Kimberly Campanello Six Poems

Biographical Note              Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

Now
Bucranium
VERSE 4 from Hymn to Kālī
VERSE 9 from Hymn to Kālī
Love Poem as Reflection, as Presence
VERSE 16 from Hymn to Kālī

P .

Now

I.

Now the wracked bodies
of charred rabbits
have disappeared
from the fields
and the village is flooded
with people who can’t
speak the language.
Each day we help each other
peel back our eyelids
despite the sun.
We prepare food
with a rusting knife
made by a child
we don’t know
laboring
on the other side of the world.
We sharpen
a hundred pencils each
and work on new lines
to press into our palms
new veins to line our legs
new omniscience
to goad our hearts.

II.

To displace
the obelisk’s
stacked stone
To invent new trumpets
tubas saxophones
To march
To attack first with rosemary
then predictions
to demand money
to accept tears
To run up the street
from our offices
in high heels
to grab our babies
to feed them
from our breasts
then and there
To light candles
in the grotto
to light so many
it will explode

III.

I squat over these rising white ribbons,
these maggots reaching
and twisting themselves

from a rotting leg joint.
They promise me
there are salves

for all of this.
Salves stronger
than nuclear waste

with a smell
that could fill a church
like incense.

Biologists say
a maggot’s whole body
is covered with ocular cells,

eyes that never blink.
They always
respond to the light.

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P .

Bucranium

Copper kills sperm offerings, you see.
An old knowledge. That, and its
T-shape hovers and bounces
along womb walls, evicting occupants.
A bucranium within a bucranium.
Bull’s head and horns of the goddess.
Uterus and fallopian tubes. The coil.

Once we drilled holes in her stone belly,
filled them with branches and antlers
spreading outward like a child’s fingers
reaching for an egg. Once we carved
a triangle above her pubis
for the bull’s nose breathing
heat, rustling and shining wet
before the charge. Once we handed the ear
to the man who killed best. The heavy
body falling. The throngs rising
to their feet. Or we snatched rosettes
tied to the horns, twirled their
stems in our fingers, brought the petals
to our noses. And all of this means
something. Perhaps then, as now.

Now, this act of gynecology—someone
must reach in and twirl its strings
so we can know it’s still there.
Will it be me, or you? Copper
kills sperm offerings, you see. Once we
excarnated our corpses. Crows
tore skin from fat, fat from flesh,
exposed the bull’s horns for the first time.

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P .

VERSE 4 from Hymn to Kālī

O Dakṣiṇā

you’ve got me covered

.

you sever all my attachment

and shake this world’s bleeding head

.

you give me the signs

that I am lucky

and safe

.

and that I don’t

have to wander

searching

.

I only have to carry your lotus

in my palm

to enjoy its scent

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P .

VERSE 9 from Hymn to Kālī

so what can I
say to show you
I know you

you the origin

even the big
gods admit
they can’t explain

O Darkness Itself

forgive me
for trying

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P .

Love Poem as Reflection, as Presence

When bones
heal
we say
they knit
themselves
together.
Are we
plaiting ourselves
together
like the bones
of tantric dance aprons
human remains
carved first
sized perfectly
dipped
in liquid
to preserve
colour
for at least
1,000 years?
Or are we
mostly
shattered
stacked upon
ourselves
making
ourselves
substantial
like catacomb
arrangements?
And now
are you
slicing
and pulling
back
my scalp
to see
my skull’s
growth lines
proof
that I
have been?
Am I
seeing
your lines
right through
your skin?
Are you
coming
closer
closer
so I’ll crack
you open
and drink?

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P .

VERSE 16 from Hymn to Kālī

on Tuesdays I tear out a strand
of my beloved’s hair
cover it in my wetness
bring it to the graveyard at noon

for you O Kālī with you

I don’t give a shit
about death
my feet don’t even
touch the ground

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Poet Kimberly Campanello reads her poem “Chloran” in the UCD Special Collections Reading Room. Part of the Irish Poetry Reading Archive.

Contemporary Irish Poetry Featured Writer: Noel Duffy

Four Poems ....................Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

Noel Duffy’s debut collection, In the Library of Lost Objects, appeared with Ward Wood Publishing, London, in 2011 and was shortlisted for the Shine/Strong Award for best first collection by an Irish poet. His second collection On Light & Carbon followed in 2013. His most recent collection, Summer Rain, was published in summer 2016, again with Ward Wood. His poetry has been published widely in Ireland and beyond, including in Poetry Ireland Review, The Irish Times and The Financial Times, and has also been broadcast on RTE Radio 1 and BBC Radio 4. He lives in Dublin.

Website:
http://noelduffy.net/poetry/

Books

Reviews and Articles

 

 

Noel Duffy: Four Poems

Biographical Note              Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

The Department of Dead Letters
The Botanical Gardens
Darkroom Notes
The Island

P .

The Department of Dead Letters

There is a man among us who knows secrets.
He gets up when night comes, looks
at the outline of the woman’s body, a question mark
against the sheets as he dresses quickly
and leaves her there asleep. He is already late,
but then everything is his life is late, or lost
as he retrieves his car from the apartment carpark
to make his nightshift at the sorting depot.
There it is his duty to piece together the clues
and runes of misspelt addresses, the half-remembered
names, the scrawling handwriting, undecipherable;
the lost love letters or wedding invitations
written to those long since parted or departed –
to try, at least, to find a place to return them to,
so the one who sent them may know they went
undelivered, touched only by his hands.
This work his solitary calling as he inspects
the items from the tray, delicately lifting one
from the pile as he applies steam to the yellowed
parchment, his hand a soft caress to ease it open
to find there a cursive script but no return address,
the loss so carefully expressed, now his and his only.

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P .

