The Poet As Minotaur In His Post-Catastrophic Citadel, The Non Herein- by Michael Mc Aloran. Published Lapwing Publications, Belfast, 2012.
Michael Mc Aloran’s (third) collection of poems , The Non Herein- is published by Lapwing Publications, Belfast. Lapwing Publications will be familiar to readers of contemporary Irish poets, Helen Soraghan-Dwyer, Desmond O Grady and Eamon Lynskey. Michael Mc Aloran’s work has appeared in The Recusant, The Medulla Review, Heavy Bear, Ygdrasil, Muse, A New Ulster, and other literary Journals. Mc Aloran owns the Bone Orchard Poetry blogzine which hosts an eclectic list of contemporary poets whose works of poetry and flash-fiction are rolled out on a regular basis.
The Non Herein- is a complete book of some fifty nine stand alone poems which exhibit an inter-relatedness in theme, a poetry of the body. More distinctly a poetry of the skeletal system, of the architecture that maintains the body.
There is a body hidden beneath and within The Non Herein- . It is, or more properly, was, a huge biological colossus or entity, and it has been left out to the elements. Or part of it has been left out, vultured. Its revealed head, teeth, death-grin and spinal column hint at what the poet guards in his broken citadel. The reader is simultaneously invited to ponder the catastrophic events that underpin the book and told ‘this far and no further’ by Mc Aloran.
I sensed a vastness of hidden architecture below Mc Aloran’s tenacious use of colour, and in his use of symbol in the poem/s. Colours are identifiable as amber, molasses, tumour smoke, and black. The mythos of the once-living entity pervades the atmosphere of The Non Herein-. The pervasive symbols in this book are of the skull (decapitated and separated from the hidden body), the teeth, the eye and the spinal-column,
Of The Traces Of - (10)
‘Ashes ashen traceless
Of the locked till wind
Trace of the without
Ever the traces of it ‘
Whilst Mc Aloran consistently attempts to reduce the size of the colossus hidden beneath and uniting the poems of The Non Herein- , he never quite succeeds in his venture. The reader gets to wonder at the catastrophe that has led the poet to the speaking of it,
Till Headless Asking - (18)
‘The Shadow of
Ice of a pyre’s silence
The meat of it ‘
What has been left out are parts of an organism that is bleaching in the sun, or had been stripped by hoar-frost. The stripped body left out is near the pyre. We are left in no doubt that the pyre isn’t sacred,
Doused - (15)
In a flame of naught
vacancy of none
Doused by final piss ‘
Mc Aloran’s vigil is maintained in order to decipher the language which the necropolis offers him. This is evident in his absolute control of symbol throughout the book, mentioned already in his use of colour, image, and even weather, where rain is monsoon /deluge and where the elements are merely functional symbols without physical heat.
Silently (All The…) - (22)
‘ The bone ash of
Listless as the sky unlimbered
Lingering dice of loss
Breaking upon the shore’s
Silently all the bloody while of it ‘
In The Non Herein- Mc Aloran’s vistas are stripped-down to bare elements. They are concomitantly built up from the selfsame elements to suggest a limbo or no-place. Humour maybe subdued, ebbing-away, or indeed humble but it is always there. Here is a victory-song for life pushing up through human-remains, detrius, stink and bone.
The Night’s Claim- (41)
‘Smooth yes the stone of it
Gathering no moss
As the night’s claim exhales
Rats in a barrel
Blood-shot silences ‘
The actual colossus appears in Circumference Of - (pp 54-55)
Carousel of shadow
Dead searching of the course
Night and limb
Gathered to the pulse
Echoing out of one dead hand unto a vacant sky
Absence of the one
Dreaming all the while
Yet never of the sleep of it ‘
The skull, bone, the eye-socket, the open hand, and the spinal column form this book’s overt symbolism. Mc Aloran’s landscapes are sometimes Dali-esque backdrops for the outplay of the drama of loss, upon which straggled flowers appear then disappear as quickly as a candle-flame caught in a breeze. The machine in which the poet is caught is huge, a huge animalesque architecture, a tracery of deadened nerve-endings and frozen capilliaries. But it once lived.
Mc Aloran narrates this once-living necropolis with a curious tenderness that sometimes emerges momentarily but is often quelled and left unexplored. Whilst Mc Aloran has mastered the symbols which he uses so effectively to both camofluage and decipher the unnamed catastrophe which he has survived, he has created a prison of infinite proportion which has reduced things to symbols of. Hence he becomes the guardian of the images that he allows himself to reveal to the reader who must discern the map that s/he is offered in this book.
The geography of The Non Herein- is phosphorescent, over-exposed, a lansdcape of shapes, tongues, lungs, bleached wood, stone, and the knives of the butcher. Flowers are momentary and related to organs, organs are momentary and not related to human-life, but to human-function. This is not however a utilitarianism in his vision, but a sheer mastery of image which has a vertiginous effect on the reader.
Yet, within this post-apocalyptic Dreamtime there is a super-structure, a very definite exso-skeleton of mute and disbelieving support. The poems do not hang straggled and bone-whitened like rags in the bleaching sun. Mc Aloran’s use of words to define and subsequently defy the bleakness of his vision are assured, neat and despite possibly his best intention warming, warm.
