The Geometry of Love Between the Elements by Fióna Bolger

Caught in the Cross Hairs

 
I bury my face in the thickness of your hair
the darkness, the softness, the smell
raw brain sweat, your innermost thoughts
desire become scent
 
beneath the softness
the hard skull skin
a barrier you need
and I want to penetrate
 
to enter see the wiring
observe my image
upside down in the back of your head
then turn and peer through your eyes
 
I’d see the world as you
 

You’ve stolen my tongue

 
I thought I had the power
in dreams I knelt at the chopping board
an awkward sacrificial lamb
I brought the cleaver down
silencing my babble
 
but you held the knife
and while I slept you forced
my lips apart and cut
at the roots
ever the skilled operator
you stitched me up
needling the thread
to connect the severed ends
 
I can still make sounds
some almost words
they think they understand
but my tongue is in your hands
 

'Blue' by Vani Vemparala

‘Blue’ by Vani Vemparala

From The Geometry of Love Between the Elements by Fióna Bolger. A Grimoire published by Poetry Bus Magazine.

cure for a sharp shock

 
it’s that moment
when you trust
let go the balloon
your hope floats
up into the air
it’s beautiful and red
 
it bursts
empty rubber pieces
a shade darker
float to earth
 
I read somewhere
if you take these shreds
put them between broken
pieces of pottery
and blow
they’ll sound beautiful
 
I’m not sure
I read it
somewhere
 

cure poem for the lovelorn

 
a woman sits alone
her eyes are on the swan feathers
dropped by the moon upon the sea
 
she sees no-one on the horizon
but who can walk on water
dance on down
 
by day she weaves her stinging sadness
into nettle shirts, by night she waits
for her lover – the one who needs
 
to wear those painful clothes
to be fully human again
no longer trapped
 
on a cold moon
dropping feathers
on the sea
 
Cure Poems are © Fióna Bolger

bolger

Fiona Bolger’s work has appeared in Headspace, Southword, The Brown Critique, Can Can, Boyne Berries, Poetry Bus, The Chattahoochee Review, Bare Hands Poetry Anthology and others. Her poems first appeared in print on placards tied to lamp posts (UpStart 2011 General Election Campaign). They’ve also been on coffee cups (The Ash Sessions). Her grimoire, The Geometry of Love between the Elements, was published by Poetry Bus Press. She is of Dublin and Chennai and is a member of Dublin Writers’ Forum and Airfield Writers.

 

From Poetry Bus  A Grimoire is a book of magic and what is more magical than poetry? So instead of producing a series of chapbooks we’ve opted to create something a bit more special. Our first poet is Fíona Bolger and her Grimoire is called ‘The Geometry of Love between the Elements’
 
A beautiful book of poems illustrated by Vani Vemparala and featuring translations into Irish, Polish and Tamil by Antain Mac Lochlainn, Aleksandra Kubiak and R.Vatsala respectively.

‘Ceathrúintí Mháire Ní Ógáin’ and ‘A fhir dar fhulaingeas’ by Máire Mhac an tSaoi

Máire Mhac an tSaoi poetry Original Irish versions followed by English translations

.
Ceathrúintí Mháire Ní Ógáin
A fhir dár fhulaingeas…

Ceathrúintí Mháire Ní Ógáin

I

Ach a mbead gafa as an líon so –
Is nár lige Dia gur fada san –
B’fhéidir go bhfónfaidh cuimhneamh
Ar a bhfuaireas de shuaimhneas id bhaclainn

Nuair a bheidh arm o chumas guíochtaint,
Comaoine is éiteacht Aifrinn,
Cé déarfaidh ansan nach cuí dhom
Ar ‘shonsa is arm o shon féin achaine?

Ach comhairle idir dhá linn duit,
Ná téir ródhílis in achrann,
Mar go bhfuilimse meáite ar scaoileadh
Pé cuibhreann a snaidhmfear eadrainn.