The Botanical Gardens

You lean down close to the blossom, inhale deeply;
the stem straight, the perfect contours of the stamen,
the tight, precise folds of containing petals. There is
a sadness in the opulent grace of such things whose
season is passing. The August sunshine suddenly
darkens, the cloud thickening to rain. I take your hand
as we run to take cover, passing beneath the creepers
that climb the arching ironwork trellis of the entrance
to the rose garden. You pull tight your yellow overcoat
and we hurriedly make our way towards the shelter
of the vaulting glass of the Victorian palm house,
the slam of humid heat that meets us as we enter,
the intense odour of sweat reminding us of ourselves.
You shake away the rain and laugh as an old couple
walk past slowly, holding hands, carrying each other along,
like the century flower that blooms only once in its lifetime,
but endures so many seasons to continue so.

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P .

Darkroom Notes

The print lies in the tray, the image of the hotel
emerging in the red sundown of the darkroom,
the filigree of the ironwork window boxes painted over
in the double-exposure of memory’s flashbulb
and the rust of time passing. What stories lie behind
these boarded-up windows overlooking the promenade,
the sea still washing up against the harbour wall,
yet forgetful of everything: the women in their
tightened corsets and flounce of tresses, attended upon;
the men in their bowler hats and spotted neckties;
the reliquary of old, faded postcards of the silver-nitrate
past as the ghosts of maids continue to walk the corridors
ascending and descending staircases that lead nowhere
in the stopped watch of someone else’s afterlife.
And the figure of a man caught in the scene, standing
beneath the spotlight of a street lamp, staring back at me.

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P .

The Island

We approach the jetty by a narrow path
the boat shifting with the lake’s waters.
I hold your hand as you step
from the wooden platform in half-shadow
to the rocking seat, the cradling bow
measuring your weight as it tilts slightly
beneath you, the water lapping against the hull.
I climb onto the seat behind you, push
the oars down deep into the surface,
the lake receiving my giving force
and we push outward from the bank into
obsidian waters. A crescent moon rises
above the distant treetops of the island,
your shrill laughter echoing in the stillness
the stars plotting our course through darkness
into the night’s forbidden navigations.

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‘Reykjavik’ – a video-poem by Noel Duffy

Contemporary Irish Poetry Featured Writer: Patrick Deeley

Patrick Deeley- Six poems                                              Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

Patrick Deeley

Patrick Deeley. photograph by Ann Hannan

 

Patrick Deeley was born in Loughrea, County Galway, in 1953. He worked as a primary school teacher and later as principal in De La Salle School, Balyfermot, before taking early retirement in 2012 to devote himself full-time to writing. Many of his early poems were published in the New Irish Writing page of The Irish Press in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Since then his work has appeared in several leading literary journals in Ireland, UK, USA, and Canada. Patrick’s poems have been included in approximately fifty anthologies, broadcast widely on radio and television, and translated into French, Italian, Spanish, Ukrainian, and other languages.

Patrick’s collections with Dedalus Press include Intimate Strangers (1986), Names for Love (1990), Turane: the Hidden Village (1995), Decoding Samara (2001), The Bones of Creation (2008), and Groundswell: New and Selected Poems (2013). His most recent awards for poetry include the Dermot Healy International Poetry Prize in 2014, the WOW Award in 2015, and a Bursary in Literature 2017 from the Arts Council of Ireland towards the completion of a new collection. His poem ‘Woodman’ was chosen as one of Ireland’s 100 Favourite Poems in a survey organised by The Irish Times.

Patrick is also a writer of fiction for young readers. His novel, The Lost Orchard, published by O’Brien Press, won the Éilís Dillon Award for a First Children’s Book in 2001. His best-selling, critically acclaimed memoir, The Hurley Maker’s Son, appeared from Transworld in 2016.

He has conducted workshops for writers’ groups and literary festivals throughout Ireland and devised a highly acclaimed poetry course illustrating ways into poetry and poem-making for and by children – Poetry in the Classroom – sanctioned by the Department of Education. Patrick has also facilitated modules for post graduate students at TCD as part of literary exchange programmes, and read at many festivals including Cuirt, Galway Arts, Kilkenny Arts, Cork Spring Festival, Irish Music and Literature Festival in Oulu, Finland, and at South Bank, London. He worked as a member of the Council of Poetry Ireland from 1984 to 1989.

 

Patrick Deeley- Six poems

Patrick Deeley – Biographical note                               Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

Houses
Watching The Invisible Man
Wild Barley
The Shoe
Clearance
Renoir

P .

Houses

I doubted our flat-porched roof, where the cypress-tree shadows
goose-bumped me awake, could be half so marvellous
as the roofs of ancient Çatalhöyük, which served as streets, had
doors in them, and ladders that led down into the houses.

Each house raised on the ruins of its predecessors,
a maker’s space for larder and fire, basket-weave and bangle,
mirror and dagger. Each as well a burial chamber,
bone-store of the ancestors, repository of their preserved heads –

kept, much as we kept pisspots, under the beds.
No, the roomy house below me, draughty and prone to creaks,
with its wild-dog-rose wallpaper begun to peel
from the door jambs that opened to the front and back yards,

with cloud-flicker across a ceiling or the sun’s pulsing aureole
on chimney breast or floor – couldn’t hold a candle
to Çatalhöyük’s plaster-crafted bulls’ noggins and painted leopards.
But I valued height and flatness, the gift of a refuge

where nobody thought to look. Things that were unremarkable
then – a sewing machine jangled into life by pressing
on its treadle, duck eggs submerged for coolness in a bucket of oats,
buttermilk left to clot in an enamel basin – become

strange enough, when I recount them, to puzzle the children
of today, just as the contents of Çatalhöyük,
in their prime nine thousand years ago, still puzzle me.
And the boy on the roof, awakening to wonders of his own nature

and place, follows in my footsteps as though to catch me up
with the harvest of mother images he holds onto and the word
he must travel by, even if destined to stay forever
gone – a father’s ‘never forget who you are, where you come from’.

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P .

