‘An intellectual and emotional complex’: Luke Fischer launches ‘The Sepia Carousel’ by Jakob Ziguras

Luke Fischer launched The Sepia Carousel by Jakob Ziguras, Pitt Street Poetry 2017, at Gleebooks on 2 August 2017

Jakob Ziguras

It is an honour and special pleasure to be given the role of launching (a little belatedly) Jakob Ziguras’s new and second book of poems The Sepia Carousel. Jakob and I will shortly converse about the book, and Jakob will then read a number of poems. However, to begin with I will say a few words as a way of introducing The Sepia Carousel.

Jakob currently lives in Wrocław, Poland, and over the past twelve years he has spent much time in Europe, especially in Poland. This time in Europe has involved a deepening of Jakob’s connection to Poland. In recent years he has been translating a number of Polish poets and been extensively reading modern and contemporary Polish poetry.

Jakob was born in Wrocław and lived in Europe until the age of seven, when with his mother he immigrated to Australia as a refugee from communist Poland. After studying visual art for a time, he moved on to study philosophy and completed a PhD at the University of Sydney. Through both his family background and his education Jakob is deeply connected to and versed in European philosophy, literature, art, and theology. If Jakob is correctly identified as a European-Australian poet, the emphasis should nevertheless be placed on ‘European’ rather than ‘Australian’. Jakob writes from within European traditions of poetry and philosophy rather than as a tourist or foreigner in Europe.

Among Australian poets, Jakob’s poetry is comparable to the work of Stephen Edgar in its formal virtuosity and versatility and to Kevin Hart in its philosophical and theological concerns. However, even though Hart’s poems make significant allusions to mysticism, theology and philosophy, Jakob’s poetry generally embodies a greater concern with intellectual complexity (rather than lyrical immediacy), such that a number of poems will remain opaque to a reader with little knowledge of the history of philosophy.

The German word for poetry ‘Dichtung’ contains the word ‘dicht’, which means ‘dense’. Ezra Pound on discovering that the German verb for composing poetry ‘dichten’ can be translated into the Italian ‘condensare’ (to condense) remarked that an essential aspect of poetry was the condensation of meaning. Pound viewed poetry as ‘the most concentrated form of verbal expression’. Jakob clearly shares this view with Pound as his poems concentrate meaning to the utmost.

Like Jakob’s first book Chains of Snow, The Sepia Carousel engages deeply with European history, philosophy, poetry and art and contains a mix of free verse and formal poems, with a predominance of the latter. Nevertheless, there are some notable developments. Firstly, there are more long sequences in The Sepia Carousel––the opening cycle ‘Roman Sonnets’ that consists of eleven sonnets being only one of many examples. Secondly, while Chains of Snow could be said to be an embodiment of poetry as condensation, The Sepia Carousel pushes this tendency further. Through multiple layers of allusion, symbolic compression, formal constraint, word-play and irony, the poems achieve immense concentration.

Jakob’s poetry tends to be difficult. It is far from the mundane realism and demotic diction of the American poetry that sparsely populates magazines such as The New Yorker. But Jakob’s poetry does not renounce or disrupt meaning and coherence in a post-modern fashion. Jakob is more of a high modernist than a post-modernist. His poetry is intellectually complex and allusive. It rewards contemplation and re-reading. It recognizes the complexities of existence and history, and the complicity of the individual in systems of violence and evil. His poetry does not seek refuge in simplistic answers, aestheticism, or sentimentalism.

The sensibility of Jakob’s poetry is notably European and historical. Like many Central and Eastern European poets, Jakob’s poems are deeply aware of the problem, most famously articulated by the philosopher Adorno, of how it is possible to write poetry after Auschwitz, after the atrocities of the twentieth century that have continued into the twenty-first.

Rilke was one of a long line of European poets who strongly identified poetry with the task of articulating the praise-worthy, of affirming life in spite of the transience and imperfection of the world. But after the brutality and systematic violence of more recent history, the task of genuine praising––free of sentimentality and escapism––has become more difficult and problematic. Nevertheless, as the contemporary Polish poet, and friend of Jakob’s, Adam Zagajewski has memorably put it, we must ‘try to praise the mutilated world’.