II

Beagbheann ar amhras daoine,
Beagbheann ar chros na sagart,
Ar gach ní ach bheith sínte
Idir tú agus falla –

Neamhshuim liom fuacht na hoíche,
Neamhshuim liom scríb is fearthainn,
Sa domhan cúng rúin teolaí seo
Ná téann thar fhaobhar na leapan –

Ar a bhfuil romhainn ní smaoinfeam,
Ar a bhfuil déanta cheana,
Linne an uain, a chroí istigh,
Is mairfidh sí go maidin.

III

Achar bliana atáim
Ag luí farat id chlúid,
Deacair anois a rá
Cad leis a raibh mo shúil!

Ghabhais de chosaibh i gcion
A tugadh go fial ar dtúis,
Gan aithint féin féd throigh
Fulaing na feola a bhrúigh!

Is fós tá an creat umhal
Ar mhaithe le seanagheallúint,
Ach ó thost cantain an chroí
Tránn áthas an phléisiúir.

IV

Tá naí an éada ag deol mo chíchse
Is mé ag tál air de ló is d’oíche;
An garlach gránna ag cur na bhfiacal,
Is de nimh a ghreama mo chuisle líonta.

A ghrá, ná maireadh an trú beag eadrainn,
Is a fholláine, shláine a bhí ár n-aithne;
Barántas cnis a chloígh lem chneas airsin,
Is séala láimhe a raibh gach cead aici.

Féach nach meáite mé ar chion a shéanadh,
Cé gur sháigh an t-amhras go doimhin a phréa’chas;
Ar lair dheá-tharraic ná déan éigean,
Is díolfaidh sí an comhar leat ina séasúr féinig.

V

Is éachtach an rud í an phian,
Mar chaitheann an cliabh,
Is ná tugann faoiseamh ná spás
Ná sánas de ló ná d’oíche’ –

An té atá i bpéin mar táim
Ní raibh uaigneach ná ina aonar riamh,
Ach ag iompar cuileachtan de shíor
Mar bhean gin féna coim.

VI

‘Ní chodlaím istoíche’ –
Beag an rá, ach an bhfionnfar choíche
Ar shúile oscailte
Ualach na hoíche?

VII

Fada liom anocht!
Do bhí ann oíche
Nárbh fhada faratsa –
Dá leomhfainn cuimhneamh.

Go deimhin níor dheacair san.
An ród a d’fhillfinn –
Dá mba cheadaithe
Tréis aithrí ann.

Luí chun suilt
Is éirí chun aoibhnis
Siúd ba cheachtadh dhúinn –
Dá bhfaigheann dul siar air.

Cathrúintí Mháire Ní Ógáin from, Margadh na Saoire. Dublin: Sairseal agus Dill, 1956, 1971.

Mary Hogan’s quatrains

I

O to be disentangled from this net –
And may God not let that be long –
Perhaps the memory will help
Of all the ease I had in your arms.

When I shall have the ability to pray,
Take communion and hear Mass,
Who will say then that it is not seemly
To intercede on yours and on my behalf?

But meanwhile my advice to you,
Don’t get too firmly enmeshed,
For I am determined to let loose
Whatever bond between us is tied.

II

I care little for people’s suspicions,
I care little for priests’ prohibitions,
For anything save to lie stretched
Between you and the wall –

I am indifferent to the night’s cold,
I am indifferent to the squall or rain,
When in this warm narrow secret world
Which does not go beyond the edge of the bed –

We shall not contemplate what lies before us,
What has already been done,
Time is on our side, my dearest,
And it will last til morning.

III

For the space of a year I have been
Lying with you in your embrace,
Hard to say now
What I was hoping for!

You trampled on love,
That was freely given at first,
Unaware of the suffering
Of the flesh you crushed under foot.

And yet the flesh is willing
For the sake of an old familiar pledge,
But since the heart’s singing has ceased
The joy of pleasure ebbs.

IV

The child of jealousy is sucking my breast,
While I nurse it day and night;
The ugly brat is cutting teeth,
My veins throb with the venom of its bite.