Watching The Invisible Man

A teacup lifts, tilts, empties out of and into thin air
while he – bumped by an unsuspecting shoulder –
loses, recovers his composure. Present or absent, his bind
has us playing hide-and-seek. We see the wind
disfiguring his footprints on a sandy beach; the book
that floats, now open, now shut, and then a run of bad luck
confirms him the victim of a flying fist, a knife
pressed towards its vanishing point, a handgun going off.
Blood dots the pavement. He appears to do
some good while we peer into our own future, construe
skyscraper, subway, taxi cab, neon lit come-hither,
wrist watch, popped-on sunglasses, near fatal heart-flutter.
A city’s run of the mill. After, a tranquil space,
clothes make him up, fedora, bandages defining his face,
shirt and trouser legs filling out; a certain raffish élan.
Meanwhile, the open fire at our backs dies down;
we remember the draft under the door which has been there
all along. So, we stop walking in his patent leather
shoes, fumble for the muddied farmyard boots that seem
no longer to fit us and, one at a time, twist into them.

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P .

Wild Barley

This spike with its brittle quiff or beard,
growing out of shingly ground
along the crooked lane behind our shed,
looks scuttish even as it seeds, looks
wayward as the graffiti sprayed
on garage walls in skeins of gold and red.
Sign of neglect, my neighbour says,
but when I pluck its green-tinged grains,
unhusk the measly kernels, place
them on my tongue, a chronicle teeters,
ancient and fundamental, which tastes
of rain and sunshine, the first stand our
ancestors made, the holding down
and raising up, with cricked backs, with
cracked fingers, of field and yield,
of all that would make for a city, its modes
and means, pomps and works,
from the scatter of primordial dunghills.

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P .

The Shoe

Everything breathed. I planted my bare feet each in turn
and felt the shoemaker tuck and fold the cured
cowhide ankle-deep about them, cutting and stitching
with a peep for the toes and the straps
curling unbroken extensions. Run a tug-tassel off the top

of the heel, I told him – it happened so long ago that he
would surely gasp if handed the proof
of ‘his’ shoe, crafted to endure, enduring ‘so well’. Where,
he might ask with half a laugh, is the other sandal?
Weren’t they a match, the missing one well-made as this?

A frown might crease his face and his fingers grease his brow
as he tried to recall the woman who bought
the shoe, the ‘pair’ of shoes, from him. Or would he
blink tears at the thought of the woman’s
‘disappearance’; or coldly look away, unwilling to meet

your gaze; or even rant – he, who seemed gentle-natured –
about ‘her sort’ deserving what she got?
And you, eyeing the thin moccasin that lingers,
try to picture my wander over Amcotts Moor, how I skited
through sphagnum and heather, the weeps and deeps

no earthly trouble, with bog cotton – the hovering ghost
of summer – a ready stoop and pick. Guess me
fresh-faced if you will, guess me dark or fair, gathering
the white eggs of a bird that nests in a hole
in the ground, or picking bilberries; guess me flowing in silk,

or with chapped lips grimacing at life’s
skimps and hardships. Or do I sing because being most able
to hear myself when walking alone? A day inhabited
by ordinary deeds – but now, suddenly, figure me
hurrying, taken, battered and broken. Or maybe I drown,

or simply forget my way, who slip – however it happens –
to the dream you’ve yet to meet, cold paralysis
in its kiss, and clay its consumptive grip. The shoe survives.
It stays even after my body, so long hidden
by the mire, is found and lost again, frittered on the journey.

Here, snug-fit for my left foot, tawny and delicate-looking
as a wild mushroom, it waits, and might wait
forever if you ask that of it, with the soft shadow of the mouth
exposed to your every conjecture, even as
it asserts the irretrievable, silently, inside a casket of glass.

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P .

Clearance

Budless, stripped of leafage and bark,
trees sizzle and tick; charcoal
effigies. Become as mewling animals –
with smouldering hoofs,
with cauterised antlers puffing smoke
as they lean away from us
into the blistered distance. Bits
of them flake off, momentarily flap
ashy winglets before sinking.
Or they crack apart, trunks
grinning red-grained and open, while
what pass for their crowns –
fused, shrunken – fall, making
hardly any sound at all. It takes days
before the clearance cools.
The farmer who owns the wood
appears and disappears,
envisioning the land as forever,
the land as his. Shrugs at the good
riddance of scrub. Meaning
willow and hazel that spar in dens,
nests, horizontal understoreys.
Meaning tall, pliant poplar, and aspen,
the long-stemmed whisperer.
Meaning pine and beech, elm
and oak. The forester asks us to save
what is saveable of the burned
no less than the wind-felled.
Velvety dust squeaks underfoot, smears
and sears. Our chainsaws rebound
off the heat-toughened trunks.
We have to turn back when rain runs
everything into a morass.
There will be growth again – lichens,
hummocks of moss, raddled
foundations in their renewal restoring us.
Birds will pipe up, spiders
build. The only blaze will be of furze
blossoming. Some other April
will find a living wilderness
here, incineration covered over
as if it had never happened. We stare at
the ground and we tell ourselves this.

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P .

Renoir

One stifled groan, the old boy rises
from his wheelchair, takes
a shaky step out onto the veranda.
His cotton shift, breeze-blown,
shows the cleft of his bony haunches;
his heels appear to bruise
the tiles that bruise them, and then
he’s there, framed by wood,
grumbling about something – maybe
his crocked bones, or the colours
that have slipped his palette,
or how he doesn’t care what happens
so long as he can still paint –
he’s there, or nearly, one dying dip,
one dab of the art-ravened
corpus, no fun felt in flesh anymore,
and, as he goes forward into
the light of day, he grows translucent.

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Contemporary Irish Poetry Featured Writer: Breda Wall Ryan

Six Poems ....................Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

 

Breda Wall Ryan grew up on a farm in Co Waterford and lived in Cork, Spain and Dublin before settling in Co. Wicklow. She holds a B.A. in English and Spanish (NUI); a Post-graduate Diploma in Teaching English as a Second or Other Language from Trinity College, London and a M.Phil. in Creative Writing (Distinction) from Trinity College, Dublin. A former language teacher and teacher trainer, she is now a poetry workshop facilitator and competition judge.