Jakob’s poems look for fragments of hope and possibilities of transformation amidst the ruins of history, try to affirm at least something beyond the nihilistic emptiness of contemporary capitalism and consumer culture. A characteristic moment of such affirmation is found in lines from the second poem of the sequence ‘Isola di San Michele’: ‘Song comes and goes among the bitter laurels. / I pluck a leaf, and crush it to release / the cool clean scent; then walk away, / the ash and bracing resin on my hands.’ The laurel leaves, the emblem of poetry, are noticeably ‘bitter’ and their trace on the poet’s hand contains ‘ash and bracing resin’. Poetic affirmation is intermingled with ash and decay, life cannot be separated from death. In the moving autobiographical poem, ‘Windows in the Dust’ Jakob recalls a childhood game in a courtyard in Wrocław in which he and other children made patterns in the dirt out of bits of rubbish and broken glass. This is a beautiful embodiment of the aesthetics and poetics of Jakob’s new book. Among visual artists Jakob’s poetics might be likened to the aesthetic of Anselm Kiefer, in the way it looks for beauty and affirmation in unlikely places of ruin and dissolution. Nevertheless, there are also quite bleak poems in this collection, in which despair seems almost inevitable.

Jakob’s poetry is not only notable for its intellectual complexity and range but also for the symbolic compression of his images, which extend imagist and symbolist practices. Pound famously defined the poetic image as ‘that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time.’ Jakob’s lines frequently exemplify and instantiate images in precisely this sense. To offer one example, consider these two lines from one of the unrhyming sonnets in the sequence ‘Jet Lag Song Nets’: ‘A cold wind lashes at the merchandise. / You wear your scarf pulled tight into a noose.’ In just a few words, these lines capture the speaker’s feeling of the futility of life, which borders on a suicidal desire, in relation to the spiritual emptiness of the market place.

Jakob’s poems also deftly draw on and subvert traditional symbolisms in order to articulate a philosophy of history and a critique of our current moment. When snow appears in the collection, rather than its traditional association with purity and innocence, it tends to imply the cold rationality and amorality of the modern technological world. As a polar and equally destructive tendency, the season of spring, in the title sequence of the third and last section of the book ‘The Rite of Spring’, rather than symbolising positive forces of renewal, transformation, and resurrection, signifies violent irrationality, unbridled passion, and despotism.

While there is a remarkable density and wide use of allusion in Jakob’s first collection, there is a noticeable increase of allusive and narrative compression in the new book. Rather than elaborating a narrative or allusion within the body of a poem, these are tersely intimated as an assumed background of meaning. For instance, the poem ‘Introspection’ (in the sequence ‘Snow like Wool, Frost like Ashes’ dedicated to the late Polish poet Stanisłav Barańczak) we find the following lines: ‘The introspective paradox / is that introspection / is not––unlike Johnsonian rocks––/ subject to inspection.’ These lines assume that the reader has some familiarity with the philosophical problem of infinite regress with regard to self-consciousness, namely that the true subject or self can never be its own object as the observed self never coincides with the observing self. In addition, the expression ‘Johnsonian rocks’ tersely encapsulates the philosophical anecdote of Samuel Johnson kicking a stone as a supposed refutation of Bishop Berkeley’s idealist philosophy according to which the world only exists through being perceived.

In the new collection there is also an increase in word play and punning across various languages. One of my favourite lines of this kind (from the sequence ‘The Rite of Spring’), ‘If children ask for bread, then give them Stein,’ alludes both to Marie Antoinette and to the biblical account of the devil tempting Christ to turn stones into bread, and puns on ‘Stein’ as a reference to Gertrude Stein and the German word for ‘stone’.

The book is divided into three sections. The first section titled ‘The Appian Way’ is primarily situated in Italy, especially Rome, and engages with and critiques Western history. The second section ‘First Snow’ is primarily situated in Poland. The third section ‘The Rite of Spring’ ranges widely across European history and literature and includes poems set in Australia. The collection contains a number of brilliant free verse poems but long sequences of formal poems predominate, including terza rima, sonnets, pentameter quatrains, and a variety of other forms. The masterful handling of forms is not only aesthetically significant but also part of the semantic complexity of the poetry. For instance, the sequence ‘Snow like Wool, Frost like Ashes’ is written in ballad meter but these are highly philosophical poems with nothing that resembles traditional balladic narrative; thus there is something like an ironic tension between the meter and rhymes of the ballad form and the ostensible content of the poems.

In our current age of hype, platitudes, doublespeak, and attention spans limited to the length of a tweet, Jakob’s poems ask us to read more carefully, think more deeply, and to widen our understanding and appreciation of history, philosophy, theology and art.