My love, may the little wretch not remain between us,
Seeing how healthy and full was our knowledge of each other;
It was a skin warranty that kept us together,
And a seal of hand that knew no bounds.

See how I am not determined to deny love,
Though doubt has plunged its roots deep;
Do not force a willing mare,
And she will recompense you in her own season.

V

Pain is a powerful thing,
How it consumes the breast,
It gives no respite day or night,
It gives no peace or rest –

Anyone who feels pain like me,
Has never been lonely or alone,
But is ever bearing company
Like a pregnant woman, in her womb.

VI

‘I do not sleep at night’ –
Of no account, but will we ever know
With open eyes
The burden of the night?

VII

Tonight seems never-ending!
There was once such a night
Which with you was not long –
Dare I call to mind.

That would not be hard, for sure,
The road on which I would return –
If it were permitted
After repentance.

Lying down for joy
And rising to pleasure
That is what we practised –
If only I could return to it.

Translation by James Gleasure.

Cathrúintí Mháire Ní Ógáin from, Margadh na Saoire. Dublin: Sairseal agus Dill, 1956, 1971.


A fhir dar fhulaingeas…

A fhir dar fhulaingeas grá fé rún,
Feasta fógraím an clabhsúr:
Dóthanach den damhsa táim,
Leor mo bhabhta mar bhantráill

Tuig gur toil liom éirí as,
Comhraím eadrainn an costas:
‘Fhaid atáim gan codladh oíche
Daorphráinn orchra mh’osnaíle

Goin mo chroí, gad mo gháire,
Cuimhnigh, a mhic mhínáire,
An phian, an phláigh, a chráigh mé,
Mo dhíol gan ádh gan áille.

Conas a d’agróinnse ort
Claochló gréine ach t’amharc,
Duí gach lae fé scailp dhaoirse –
Malairt bhaoth an bhréagshaoirse!

Cruaidh an cás mo bheith let ais,
Measa arís bheith it éagmais;
Margadh bocht ó thaobh ar bith
Mo chaidreamh ortsa, a óigfhir.

Man for whom I endured…

Man, for whom I suffered love
In secret, I now call a halt.
I’ll no longer dance in step.
Far too long I’ve been enthralled.

Know that I desire surcease,
Reckon up what love has cost
In racking sighs, in blighted nights
When every hope of sleep is lost.

Harrowed heart, strangled laughter;
Though you’re dead to shame, I charge you
With my luckless graceless plight
And pain that plagues me sorely.

Yet, can I blame you that the sun
Darkens when you are in sight?
Until I’m free each day is dark –
False freedom to swap day for night!

Cruel my fate, if by your side.
Crueller still, if set apart.
A bad bargain either way
To love you or to love you not.

Translated by Biddy Jenkinson.

maireMáire Mhac an tSaoi (born 4 April 1922) is one of the most acclaimed and respected Irish language scholars, poets, writers and academics of modern literature in Irish. Along with Seán Ó Ríordáin and Máirtín Ó Direáin she is, in the words of Louis de Paor, ‘one of a trinity of poets who revolutionised Irish language poetry in the 1940s and 50s. (Wiki)

These poems are published courtesy of Micheal O’Conghaile at Cló Iar-Chonnachta. My thanks to The O’Brien Press for dealing so swiftly with my queries regarding sharing some poetry and translations by Máire Mhac an tSaoi.

Thanks to Bridget Bhreathnach at Cló Iar-Chonnachta for providing the physical copies of Mhac an tSaoi’s poetry, and to translators  James Gleasure and Biddy Jenkinson.

A note from Olivia Guest at Jonathan Clowes Ltd.

lessingI am thrilled to have received the following note from Olivia Guest regarding my licence to carry Doris Lessing’s poems, here on Poethead.

EDIT: 17/11/2013 I am sorry to hear of the passing of Doris Lessing today.