Ryan’s short stories have appeared in The Stinging Fly, The Faber Book of Best New Irish Short Stories 2006-7 and The New Hennessy Book of Irish Fiction and have been shortlisted for The Davy Byrnes Award, Francis MacManus Short Story Award, Hennessy Literary Award, UCD Anthology Award (Fiction) and Elizabeth Bowen/William Trevor Award.

Her debut poetry collection In a Hare’s Eye (Doire Press 2015) was awarded the Strong/Shine Award for a First Collection by an Irish Poet. Contest judge, writer Kevin Barry said, “Breda Wall Ryan has an astounding control of language. And I think only a poet as sure-footed as this on the line and as certain of her own gifts could bring the poems to the very difficult places they sometimes go…”

Among her other awards are the iYeats Poetry Prize, Dromineer Poetry Prize, Poets meet Painters Prize, Over The Edge New Writer Award and The Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize.

Her poems have been widely published in print and online journals and anthologies, including Ink Sweat and Tears, Mslexia, The Pickled Body, Deep Water Literary Journal, Magma, Orbis, The OFI Press, The Fish Anthology 2013 and 2014, The Penny Dreadful, The Bohemyth, The Rialto, Itaca, Crannóg, Poethead, The Camel Saloon, Blue Fifth Review, The Stony Thursday Book and Southword. Most recently, her work has appeared in Flare, Live Encounters, Blackjack, and Poetry Ireland Review. Her poetry has been broadcast on local and national radio stations and has been translated into several languages, including Irish and Romanian.

She has been recorded by RTÉ Radio 1 for The Poetry Programme, and by University College, Dublin, School of English, Drama and Film for the Irish Poetry Reading Archive.

She has been a featured poet in Authors and Artists Introductions Series 10, in Live Encounters, on Poethead.wordpress.com (ed. Christine Murray), and in Poetry Ireland Review The Rising Generation.

Ryan has performed at poetry events throughout Ireland, including Belfast Book Festival; Wild Atlantic Waves Poetry Festival, Cahirciveen; Cork Spring International Poetry Festival; Five Glens Arts Festival, Co.Leitrim; Dromineer Literature Festival, Co Tipperary; Hay Festival at Kells, Co Meath, and Cúirt Festival of Literature Galway. She has also read at Troubadour, London and at Tres Gatos, Boston, USA.

Website

Breda’s website can be found at www.bredawallryan.com

Books

In a Hare’s Eye can be bought from Doire Press, who ship free of charge worldwide: www.doirepress.com/writers/a_f/breda_wall_ryan/

Reviews and Articles

Poetry reviews: new work by Kathleen Jamie, Breda Wall Ryan and Grace Wells in The Irish Times http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/poetry-reviews-new-work-by-kathleen-jamie-breda-wall-ryan-and-grace-wells-1.2515430

Breda Wall Ryan on writing In a Hare’s Eye in The Irish Times http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/breda-wall-ryan-on-writing-in-a-hare-s-eye-1.2600493

Other Work

https://poethead.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/self-portrait-as-she-wolf-and-other-poems-by-breda-wall-ryan/

 

 

Breda Wall Ryan: Six Poems

Biographical Note              Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

Self Portrait as She Wolf
The Woman Who Toasted the Owl
Tender Loving Care
Dreamless
Epiphany in Jamaica Plain
Self Portrait in the Convex Bulge of a Hare’s Eye

P .

Self Portrait as She Wolf

You sheer away from the warm,
many-tailed beast,
spurn the communal dream.

Beyond the shelter of pine and fir
you lope across open ground
where cold scalds your lungs,

feel a soft-nosed bullet’s kiss,
lick the salt wound clean,
almost drown in a starry bog,

but break through its dark mirror,
meet your reflection
in a boutique window on a city street

among mannequins in ersatz furs,
the last of your kind,
or the first.

Only look back once,
for a silhouette, a hungry scent.
There is still time to re-trace your spoor,

answer the tribal howl. Your throat opens
on one long, swooped syllable,
almost a word.

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P .

The Woman Who Toasted the Owl

Who can describe this? Who?

Who, driven mad by night-feeds,
talons tensed, struck her tormentor?

Whose unlullabied child grew wide-eyed,
called to the dark in owl-song?

Who flew from mother to murder,
spurred by a blizzard of questions —
Who could not bear it?

Who haunted the owl,
insomnia’s interrogator,
abandoned her child in deepwoods
to fend with the birds? Who?
Whose feather-trail leads from cradle
to beamed barn owl-roost?

Who scorched her prey on a fire,
spun its neck through all points of  the compass?
The breast on a toast-fork
run through and through— whose?

Whose cradle lies nursery-rhymed
under shattered treetops,
nest wrenched from rock-a-bye roots?
Who toasted the owl,
became what she’d eaten?

Who is the raptor?

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P .

Tender Loving Care

The child meant for summer, they say, came early in April,
light as a poppy, breaths that were barely breaths
fluttered his day-lily lungs,
speedwell-veined eyelids shut to a future
of TLC only prescribed on his chart.

Rumours flew round our small town that the mother
shed never a tear, but her breasts wept
when his fingerbuds opened, boneless as blossoms.
She read the plea in his palm, fixed
a soft pillow for his head.

They say she came back once, after her sentence,
begged the baker to water his Easter-dyed chicks.
A pigeon racer at a loft near the graveyard
said someone the spit of her spat on a stone
and scrubbed off the moss.

There’s talk here of pink-and-blue chicks sipping water
from a hubcap in a window of broken glass,
they say someone’s seen an empty coop and a stranger,
and a flock of opal wings swooping over a grave.
Some say the devil exists; some say angels.

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P .