 – Luke Fischer

 ————————————————————————————————

Luke Fischer is a poet, philosopher, and scholar. His books include the poetry collections A Personal History of Vision (UWAP Poetry, 2017) and Paths of Flight (Black Pepper, 2013) and the monograph The Poet as Phenomenologist: Rilke and the New Poems (Bloomsbury, 2015). His editorial work includes a co-edited special section of the Goethe Yearbook (2015) on ‘Goethe and Environmentalism’ and a forthcoming volume of essays on the philosophical dimensions of Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus (Oxford University Press). He frequently curates poetry and music events. He has received various honours and awards, and is an honorary associate of the philosophy department at the University of Sydney. For more information see: www.lukefischerauthor.com

The Sepia Carousel is available from https://pittstreetpoetry.com/jakob-ziguras/

 

Vale John Ashbery

John Ashbery, widely regarded as one of the greats of English language poetry over the last half century, died on Sunday 3 September aged 90.

Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York, in 1927 and grew up on an apple farm in the nearby village of Sodus. He wrote his first poem at age 8. His first book, Some Trees, was published in 1956, with a by W.H. Auden and was praised by Frank O’Hara, who likened Ashbery to Wallace Stevens. His 1962 collection, The Tennis Court Oath, was so abstract that many critics had trouble coming to terms with the collection, but his 1966 collection, Rivers and Mountains, was a National Book Award finalist and confirmed his position as a major US poet. This was confirmed when his 1975 collection,  Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle prize.

From an Australian perspective Ashbery was one of the major American poets, along with Frank O’Hara, Ted Berrigan and others, who provided a major influence to a generation of Australian poets from the mid 1960s. John Forbes was referring to this when he wrote in ‘To the Bobbydazzlers’:

…………….Sitting
on the beach I
look towards you
but the curve
of the Pacific
gets in the way
& I see stars
instead knocked
out by your poems
American poets,

Perth Poetry Festival – Keynote Address by Amanda Joy

As patron of the 2017 Perth Poetry Festival Amanda Joy delivered the 2017 Festival Keynote address on 17 August at the Northbridge Piazza Community Room.

Amanda Joy

Within days of being asked to make this address, the week before I left for Broome, I went to dinner with a group of poets, in a corner a candle had been lit for Fay Zwicky. We were told she would not make it through the following day.

When I think of memorable keynote addresses, without fail, the first to come to mind is Fay Zwicky’s opening speech from the Apropos Festival hosted by Writing WA a few years back. I still don’t entirely trust my recollection of what she said, there was some kind of hypnotic reverie involved, which existed outside the words and cast a spell over that entire week. It began with music, Fay Zwicky playing piano. Her talk was mostly autobiographical, quite practical, surprising, gracious and radiated great generosity in its advice to poets. I’m sure everyone there took away many things. Residual for me, the seed which took root, was her advocacy of fearlessness, not just in poetry but in our relating to others, a courage in reaching out, particularly poet to poet.  I very loosely paraphrase here, “if you admire someone’s writing, write to them, no matter how far away and loftily admired they might be” Her reach was as international as the points of reference evidenced in her writing. She illuminated those interconnections which sustain us and it seems right to invoke her presence here now, through her own words and those of a handful of Western Australian Women Poets.

There is a particular sentence in her essay Seeing and Recording a Local Ambience which has stayed with me as caution, friction and fascination since I first encountered it;

The Obscurity of Our Diction.

“The obscurity of our diction has been closer to vagueness of perception than to the obscurity of the complex consciousness. It embodies an uncertain grasp of the relationship between language and feeling, and of feeling and the natural world. Our poetic speech has lacked that edge of hardness and truth, which enables us to forgive an obvious clinging to convention, which we do in Hardy and Frost. What has been missing is the personal tone, the adjustment of the individual to the physicality of things.”

What an awareness this asks for! and she offers little consolation, rather opening a field of questions. Yes, as instructed, you can slow the moment of sensation, break it gently down, line by line to regulate the pace, as with all her writing the words seem to have absorbed more, codified more, than others can in entire books.

She writes of the lack of musicality, even the inert “thud” of the words of William Carlos Williams, of his visual rather than auditory imagination, not tuned to the mind’s ear, then discusses at length the heightened scrupulousness in his matching of language to physicality, of the appeal this concept of poetry might have to, in her words, “shallow democracy” shared by Australian and Americans.

And what a potent pairing of words that is “Shallow democracy” It speaks to a great deal more than a distrust of elevated or academic literary language and how specialized language can isolate.