Dear Christine

We’d be delighted for you to host the poems for longer especially if you’re getting such good reactions. Doris Lessing was never very keen on her poetry and didn’t think it was any good so I doubt we will see a re-issue but at least this way, they are available in an alternative form.
 
Many thanks and best wishes
 
Olivia


Transverse threads, two women poets and Homer

09bOswald.jpgpenne

The weft of  Margaret Atwoods The Penelopiad is contained in and revealed through the chorus-line voiced by the twelve maids who were hung by Telemachus on Odysseus’ orders after they returned. Margaret Atwood runs the chorus-line throughout her Penelopiad,  the maids sing their songs at ten intervals in the book. I was struck by a comment that Atwood makes in her notes about the maids. She states that :

‘The Chorus of Maids is a tribute to such uses of choruses in Greek Drama. The convention of burlesquing the main action was present in the satyr plays before the main drama.’ (Margaret Atwood, Author Notes for The Penelopiad pp. 197-198)

I am always interested in how women writers burlesque the heroic perception of the classics through use of device and structural under-pinning. In this instance I have been reading Atwood’s The Penelopiad and Alice Oswald‘s Memorial. Atwood and Oswald approach Homeric themes in a sidelong fashion to get to the meat of the oral-tradition. Their poetic focus is decidedly on the lament. Atwood gives voice to the subversive and unquiet maids of The Odyssey. Oswald creates a dirge through interweaving the names of  fallen warriors of The Iliad. Both Atwood and Oswald use the lament as the kernel for their thematic variations from and approaches to Homeric mythos. The poets use repetition to add texture to their laments thereby shaping and focusing the small forgotten voice  toward expressing a universal grief.  This is a not heroic poetry, it is a poetry of keening and loss.

Oswald’s Memorial has drawn quite divided critique. I mention in particular Jason Guriel‘s  reductionistic approach to the book in which he refers to it as ‘a rose-fingered yawn’. This slighting throwaway remark does little to evoke interest in how women poets actually write, nor does it sufficiently disguise Guriel’s critical-ennui. I would point the general poetic-reader to Michael Lista’s critique of Memorial in order to garner a more balanced view of the work.

Atwood’s twelve maids defiantly do not not burlesque the main action of The Penelopiad. They are the main action of the book. Penelope reveals herself to be a tedious bore whose lack of wit and guile are vaguely repellent. I wanted Atwood to get her toe out of the water and focus on the maids who enliven the text with their songs and shanties.  The central pivot of The Penelopiad revolves round the nasty relation between Penelope and Helen rather than on the texturing of the maid’s burlesquing. In this, Atwood’s approach to Homer is a bit of a missed opportunity. The strength of the book is in its sub-theme which Atwood had not developed into a  fuller rendering. 

Oswald did not make a similar mistake in her approach to Homer’s The Iliad.  She has broken-down the book and re-made it a powerful dirge. The fact that this has led to an inability by her critics to get to what she is doing only strengthens the work in my view. The index for Memorial comprises an unnumbered litany of names from The Iliad. Oswald weaves their names into the text whilst interspersing their histories with individual laments for the warrior-groupings. These laments vary in length , they are devices to allow the mourning voice through. They are not separate to the main action of the book but are organically interleaved into and caught up in the theme and direction of this epic poem-dirge.

‘Like a man put a wand of olive in the earth
And watered it and that wand became a wave
It became a whip a spine a crown
it became a wind-dictionary
It could speak in tongues
It became a wobbling wagon-load of flowers
And then a storm came spinning by
And it became a broken tree uprooted
It became a wood pile in a lonely field.

Like a man put a wand of olive in the earth
And watered it and that wand became a wave
It became a whip a spine a crown
it became a wind-dictionary
It could speak in tongues
It became a wobbling wagon-load of flowers
And then a storm came spinning by
And it became a broken tree uprooted
It became a wood pile in a lonely field.’