Dreamless

A million crawling things run spiderwise
inside her skin, her skeleton is glass,
she needs another hit, and fast,

her skin is needle-tracked, she works
the street for heroin to stop the spiderlings,
she does a punter in a dash against a fence

and scores a thirty-second rush,
glass splinters in her veins fuse
into a waterfall of raindrops,

magic light spills from her fingertips,
she’s blissed out, dreaming weightless while
the good brown horse outruns her dream,

she’s goofing now, slumped outside a church,
between her knees a paper cup she holds out
like a sacred heart to passers-by,

small change spills through her fingertips
but not enough, another stranger in a car
earns her more dreams, she sucks her tongue

for spit to swallow fear, swears
on the Sacred Heart that she’ll get clean,
then mugs the punter with a syringe,

again the spiderlings criss-cross her skin
and crawl inside her arm-tracks,
two blow-jobs on her knees to get a high,

she cooks the gear, a bag of china white,
loads up a syringe, smacks a vein, ties off
and hits; her hopes are answered with amen,

the dragon’s knocked brown sugar girl
off her horse, the fall has sucked out
all her breath, her eyes are pinned,

she feels no crawly things, she has no skin,
her bones are glass, her heartbeats trickle
from her fingertips like raindrops when

the rain’s about to stop…

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P .

Epiphany in Jamaica Plain

I’m filling a notebook with firsts:
my first cardinal, chipmunk, chickadee,
first turtles in the wild, ranged like stones
on a half-submerged tree in Jamaica Pond,
basking to warm up winter blood.
I welcome this summering,
sip iced coffee under the awning
on the second-floor terrace, sweating
after my trek from the T at Stony Brook
where I had sidestepped an old Dominicano,
scribbled ‘Mrs Baez Serves Coffee
on the Third Floor’ to look up later.
Alert for following footsteps,
I scurried past Latinas calling Cuidado!
to kids jostling on a rodadero.

Back home on my dappled terrace,
I write an uneasy note: no white people
until Sheridan Street. Around me,
neighbourhood gardens are lilacking,
chickadees flit through the leaves,
cars slow for the white-lettered HUMP
on the street. A six-litre SUV stops,
revs, circles the block, stops below.
It’s all judder and engine roar.
The Latino beat that throbs
from its wound-down windows
startles the cardinals, spurs squirrels to leap
impossible gaps. I jolt from my reverie,
afraid. Afraid as I was this morning,
the sole white face in that T-car
on the Orange line; alarmed
by the old man’s offer to talk;
wary of the young Dominicano peacocking
in his SUV. And it comes to me
like a voice underwater: this fear
is race-coloured. I have sleepwalked
my whole life, thinking myself untainted.

Note: ‘Mrs Baez Serves Coffee on the Third Floor’ by Martín Estrada is carved on a stone at Stoney Brook T-Station near Jamaica Plain, Boston, USA.

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Self Portrait in the Convex Bulge of a Hare’s Eye

My first word for Hare was cailleach,
witch or crone, slack-skinned
hag with blade-edged bones.

I met her again today
where seven hare-sisters grazed
a scrawny field at Renvyle,

face to face inhaled her lepus breath,
gazed through my shadow-face
cupped in her glass-dark eye.

‘Which is my animal shade?’ I asked
the coven of leathern-ears.
Each licked her cloven lip and chanted,
‘I’, ‘I’, and ‘I’. Hare with sea-salt tongue
rolled the dark bulge of her eye,
answered, ‘All of us, all of us here;

we show no map of your journey, we
are you when you get there’.
I grabbed at scut and slippery ear,

begged her to tell more
but rain rolled in from Boffin,
plump drops slicked her fur,

she twitched a salt-crusted whisker,
slipped into Otherwhere
like a white horse in ceo draíochta,

left me straddling a barbed wire fence
with two handfuls of loose belly-skin
and a jagged gash in my thigh.

note: ceo draíochta: (Gaeilge) magic mist, fairy fog.

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Breda Wall Ryan reads ‘Dreamless’ at The pSoken Wrod 2nd February 2016

Contemporary Irish Poetry Featured Writer: Lizz Murphy

Seven Poems              Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

Lizz Murphy was born in Belfast but has lived in Binalong, a rural village in NSW, Australia, for a long time now. She has published 13 books of different kinds. Her eight poetry titles include Shebird, Portraits: 54 Poems and Six Hundred Dollars (PressPress), Walk the Wildly (Picaro), Stop Your Cryin (Island) and Two Lips Went Shopping (Spinifex print & e-book). Her best-known anthology is Wee Girls: Women Writing from an Irish Perspective (Spinifex Press).

She is widely published in Australian and overseas journals including Abridged, Aesthetica, Blue Pepper, Cordite Poetry Review, Honest Ulsterman, Shot Glass Journal, Uut Poetry, Verity La, Wonder Book of Poetry and in quite a number of print anthologies. Lizz’ awards include: Anutech Poetry Prize, Rosemary Dobson Poetry Award (co-winner), ACT Creative Fellowship for Literature, and a Highly Commended in the Blake Poetry Prize plus a few other shortlistings/special mentions.

Lizz writes prose poetry and micropoems and especially likes the ‘small disturbance.’

In 2016 she posted new poems/images every day with Project 366 (URL: project365plus.blogspot.com.au) coordinated by Kit Kelen. Some of these poems are thanks to that experience. She blogs at A Poet’s Slant lizzmurphypoet.blogspot.com

Books

Reviews

Lizz Murphy: Seven Poems

Biographical Note              Contemporary Irish Poetry Index

I Suffer Not
Prayer: Quick and Dirty
The World Divided
And As For Today
Conundrums
The Crook Of My Arm
Drink Feckin Responsibly!