In preparing for this talk, I was excited to find on the Giramondo website, her speech from the launch of Lucy Dougan’s book The Guardians. It contains so many gems but I loved this euphoric quote (which I have kept near my desk) “Whenever a poet manages to find language and structures that mimic and project her feelings, she’s actually chalking up a victory over oblivion. “

What our diction resists and what its resistance can say. A well crafted poem asks the reader/listener to move toward it to gain understanding.

In the poem The Stone Dolphin, from Three Songs of Love and Hate, she writes:

The language of tyranny had to be
learnt if anything were to be said

and later in the same poem:

True grief is tongueless when the dumb
define love’s death
In a fiercely fathered and unmothered world
words are wrung from the rack

These are origins, not conclusions. As in so many of her poems she destabilizes language by critiquing the same tool she is working with, she renders it precarious through a restructuring, each orphaned word crammed to bursting point with the weight of greater meaning, yet retaining its most seductive qualities.

I was reminded of the final stanza’s of Morgan Yasbincek’s poem Pilgrim, from White Camel

for two days she sits broody in the camper chair, her cup held still
on ten fingertips, then she moves like that woma python woman
from Uluru, the child a light under the sand of her
tasting the air, she enters a gathering in the centre of Alice, finds
the Arrente woman who gives her some words to see with, permission
to enter her land

These complex networks. Words which have come from another physicality, which have not only been seeded by the shape of things in that particular locale but also allow the alignment of the individual to that same physicality. This is not abstract theory, become bilingual and your tongue will develop a new muscularity, your hypothalamus will vibrate differently, your pituitary gland will secrete a new dose of hormones.

When in Swamp, Nandi Chinna asks “How many footsteps will it take/ to walk a place into the body?” the body keeps walking, the rhythm of movement through terrain becomes the body and the words-as-poem, a new form.

When poetry strives for this alignment, evidences this adjustment, it sings. Not merely as vocality, onomatopoeia, in cadence, meter, or a layering of meaning. Something happens spatially. We are drawn into another place, another encounter, it situates us in a “constellation” complete with its own rhythm.

There is a great poem by Caitlin Maling, I came across originally in Going Down Swinging from her book Conversations I’ve Never Had, called Holiday, it begins with an aerial view of Perth.  (our freshly arrived interstate and international guests may appreciate this view from an airplane)

Perth from above is a cockroach.
It sits there, brown and laconic, and
the microwave of summer can’t shift it”

Discomforting for many reasons, not least because it likens Perth to a cockroach, but also everything suburban becomes cockroach, not diffused by the word like it actually is a cockroach. The language in it is hard, the line breaks as dissociated and dislocated as the idea of a city which clings to country like an insect “twitching intermittently”

The precision of our diction, the map which is our diction, leads to and from the reader/listener’s body through the sentence and from and to share the poet’s body and its yearnings, where they are located, not simply geographically and physically but psychically, spiritually and ineluctably, politically.

Set this beside Yamatji poet, Charmaine Papertalk-Green’s Don’t Want me To Talk, published in Cordite and also The Fremantle Press Anthology of Western Australian Poetry.

You don’t want me to talk about
Mining or its impact on country
You don’t want me to talk about
The concept and construct of ‘whiteness’
And how dominant and real it is
You don’t want me to talk about
The art vultures here and everywhere
Modern day art missionaries
Guiding us on the great white canvas
You don’t want me to talk about
Treaties or invasion of this land
It’s a shared true history- lets heal
You don’t want me to talk about
How reconciliation could be the wrong word
You don’t want me to talk about
Native titles way of moving across
The Midwest and Murchison landscape
You don’t want me to talk at all
Most of the time
You want me to nod, smile and listen
You don’t want me to talk about
How I have got a voice
And you don’t listen

There are voices not represented in this room. While we gather under the banner of ‘celebrating diversity’, lets also have a heightened awareness of where it isn’t and why its important to do so.

In the rarefied context of several days of poets reading their poems we have the benefit of entering not only the poet’s diction but an immersion in the intonation, to observe the facial expressions and physical presence. To commune through a shared embodiment of words, the texture of those words over tongues and into ears, as spirit, as wind or other movement over terrain. This week as we make those maps. Maps of this precious time we have together, this transient field of relations we co create and its capacity to change us, as poets and people.

I’ll now read Fay Zwicky’s ‘The Poet Asks Forgiveness’ from Kaddish.

Dead to the world I have failed you
Forgive me, traveller.

Thirsty, I was no fountain
Hungry, I was not bread
Tired, I was no pillow

Forgive my unwritten poems:
the many I have frozen with irony
the many I have trampled with anger
the many I have rejected in self-defence
the many I have ignored in fear

unaware, blind or fearful
I ignored them.
They clamoured everywhere
those unwritten poems.
They sought me out day and night
and I turned them away.