Page 31, Memorial, by Alice Oswald

It interests me that contemporary women poets are approaching Homer through the use of the lament. They are voicing the silent mourning that occurs when the glory of battle is over. Atwood is giving voice to the abused girls whose life-experience is of enslavement and of misuse. Oswald does not state that the mourning voice in Memorial is that of a woman, but the cadence of the mourning poems that intersperse her text suggests the chorus, the lament.

In terms of contrast in poetic approaches to direct  engagement with classical literature, one could point to how Ted Hughes re-told the twenty-four Tales From Ovid (Metamorphosis) or look at Heaney’s Beowulf. The fact that critique ignores the poetic engagement of women with the classics of literature only points to critical-disengagement, or at best to a narrow conservatism. It is time that The Chorus (that most pertinent part of Epic) is re-read, and given its place in the overall texturing of great poetic works. What would T.S Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral be without the integrity of the women’s voices?

images
‘…he took a cable which had seen service on a
blue-bowed ship, made one end fast to a high
column in the portico, and threw the other over the
round-house, high-up, so that their feet would not
touch the ground. As when the long-winged thrushes
or doves get tangled in a snare…so the women’s
heads were held fast in a row, with nooses round
their necks, to bring them to the most pitiable end.
For a little while their feet twitched, but not for very long.’ The Odyssey, Book 22 (470473) 


Creative Commons License
Transverse threads, women poets and Homer by C. Murray is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


Bloomsday ; a Celebration of Irish Women Poets 2012

Nuala Ní Chonchúir

is a writer and poet, who has contributed poems and translations to the blog over sometime. I am linking here to her poetry collections page 

La Pucelle

 
In the hush of my father’s house,
before dusk rustles over the horizon,
I take off the dress my mother made
-it’s as ruby red as St Michael’s cloak-
and with a stitch of linen, bind my breasts.
 
By the greasy light of a candle,
I shear my hair to the style of a boy,
in the looking glass I see my girlhood
swallowed up in a tunic and pants,
I lace them tightly to safeguard myself.
 
My soldiers call me ‘Pucelle’, maiden,
they cleave the suit of armour to my body,
and know when following my banner
over ramparts into Orléans, that
there will only ever be one like me.
 
When the pyre flames fly up my legs,
I do not think of the Dauphin,
or my trial as a heretical pretender,
but see my mother, head bent low,
sewing a red dress for her daughter to wear.
 
As Tatú, le Nuala Ní Chonchuir, Arlen House, 2007.

http://poethead.wordpress.com/2009/06/13/la-pucelle-by-ni-chonchuir/


Eithne Strong

“(née Eithne O’Connell) (1923-1999), poet and writer of  fiction. Born in Glensharrold, Co. Limerick, she was educated at TCD. She worked  in the Civil Service, 1942-3. Her first collection, Songs of Living  (1961), was followed by Sarah in Passing (1974), Flesh-the Greatest  Sin (1980), Cirt Oibre (1980), Fuil agus Fallaí (1983), My  Darling Neighbour (1985), Aoife Faoi Ghlas (1990), An Sagart  Pinc (1990), Spatial Nosing (1993) and Nobel (1999). The  Love Riddle (1993) was a novel.”

from http://www.answers.com/topic/eithne-strong#ixzz1xr4mc0lx

Strip-Tease.

 
A poet
must talk in riddles
if he will not risk himself
 
for fear
of public eye and tongue
blaspheming privacies :
 
a host
of leeches sucking parallels
carnivores to strip his shivering secrecies
 
wrapped
intricately. he should be
silent or speak out.
 