 

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THE WORLD DIVIDED

dispossessed
………………surging
…….fleeing

………..war…….walls

………..world….divided

dispossessed
…………..surging
fleeing

…….new walls

…….dividing

dispossessed
………………..surging
…….fleeing

……….razor-wire

……….dividing

dispossessed
………………surging
……..fleeing

fleeing for their lives

the world divided

by walls

into frontlines

Ref: Andrew. 2016. ‘Europe being divided by walls once again amid migrant crisis.’ ABC News. Online [Accessed November 2, 2016] URL:  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-29/calais-jungle-rising-walls-reinforce-fears-of-fortress-europe/7975400

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THE CROOK OF MY ARM

In the crook of my arm is the put out of your eyes
a shocking sky fields rolling like a naming of the dead
all the ploughed bones shuddering shoulders
Impossible horrors urge the sun to catch on your collar
whitewash what we know of history
remember only the stems of freedom the fed finches

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DRINK FECKIN RESPONSIBLY!
for Aroona and Mags

They get straight to the point
Drink feckin responsibly
Take the feckin taxi
says the Merry Feckin Christmas cab

The taxi we took on our night out
was a karaoke taxi
He was sittin outside the club
waitin for his hens’ party to return
One of the girls chatted him up
took him off-duty to take us
to our next venue

We’re all in the back
with microphones in our hands
tryin to sing
sayin is this switched on
can they hear us outside?
We are wettin ourselves

We arrive at the next club
all arguin to pay
fumblin with coins for the fare
The driver says
Give us 50p each and fuck off!
We tumble on to the footpath
laughin our heads off

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‘Snakes known to exist in this area’: ophidiophile poets Amanda Joy and Liana Joy Christensen talk to Zalehah Turner

Zalehah: Hello Liana and Amanda, anything you’d like to say about snakes, poetry and Western Australia by way of an opening?

Liana: Poetry in Western Australian is a lively and diverse ‘ecosystem’, where the poets are likely, on the whole, to welcome serpents! Encounters with snakes in the wild always leave an indelible impression, so it’s not surprising to me that such highly charged moments will find an afterlife in poetry. Without being overly mystic, an encounter with a snake sharpens the moment: life and death are revealed as conjoined.

Amanda: I grew up largely outdoors, due to being in the desert and living in a caravan in the heat, I have barely a memory of being inside. My father in particular made sure I knew a lot about snakes, which ones were poisonous, how to walk slowly in order to encounter them and the need to stand completely still when I saw them. It has left an indelible hyper-sensitivity to them which means I encounter them in my reading as well with that same recognition. Liana has already mentioned, a sharpening, but also a familiarity. There is barely a collection of poetry I have read and loved which doesn’t have a snake or several.

Zalehah: Liana and Amanda, what are your thoughts on endangered species, snakes, and the destruction of their habit through deforestation and urbanisation?

Liana: My thoughts immediately turn to our Biblical heritage. The queen of heaven crushing the serpent; the conflation of the serpent with ‘evil’. These ideas are so powerful in our culture. I see the current, parlous state of deforestation, loss of species, and unchecked urbanisation as directly connected. It has created a world where in many cultures humans view themselves as ‘having dominion’. I think we have much to learn from Indigenous cultures that have a more respectful concept of cohabitation.

Amanda: Recently, a huge tract of land was bulldozed in an area of remnant bushland where I walk regularly. I have rarely walked in there without at least one snake sighting, I found myself grieving for all the terrestrial animals which may not make their way back in there for quite some time. There is something about the spaces inhabited by snakes, the ‘gap in things’ to borrow a line from Luke Davies’ ‘Totem Poem’ that I have had moving around in my head while wandering in there. It speaks to me of wild and untouched space, understories and humus, shrubs and caves, where things go to breed and incubate and generate. When the ground is barren and animals lost, when seeds have nowhere to fall, regeneration is impossible. There is a starkness in the destruction of wild spaces which fosters more starkness, which speaks to me of a terror.

Zalehah: Can you tell me about any experiences with snakes or snake skin that you’ve had? The strongest, most memorable.

Amanda: Of course, the entirety of Snake Like Charms is about my experiences with snakes and even some snake skins. The most memorable was a face-to-face meeting with a tiger snake while walking in an area of Beeliar Wetlands with an anthropologist. We were in a very important sacred site and I was on my knees taking a photograph of a quite large Burton’s legless lizard. As I swivelled away, still on my knees, I found myself directly level with the tongue of a huge snake, its head was flared. I’d never seen one from quite that angle before. Fortunately, my body, in its infinite wisdom, froze. I have no idea how long we were like that, facing each other. It was that meeting and the next couple of days of adrenaline coursing through my system which solidified the conception of Snake Like Charms.

Liana: I have had the privilege of visiting a very special place in the south-west, one that very few people have experienced. It can only be accessed by walking ocean wards from the back of a private property in Walpole. After much flat landscape, the earth opens up in a deep fissure. You realise that the little green shrubs you had thought you saw were, in fact, the tops of jarrah trees. This place, called Lander’s Gully, has a freshwater spring at one end. Although known to few people, it is, naturally enough, known to the wildlife. We were resting on the sandy track down into the gully, when my companion said in one word: ‘damnbloodyhell’. I turned and saw a tiger snake approaching us from behind. We moved to either side of the track and watched the snake make its slow way to the head of the springs and drink its fill. Shades of D.H. Lawrence!

Zalehah: These experiences are life and death. I am pleased that you both managed to survive! Mythological and symbolic references to snakes appear throughout your poetry: the Ouroboros and the headless Medusa. Are these powerful motifs, images and life experiences the reason that you express yourself through poetry or prose? Why poetry in particular? What is about the form that appeals to you?

Amanda: There is a fantastic essay by James Hillman in his Dream Animals collection titled ‘A Snake is not a Symbol’ where he writes about a workshop exercise he uses, having the group discuss all the snake references which come to mind. So many! Then he asks them to consider the ‘snake-ness’ of an actual snake. The wonder of that, the physical attributes actually bring about its prominence in mythology and in particular creation stories. It is a brilliant meditation on the tempering involved when balancing the motifs and myths with a contemporary context within a poem. Stuart Cooke in his introduction to his translation of George Dyuŋgayan’s The Bulu Line discusses the ‘haze’ in the songs (poems) he is translating, the uncertainty. That same ‘gap in things’ I mentioned earlier, it’s a space we as readers need to sift for meaning which draws me to the form as a writer and a reader. A meeting place within the text as an encounter, where we can bring with us all our points of reference. It would be impossible to think of snakes without bringing the mythos of the snake, especially on Country which was sung into being by serpents.

Liana: Oddly enough, that encounter (and several other close ones) have not evoked mortal terror for me. More a feeling of respectful fascination. I have seen my neighbour’s dog die from dugite venom, so I’m not unaware of the dangers. But in my encounters fear has never been the dominant emotion. It is, of course, not possible to shed all the cultural and mythological scales from our eyes . . . nor is it necessary. I agree with Amanda, though, on the importance of resisting the possibility of cultural overlays obscuring the actual existence of another life. The snake is Saturn, haloed by rings of mythos, no doubt, but centrally and intrinsically itself.