Forgive me the colours
they might have worn
Forgive me their eclipsed faces
They dared not venture from
the unwritten lines.

Under each inert hour of my silence
died a poem, unheeded

 

 – Amanda Joy

  —————————————————————————————————–

Amanda Joy was born and raised in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of Western Australia. Her first full-length book, Snake Like Charms, is part of the UWAP Poetry series. Her poem ‘Tailings’ won the 2016 Peter Porter Poetry Prize. She is the author of two chapbooks, Not Enough to Fold and Orchid Poems.

The 2017 Perth Poetry Festival ran from 11th to the 20th of August https://wapoets.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/2017-perth-poetry-festival/

Answers Just Beyond Our Grasp: Colleen Keating launches ‘Black Mountain’ by Carol Chandler

Black Mountain by Carol Chandler, Ginninderra Press 2017, was launched by Colleen Keating at Better Read Than Dead Bookshop, Newtown, on 6 August

Carol Chandler, (left) and Colleen Keating at the launch of Black Mountain

Firstly I invite a pause for us to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land, on which we gather and   to pay respect for Elders past and present.

What a gathering in this wonderful environment of books and music and art, and what a great honour for Carol that you have taken the time to be with her to celebrate.

Most of you would be aware writing is a lonely trek, a long haul,  a footslog, an odyssey. Sometimes lost in the bush,  sometimes all at sea, sometimes desert-dry, sometimes energising but mostly a solitary and gruelling task. As a writing community we appreciate that, and we are here to honour the loneliness of the long distance writer and to celebrate Carol’s successful outcome. And what an outcome.

Black Mountain is a psychological thriller –  and what a thriller. What a journey!  We are taken by the narrator, Sarah, into the back waters of a country area, a place up in the hills not far from the coast in a lonely desolate ‘neck of the woods’.  Sarah, a teacher  has escaped from this town and this life, but on, page one, she is drawn back into its eerie world  trying to make sense of the past and find out what really happened to her brother Liam who died in a house fire.  By page eight we are woven into the mystery and, for us, there is no return .

You and I know how easy it is to get caught back into the dark web of our past,  –   into the tangle of relatives, families , friends. . . where there are all the hurts and intrigues, suicide, murders, lovers, drugs  and especially secrets, lies and cover ups.

People are watching …..the threat of dogs always in the background..… the sharpness of the knife edge that glints in the moon light…….   that scary feeling you are being followed and  that strand of foreshadowing…. and  of course the world of gossip.

Even when we escape to the coast, the ocean doesn’t give us reprieve, not even a breather. We are kept in the dark web of intrigue.

Carol has given us a thriller. Everyone loves a good mystery……  but here there is the added complexity of human psychology,   what’s beneath the surface in human action and reaction .

The pivotal characters Freya and Tyler and the mystery of Lola a young girl who has disappeared, gives us a sense of place and how that connects with identity.

And with  the pains of the past that hold their secrets and hold us in their mystery, we become caught in the struggle and search for meaning.

What is it all about? ……. We are immersed in a thriller . . . a metaphor for life, where the questions materialise at every turn, but the answers are just beyond our grasp.

The many characters, that fill this small world of intrigue, even Aden and Radic and the dogs Nero and Jet and the mountain all are colourful and well formed. One could possibility recognise archetypes from Carl Jung’s  collective unconscious but this is held lightly,  This is not a philosophy book, it is a short psychological thriller to take to bed,  or curl up one rainy afternoon and enjoy an escape for a few hours.

Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter says: “Words are in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic” and Black Mountain has the magic of a good read.

I  congratulate Carol and proudly declare Black Mountain launched.


Black Mountain is available from https://www.ginninderrapress.com.au/store.php?product/page/1373/%2A+Carol+Chandler+%2F+Black+Mountain

Colleen Keating. belongs to the Women Writers Network that meets every Wednesday at the NSW Writers Centre in Roselle .  Her collection of poetry, A Call to Listen is available from Grinninderra Press and her second collection, Fire on Water, is forthcoming from the same publisher. Colleen can be found at http://colleenkeatingpoet.com.au/

Vale Fay Zwicky

Fay Zwicky (Photograph Juno Gemes (copyright Juno Gemes)

Poet Fay Zwicky died on 2 July 2017, the day after her Collected Poems was published by UWAP. Her publisher, Terri-ann White said of her “She actively worked on her Collected Poems with the editors, her friends Lucy Dougan and Tim Dolin, and was delighted to hold the book in her hands last week. …… the 4th July would have been her birthday. Great sympathy at this loss to her family and friends”.