No one
asked for
his arbitrary offerings. 
 
from Sarah in Passing , by Eithne Strong. Dolmen Books 1974.

http://poethead.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/strip-tease-by-eithne-strong/


Sarah Clancy

Phrase Books Never Equip you for the Answers

On the morning of the fifteenth time we went through
our sleep-with-your-ex routine, I had the usual optimism
thing about mistakes is to not keep repeating the same ones
I said disregarding the government health warning
on the cigarettes I was sucking, crossing the road without
stopping speaking or looking, ignoring the red man pulsing
on the lights at the junction, I was wired direct and I said;
I know, I’ll write you the definitive user manual for me.
You said I was arrogant that we should make it up as we go,
and I said; well could I do a mind map then? With
here be dragons marked clearly in red, so we won’t flounder
like last time end up washed up dehydrated and drained
well I was, fairly wired, I said ‘in each shipwreck we’re lessened
embittered, come on, let me at least try to fix it, I can write us
a blueprint for the new improved version, and you laughed
and said well damn you for a head-wreck, go on then and do it.
 
So I wrote, but it came out all stilted, like a work in translation
see when I say, let me fix that or give it here and I’ll do it
it means I need you, and if I tell you for example how
I’ll re-arrange the universe to your liking it doesn’t mean
I’m superior in fact, translated it’s about the same as the last one-
‘can you not see, how I need you? And when I come out with all those
‘you-shoulds’ that drive you demented, there’s no disrespect in ‘em
verbatim they’re whispering I’d be desolated without you
and when you call me control freak, the tendencies you’re describing
are inherently rooted in my fear of you leaving and how I’ll react.
 
Less-wired more hopeful I brought you my phrase book
on our very next meeting but you kissed my cheek and said
let me stop you a minute and then those awful words that never
signify good outcomes, listen I’ve been thinking… I know
we’ve got this weird cyclical attraction thing going and I’m sorry
for my part in it but really I can’t see it working, the problem
for me is how you just don’t need anything and my phrase book
had nothing listed under that heading.

© Sarah Clancy
 
Thanks to Sarah Clancy for the poem, Phrase Books Never Equip you for the Answers , which is taken from Thanks for Nothing Hippies . Published Salmon Poetry 2012.


Kate Dempsey

Kate Dempsey’s poetry is widely published in Ireland and the UK including Poetry Ireland Review,The Shop, Orbis and Magma. Kate blogs at Writing.ie and Emerging Writer .

You can catch her on Twitter at PoetryDivas.

It’s What You Put Into It

For Grace
 
On the last day of term
you brought home a present,
placed it under the tree,
a light, chest-shaped mystery
wrapped in potato stamped paper
intricate with angels and stars.
 
Christmas morning
you watched as we opened it,
cautious not to tear the covering.
Inside, a margarine tub, empty.
Do you like it? eyes huge.
It’s beautiful.
What is it, sweetheart?
A box full of love, you said.

 
You should know, O my darling girl,
it’s on the dresser still
and from time to time, we open it.”
 
© Kate Dempsey, all rights reserved.


Celia De Fréine

Celia de Fréine is a poet, playwright and screenwriter who writes in Irish and English, her site is  at http://celiadefreine.com/

An Bhean Chaointe

 
Taim ag caoineadh anois chomh fada
agus is chumhin liom
ce gur dócha go raibh me óg trath-
seans fiú amháin gp mbinn ag súgradh.
Ni cuimhin liom an t-am sin
ná an ghruaim a chinn an ghairm seo dom.
 
Ni cuimhin liom ach oiread
éinne den dream
atá caointe agam-
ní dhearna mé taighde ar a saol
ná nior léigh mé cur síos orthu
i gcolún na marbh.
 
Ach is maith is eol dom
gach uair a sheas mé
taobh le huaigh bhealschoilte,
gur chomóir me gach saol
go huile is go hiomlán,
gur laoidh mé éachtaí
 
na nua-mharbh
is gur eachtaigh mé
lorg a sinsear.
Tigím anois
go bhfuil na caointe seo
tar éis dul in bhfedhim orm.
 
Dá mbeadh jab eile agam
ba bhreá liom bheith im scealaí-
sui le hais na tine is scéalta a insint.
D’éistfeá liom- tharraingeodh
d’Eddifon asam iad
á n-alpadh sa treo is go slanofaí mé.
 
Faoi Chabáistí is Ríonacha, Published by  Clo Iar-Chonnachta, indreabhán, 2001.