Zalehah: As ‘female, activist poets’ (Liana’s words!)- what do you hope readers will think/ or rethink about their perceptions of the world, wildlife, and precious existence of animals (deadly or not) within it? What do you feel strongly about? What do you hope readers will take away with them after reading your work?

Liana: There is a strong tradition of activist, female poets in Australia – Judith Wright pre-eminent among them. I’ve often pondered this topic as Amanda and I — together with poets, Nandi Chinna and Jennifer Kornberger, among many others — have been involved in direct action campaigns in defence of wild spaces. The most recent of these was a protracted struggle to protect the Beeliar wetlands from a massive road project (think ‘WestConnex’ for a parallel). From time to time we have comforted each other by quoting excerpts from Gerard Manley Hopkin’s poems about trees and wetlands. You can, of course, write about the bush from the city, as Henry Lawson did. However, I think that poets are potentially receptive to nature as more than just a theoretical construct, and some of them are willing to put their bodies — as well as their words — on the line to protect the wild. Poetry is not a didactic art form; however, it can excel at shifting consciousness indirectly. I would hope that both my poetry and prose may cause some such shifts in the reader towards a revaluing of that which is being lost at too rapid a rate. I have been involved in the Animals and Society Study group since its foundation at UWA several years ago. My passion for wildlife and wild places is the heartwood of my life.

Amanda: I’m so grateful Liana brought Nandi Chinna into this conversation. When I read the poetry of Nandi or Liana, or any female poets of this rich heritage we have from Judith Wright, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Dorothy Hewett, and so many more, I find myself yearning for those spaces and encounters found within them. I’m reminded that I need, on a very deep level, to make my way back into bush or desert country and the ‘wild’ encounters I can find there. I would hope that my own poetry at its best, might inspire those same desires. Even more so I would love to think it might feed a sense of urgency in readers to make contact and protect the Country the poems come from.

Liana: Amanda’s poems do exactly that!

Zalehah: I’m interested in your views on ecopoetry. Is it tame?

Amanda: I want to find the opposite of ‘tame’ I look for it as much in what I read as in where I walk. There is some fantastic poetry coming out under the banner of ecopoetry, the best of it has a lot of ‘wild’ in its many definitions.

Liana: Ecopoetry is a broad umbrella that shelters a very diverse array of works. Some of these works may be ‘tame’, as you put it – contemporary versions of the Romantic poets’ nature idylls. I’m inclined to disrupt any binary I happen to encounter, though (to quote from my poem ‘Beastitudes’: Blessed are the carnivores/ reviled for being wild/ Blessed are the companion animals/ reviled for not being wild. I guess I incline to inclusiveness, and feel there is a role for the lyrical as well as the spiky in ecopoetry. My own poetic responses are often to the beauty implicit in scientific accounts of nature.

Zalehah: A few questions about the poems from each of you published in Rochford Street Review:

Zalehah: Amanda, ‘Making a Meal of it’ is skillfully executed and surgically expresses the horror of killing and eating snakes. Can you elaborate?

Amanda: In regard to eating snakes further, I think I revere them too much to do it. I couldn’t when I have had the opportunity and can’t envisage myself doing so.

Zalehah: Amanda, in ‘Snake Skin, Roe Swamp’ you describe yourself or the narrator of the poem as coming across a snake skin only to put it on. In ‘Locus’ you are belly down and snake-like only to then wish you were the water around the krait. The boundaries blur. Do you feel that there is a deep connection between the snake and yourself, a longing and an incredibly strong link or perhaps even, no division between yourself and nature/ the wildness?

Amanda: I have a mild fascination with the limbic portion of the brain, that part which we share so closely in its purpose with all creatures: the way it maps bodies through landscapes externally and encounters, and in turn, maps the way bodies respond internally. There is something in the mutual understanding I was writing of in the tiger snake encounter, the way in those meetings you have to overcome the ‘fight or flight’ and freeze or one of you will come off the worse. I suppose this is what you are questioning when you ask about the connection or longing between myself and the snake in ‘Snake Skin, Roe Swamp’ and ‘Locus’. I believe it is the same longing I am indulging when I immerse myself in readings of ecopoetry or eco-feminist literature, not merely a ‘something I can relate to’. More the ‘strangeness’ of the snake, the impossibility of closeness, that ‘gap in things’ again. That’s wilderness – what could be untouched, in the natural world, physically, but also by ideas.

Zalehah: Liana, in ‘Crunching the numbers’ you expressed that you ‘drew a line in the sand’ at eating endangered species and poetically laid down the maths of humans eating other species, asking the reader to crunch the numbers themselves. Can explain you explain your views in relation to eating snakes further?

Liana: ‘Crunching the Numbers’ shows that by playing with mathematical concepts. The poem had its genesis in a trip I took to China that caused me to revise my thinking about what we consume. Like many in the West, I find the notion of eating snakes, insects or anything outside a very small range to be a challenge. I cannot imagine taking up eating snakes. However, I did see quite clearly that eating a much broader span of animal species does, at least ‘spread the load’.

Zalehah: Liana, in ‘Hey Kekule’ you reference Kekulé’s Ouroboros dream and reverse snake charming to ‘charming snake’. What are your feelings on the tradition of snake charming and the mythology of life and death within the snake eating his/ her tail?

Liana: Ouroboros has always been a compelling symbol for me (I have been known to quote at length a passage from Pynchon that directly connects the symbol to a non-linear, self-contained natural world). I think it’s a significant metaphor for those of us who desire a more ecocentric world view. ‘Hey Kekule’ also references the tantric tradition which speaks of the serpent coiled at the base of the spine that with esoteric training can be ‘charmed’ into rising up through the chakras. Wildness is, as Amanda so beautifully explains, not reducible. It is both potent and dangerous and requires the containment of respect.