A detailed biography, together with a good collection of her published work, can be found at the Australian Poetry Library https://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/zwicky-fay. Rochford Street Review is looking forward to reading her Collected Poems which will now serve as a tribute to the life and work of this major Australian poet.

The Collected Poems of Fay Zwicky is available from UWAP https://uwap.uwa.edu.au/products/the-collected-poems-of-fay-zwicky

 

Contemporary Irish Poetry Featured Writer: Mark Roberts

Three Poems              Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

Mark Roberts is a Sydney based writer, critic and publisher. He is a founding editor of Rochford Street Review and is the curator of the current feature on Contemporary Irish Poetry which has run through issue 22 of the Review.

Most of Mark’s family on his mother side left Ireland in the second half of the 19th century, driven out by the famine and a dislike for English oppression. Over generations in Australia they maintained their sense of ‘Irishness’ and, at times, that Irishness has found its way into Mark’s work.

Mark founded Rochford Street Press in the early 1980s to publish a literary magazine called P76. Rochford Street Press has also published a number of books, pamphlets and chapbooks over the years and is recognised as one one of the smallest literary presses in the  world.

Mark’s own work has been widely published in magazines and journals in Australia and overseas. Concrete Flamingos, a collection of his recent work was published by Island Press in 2016 and he currently has a few new projects in flight.

Books

P76 Magazine

Website

Mark Roberts: Three Poems

Biographical Note              Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

Leaving Roscommon – Strokestown Park
The Conscription Vote – 1916/17
Cities that are not Dublin

P .

Leaving Roscommon – Strokestown Park 
(Gorta Mór)

We drive out of the grounds of Strokestown Park,
the chill in our bones a reminder of a history
that follows us down these short country roads.

A land that tugs at memory. My grandfather’s
stories of why the English can’t be trusted:
grain exported while his grandparents starved,
his mother hung by her hair from a roof beam.

These things are hard to forget,
even across generations.

Back to Contents

P .

The Conscription Vote – 1916/17

History lies here, buried deep. Two bodies
laid neatly, face down. The male, head facing
the old road, the female on top of him, her head
resting on his feet – a better fit in the narrow grave.
A layer of stones to stop wild dogs searching for food.
Almost 100 years now, local victims of an imperial war.
Old Jack told everyone that his son had “eloped off” with that
“Paddy” girl. Better that way, he didn’t have to see their bastard
children or write his son out of his will. But there were rumours of
ghostly songs drifting down the hill above the farmhouse on moonless
nights. But life went on. Years later Jack went to his grave without a Catholic
………………………………………………………………………………in the family.

.

Australian voters were asked in October 1916, and again in December 1917, to vote on the issue of conscription. Irish Australians played a leading role in the defeat of both votes.

Back to Contents

P .

Cities that are not Dublin

I have a plan for reading Ulysses – actually more than reading it, finishing it. Today i am going to Neilsen Park alone with a picnic lunch. I will start reading next to the harbour, easing my way into the sections I have already read. Then tomorrow night I am travelling to Melbourne by train and plan to sit up all night and read.

I make good progress, sitting against an old Morton Bay Fig Tree, reading familiar pages, looking up occasionally at a city which is not Dublin.

**

This train is called the Spirit of Progress. It has dark brown leather seats, and the blue Vicrail carriages look out of place at Central Station. There is a little reading light above each seat that can stay on all night.

I read for hours and sleep briefly in the early morning. I am thick into Joyce when i sit up at the bench in the restaurant car and eat breakfast. My coffee splashes into the saucer as the train emerges into the morning.

**

Central …………………………Dublin Connolly

Strathfield ……………….. ……Tara Street

Moss Vale …………………. ….Dublin Pearse

Golburn……………………     .. Lansdowne Road

Yass Junction…………. . ….. ..Sandymount

Junee……………………..         Sydney Parade

Wagga Wagga………… ..  ….. Blackrock

The Rock………………. …….  Dun Laoghaire Mallin

Albury…………………… .        Sandycove & Glasthule

Wangaratta……………………  Bray Daly

Benella……………………   ..   Kilcoole

Spencer Street…………….    . Street Gorey

**

I am staying in Marie and Andy’s flat in Fitzroy Street, just above Leo’s Spaghetti Bar. They have gone away for the weekend and I have the flat to myself.

