders His Own Reality. "It wasn't an easy decision/to fit in with the crowd," he says comparing the pressure to conform to an ant "navigating a block of margarine up the Rock of Dunamaise." This rock is an outcrop in Laois hosting the ruins of a castle built in the 12th c. Yet one is left with the awareness that the poet is no ant but the giant of the collection's title, saved and elevated by his art.
The Giant's Footsteps at the Rock of Dunamaise can be purchased from Revival Press, Limerick and from Arthur himself.