Zalehah: Liana, in ‘Cohabitation 2’ you make you views clear leaving the reader with ‘snakes known to exist in this area’. The title appears to express your views. Would you like to elaborate?

Liana: As for Snakes known to exist in this area – it is, of course, a reverse reading of the intended meaning of the sign, which was meant to serve as a warning. For me there is no such thing as a ‘paradise’ without snakes. Whether or not I see them – the continuous hum of other life forces, the homeliness of cohabitation is deeply precious. I celebrate all beings known to exist in this area!

Zalehah: Liana, Wild Familiars and Deadly Beautiful. Your interest and experience with wildlife and scientific journalism attracted you not just to snakes, ‘a matter of scale’, but deadly animals. What’s the attraction and intrigue?

Liana: As I mentioned above, my response is not restricted to dangerous or deadly animals. I grew up near Fremantle, and spent a lot of my childhood in the local bushland. It formed me in significant ways, including a responsive joy to wildlife, both plant and animal. My first professional job was as the editor of Landscope magazine, which was much concerned with wildlife and science. Since then I’ve done a lot of science writing and also found myself having poetic responses to the science I was reading. I like to wander back and forth across those territories. I was approached by Exisle Publisher and they asked if I want to write a book on ‘dangerous animals of Australia’. Once I ascertained that it was not a schlock-horror theme, but a conservation one, I readily agreed. However, somewhere between my agreement and the writing, they decided that they wanted ‘deadly animals of the world’. Gulp! However, I found that cold-emailing scientists in other places often resulted in very warm and helpful responses. The process also had some poetic outcomes. In my research for the book, for instance, I came across the fact that scorpions fluoresce under ultraviolet light. This had to be a poem (‘Scorpionism’ was published in Unusual Work.) Years ago, I was putting in a paper for the inaugural Animals and Society conference at the University of Western Australia. I mentioned to an artist friend, Kati Thamo, that she should submit some of her prints to be part of the conference exhibition. Then I promptly felt jealous that she would have the fun of a creative response while I was stuck with an academic paper. This inspired me to write some poems and enter them as part of an art exhibition with Kati. Later I wrote some more, and collected them together for Wild Familiars. Kati Thamo’s exquisite work ‘The Embrace’ adorns the cover.

Zalehah: Amanda, congratulations again on winning the Peter Porter Prize in 2016 for ‘Tailings’. I love that blue tongue lizards, cockatoos and a man looking for a hookup on Grindr all appear in your poem. You’ve written a wonderful, contemporary, Australian poem that takes in the landscape from a very intimate and personal perspective. Take me through ‘Tailings’: your thoughts, inspirations, and your poetry collection, Snake Like Charms.

Amanda: Thanks, Zalehah. A friend recently posted a photo on Facebook of a swamp beneath a highway overpass, filled with litter jettisoned from vehicles passing over. The overpass was supposedly a way of preserving what was underneath. I held the picture in my mind’s eye a lot over the past few months and what it conveyed was a lot of what gave urgency to publishing Snake Like Charms and writing ‘Tailings’. Since the industrial age, there has been a fear of swampland and these spaces which necessitate ‘discomfort’ in the settled parts of us. Here in Perth vast areas have been filled in for housing and roads, what is left accumulates marginalised wildlife and all manner of what is pushed aside. As a child, when we came to Perth I spent a lot of my time finding those places, even climbing out of my bedroom windows at night to get to the river and swamp. I suppose that’s why if I write them, I write them in as I find them and as I found/ find myself in them. They are the places which hold memories of a marginalised and lonely childhood in many ways and are still the places I go to find my solitude as well as all manner of other solitudes driven to the margins by suburbia. ‘Tailings’, by one definition, are the unusable detritus left over from mining or industrial activities. I found it a potent metaphor for many of the inspirations behind the poem.

Zalehah: Lastly, any insights you’d like to share about each other’s work or your own? Comments or even questions for one another?

Liana: Having had the privilege of sharing creative space with Amanda during the time she was writing Snake Like Charms (we are part of a small group of women poets convened by Jennifer Kornberger), of course I looked forward to reading the finished collection. The collective impact of the works was even greater than I expected. I found the poems to be sinewy as well as sinuous. Familiar with fear and yet deeply unafraid. I learned a lot from paying them close attention.

Amanda: My gratitude for Liana’s work lies in part to the forensic listening, looking and research which I know is contained within its form. The greater conversation it contributes to is omnipresent, nature and science, animals and human society, domestic and wild spaces are given voice in a unique and enlightening way. Her writing is always vital and surprising and I deeply admire her unique blend. I have to say here also that Deadly Beautiful has been gifted to almost all my nearest and dearest over the past few years!

Zalehah: Wonderful to be in such a writing group!

Liana: Oh yes, it’s a small, highly supportive and productive group. We all find it very useful. 🙂

Zalehah: Liana and Amanda, just to clarify, I do not think ecopoetry is necessarily tame by any means. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the e-interview with both of you. Thanks so much for your time. You’re both incredibly inspiring and have given my readers and myself much to think about.

Liana and Amanda: Hi Zalehah, thank you. It’s been a most enjoyable conversation. We have no problem with ‘tame’!

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Amanda Joy photograph by Alex Chapman 2017 cropped jpeg

Amanda Joy. photograph by Josephine Clark 2017.

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.

‘Making a Meal of it’, ‘Snake Skin, Roe Swamp’ and ‘Locus’ by Amanda Joy

 

Purchase Snake Like Charms by Amanda Joy

Liana Joy Christesnen photograph

Liana Joy Christensen. photograph by Amber Bateup Photography.

Liana Joy Christensen is an ophidiophile, as well as a writer and poet. She is the author of Deadly Beautiful, and Wild Familiars, prose and poetry, respectively. Her work is widely published and she was shortlisted for the Newcastle Poetry Prize in 2014.

‘Hey Kekulé’, ‘Crunching the Numbers’ and ‘Cohabitation 2’ by Liana Joy Christensen

 

Purchase Deadly Beautiful by Liana Joy Christensen