The flat has a curved balcony & large windows overlooking the street. Andy’s drum kit is in the corner and three of Marie’s paintings are hanging on the wall. The largest is of a crumbled tube of toothpaste.

You can’t see the bay but you can smell it when the wind blows in the right direction.

**

You can see the tram-stop from the balcony. It is twilight and I watch people getting on and off the trams. The sun has disappeared over the city and it feels like I’m watching a European film.

I see a man get off the tram. He is wearing a suit and a hat and looks very different to everyone else in the street. His suit seems to be cut from a heavy material and he is wearing heavy lace up boots. I watch him cross the street. He checks his watch and then enters the old Sportsman’s Bar.

I go into the kitchen and put the kettle on to make a cup of tea. Russian Caravan. I take it back to my vantage point just as he leaves the bar.

He is now with a another man, shorter and stockier and wearing a similar style of clothes. They walk down Fitzroy Street toward the bay. They stop and stand discussing something on the footpath outside the aqua coloured block of flats for almost five minutes. Then the second man hails a cab. The man in the hat walks back to the tram-stop and catches a tram back to the city.

I think of what has just taken place. I imagine a story. A meeting in the bar. A drug deal or organising a small scale robbery or perhaps just a drink with a friend and a discussion about football. I think of how that twenty minutes in the bar fits into the man’s schedule and begin to imagine what he has done today. Was he at work? Where in Melbourne he has travelled? Does he have a family? Who he has meet and what will he do now?

**

On my last night in Melbourne I go to a party. It is in High Street Armadale & Marie gives me a lift in her old Mazda. The party is in a flat at the back of a laundromat which is still open when we arrive.

A strobe light is is cutting the party to fragments and slinging them, three a second through cracks in the door. Hip Melbourne boys are wearing pointed black shoes & the girls all seem to be dressed in orange and green. I start talking to the only woman dressed in jeans. She works at the local community radio station and lives round the corner. When she learns that i am catching the train back to Sydney in the morning she gives me a crunched up ball of foil. Harsh crumbs for the trip she tells me.

As we leave the party, walking past the now closed laundromat, I see the streetlights reflected in pools of water along Commercial Road. A couple is having an argument at a tram-stop. He is yelling that he loves her. She is yelling at him to fuck off. They are holding hands.

**

O that awful deepdown torrent O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and the pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

**

Sunset leaving Goulburn. Sydney just over an hour away. I swallow the last crumbs of the hash, & wash it down with a swig of vodka. I want to be ready for the lights of Sydney’s outer suburbs.

‘Cities that are not Dublin’ was runner up in the 2013 joanne burns Award for Prose Poems/Microfiction. It appeared in Writing to the Edge, Spineless Wonders 2014.

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Contemporary Irish Poetry Featured Writer: Alice Kinsella

Five Poems ....................Contemporary Irish Poetry Index


Alice Kinsella was born in Dublin in 1993, and raised in the west of Ireland. She holds a BA(hons) in English Literature and Philosophy from Trinity College Dublin.

Her poetry has been widely published at home and abroad, most recently in Banshee Lit, Boyne Berries, The Stony Thursday Book and The Irish Times. Her work has been listed for competitions such as Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Competition 2016, Jonathan Swift Awards 2016, and Cinnamon Press Pamphlet Competition 2017.

Her debut pamphlet Flower Press will be published in 2018.

Alice Kinsella can be found at aliceekinsella.com or at her Facebook author’s page https://www.facebook.com/AliceEKinsella

 

Alice Kinsella: Five Poems

Biographical Note              Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

Tír na nÓg
Rose
Sweetheart, come
And what, what are we giving to our children?
When – A video Poem

 .

Tír na nÓg

In lieu of history classes we learned legends of warriors,
fierce fighting Fianna we were sure lived in our blood.

Neart ár ngéag

We waved ash branches for swords,
flew down hills on steeds with wheels,
foraged berries, scaring magpies with screams,
cleared the stream in one leap – this was our land.

My favourite was always the story
of Oisín, little deer bard boy,
bravest of band of brothers,
tempted by beauty and promises,
he left for the land of the young.

We watched the tape of Into the West
while eating beans on toast
we pretended we’d cooked in camp fires,
you laughing at my Dublin dialect
dissolving with Wild West warrior words.

Beart de réir ár mbriathar

Ears hanging on the telling of legends
round camp fires, the memories of
stories, the bravery of Oisín the poet
prince and his fairy love laying siege
to time with their eternal youth.

You’d run home in half-dark before bedtime,
I’d watch the film to the end,
read the whole story in the illustrated book

learning that no amount of love
could keep him in the land without death
that the call of age would always test.

Glaine ár gcroí

One snap of the rope, the saddle strap broke,
the fall of a warrior that could not keep fighting.

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 .

Rose

I.

Take these petals.
Let me lay this offering at your feet.

I bring you red roses
like a lover.

I will not leave you
with lilies,

and their deathly associations.
I’d imagine you’re tired of them.

Watch white hands drop red tears
one by one into the black.

II.

The rose bush is coming into bloom again.
It has decided to forgive the winter.

It’s going to give this another try.

The flourish of flowers is burying
the thorns loading its leafy limbs,

but you can still prick your finger
on the spindle that wants your sleep,

can still slit your skin
as you reach to pluck its offering.

Though,
then

your hurt hand will hold beauty
to see you through the pain.

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 .

Sweetheart, come
I.M. Emma Hauck.

I cannot claim to understand
how they locked you away
like a corpse in waiting,

how he turned his eyes from you
and your letters went unsent
as you pleaded for him to

Komm Komm Komm
Herzensschatzi komm.

I cannot ask you to understand
that terminal is not a word
you should have heard.
That they should have

come come come
to you.

How were you to know
you are not the only one
bleeding into words
breeding love in letters
scrawled ten thousand times.

Sweetheart,

I do not have your tongue
only your prayer
that someone may

come –

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 .

And what, what are we giving to our children?
For Aoibhe

She uses words new to her
and finds her way around the ones
she doesn’t know yet like a maze.
Tells me the marble looks like oil.
I know what she means:
its iridescent curve, blues, greens, purples
moving as it spins like the film of oil
on the surface of the sea riding the waves,
shining rainbows on lakes and streams
or every puddle she’s ever seen.

I think how our mothers
would not have known
that comparison at her age.

On Trá Mór we leave our footprints
in the peat-like drowned forest,
examine evacuated shells,
we find a Mermaid’s purse,
the leathery pocket shed by a shark
in its first moments.

Mum remembers what it said on the news:
They’ve found a superbug in the bay,
it has come in on currents from the city.
We drop the shells, wipe our shoes,
use anti-bac wipes on our hands
the whole way home.

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 .

When’ – A video poem by Alice Kinsella released on International Women’s Day 2017.

‘When’ is a poem by Alice Kinsella based on the Rudyard Kipling poem ‘If’. ‘If’ is a poem famous for its inspiring advice on how to be a man. It is a beautiful and motivational poem but, as with much of the literary canon, ‘If-’ is written by a man for men. ‘When’ is written with the intention of being inspiring and appealing to women, while honouring the original poem. It is written for every woman.

The video features sixteen female poets: Anamaria Crowe Serrano, Kerrie O’Brien, Day Magee, Natasha Helen Crudden, Anne Tanam, Elliot Furlong Tigue, Deirdre Daly, Alvy Carragher, Fiona Bolger, Rosita Sweetman, Lynn Harding, Clara Rose Thornton, Jess Traynor, Amy Dwyer, Ingrid Casey and Alice Kinsella.

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Contemporary Irish Poetry Featured Writer: Karen J. McDonnell

Four Poems                     This Little World Launch Speech 
Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

Karen J. McDonnell won the 2014 WOW Poetry Award and was runner up in the 2015 Wild Atlantic Words and the 2015 Baffle poetry competitions. She was shortlisted for the 2017 Poems for Patience and Robert Monteith awards, as well as being longlisted for the 2014 Over the Edge New Writing Prize. Her poetry and other writing has been published and anthologised in Ireland and abroad, including The Honest Ulsterman, Crannóg, poeticdiversity, The Irish Times, Poetry NI: Poems for Holocaust Memorial Day 2016, Wild Atlantic Words 2015 and Rubicon: Words and Art Inspired by Oscar Wilde’s ‘De Profundis’ (Sybaritic Press). An excerpt from Unsettled – A West Bank Journal was nominated in the 2014 Best of Net (non-fiction) in the U.S.

Karen’s Website and Author’s Blog

Books

This Little World, her debut poetry collection, was published by Doire Press in June 2017. For further detail see http://www.doirepress.com/writers/g_l/karen_mcdonnell/

‘This is a book infused with insight and mythic assurance; a book of intuitions made loud and voices marked by vision, the work of a poet who will be read for her adeptness in tracing the heartlines of human experience, and for the sake of imaginative enrichment.’ —Martin Dyar, author of Maiden Names (Arlen House)