Here may be unnameable catastrophes just happened, survived, but the poet will sift through it all and have his triumph. His engagement is with a burned and ruined corpse left out to dry and fossilize with its rag-remnant of torn flesh and chilled bone, an empty jaw-bone, a leaving from a physical life.
Pussy-Riot Forever : The Body .
” I riot, You riot, We riot.
The body riots.
Gall bladder riot
Riot in Queues
Vocal cords riot
Yin Yang riot
Zeee riot “
Dictators Never : Roll-Call
Aferworki Isaias riot
Ben Ali riot
Bashar al Assad riot
Duvalier Jean-Claude (Baby Doc!) riot
Ershad Mohammed Hossain riot
Franciso franco riot
Ghadaffi Muamar riot
Ghasmi Ahmad riot
Hugo Chavez riot
Hitler Adolf riot
Hussein Saddam riot
Idid Amin riot
Jean Bidel Bohassa riot
Kim Jong II riot
Lukashenko Alexander riot
Mugabe Robert riot
Moi Daniel Torotich Arap riot
Noriega Manuel riot
Ortega Daniel riot
Pol Pot riot
Putin Putin Putin Putin Putin Pussy Riot !
© Philo Ikonya and Helmuth A. Niederle.
Thanks to Philo Ikonya and Helmuth A. Niederle for permission to reproduce their two poems from Catechism for Pussy Riot. The book is available for a small donation via the English PEN website, here.
I read it Wednesday 21/11/2012 at the Grand Social as part of this event, and which I have linked in this blog, here. I read a new poem of mine called, Precarious Migratory Spectacular.
Philo Ikonya is a writing colleague of mine from PEN International and the PEN International Women Writer’s Committee. I am linking here to her website and blog.
Poets across the UK and Ireland come together to mark the nine-month anniversary of Pussy Riot’s performance in a Moscow Cathedral by reading from Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot, English PEN’s anthology for the group.
This link gives the list of locations and readings in the U.K and Ireland. Ireland’s readings are organised by Christodoulos Makris & Barbara Smith.
Participating poets are: Kimberly Campanello, Sophie Collins, Sue Cosgrave, Anatoly Kudryavitsky, Christodoulos Makris, Máighréad Medbh, Paula Meehan, Alan Jude Moore, Christine Murray, The Poetry Divas, Sam Riviere.DUBLIN 21/11/2012
6.30pm, Wednesday 21 November
The Grand Social
35 Lower Liffey Street, Dublin
I visited De Groot Begijnhof (the Great Beguinage) in Leuven quite recently, and whilst the site is integral, its atmosphere is contemporary. The Great Beguinage is used by the Catholic University as a type of student village, with accomodations for visiting professers and students of the university.
There is little evidence that Marguerite of Porete (d. 1310) lived in a Beguinage, although the houses were common in Europe. Marguerite’s text, Le miroir des simples ames anienties et qui seulement demeurent en vouloir et desir d’amour was positively ascribed to her authorship in 1946, although it had been well established that she wrote it from the evidence of her trial for heresy. Marguerite of Porete was of course burnt at the stake by the French Inquisition in 1310.
The International Marguerite Porete Society
I first became aware of Porete’s writing in 2008-2009 whilst reading What the Curlew Said , by John Moriarty. I transcribed a section of Porete for Poethead and added it here. After my intriguing visit to Leuven’s Beguinage, I revisited Porete’s writing and life, finding to my delight that a new International Society dedicated to her works was instigated in 2011. Both The International Marguerite Porete Society and International Bibliography on Marguerite Porete are located at this link.
There is an amount of scholarship dedicated to Porete , from scientific article journals, through poetic bibliographies and Wikipedia. Comparisons with Eckhart are general , although authors are at pains to point out that Master Eckhart was posthumously rehabilitated from his excommunication by the Catholic Church. Porete has suffered with obscurity. One hopes that the Porete Society will contribute to the recognition of Porete’s great text and of her life and writings. The Society is open and based in a creative commons cc-by-sa licence , which I believe to be very innovative, and I wish that more scholars made use of these licences for cultural purposes.
|I am adding here a list of Porete Links and bibliography for readers who may be interested in the Beguines, Porete, and in this era of writing.
|Edit : 30/07/2012
Marguerite Porete et son livre dans la littérature & culture moderne • Marguerite Porete and her book in modern literature & culture • Margherita Porete e il suo libro nella letteratura e cultura moderna • Marguerite Porete und ihr Buch in der modernen Literatur & Kultur.
Balzac,Honoré de. “Les proscrits (études philosophiques)” in Le colonel Chabert (scènes de la vie privée), Le curé de Tours (scènes de la vie de province), Contes: Les proscrits, El Verdugo. Paris: Jean Gillequin, 1912, p. 143-174, especially p. 147. [Dated 1831. Fiction set in Paris in 1308, just after [sic] the burning of “la Porrette,” which event, along with fog, contibutes to Romantic-era atmosphericness.]
Bédard, Jean. Marguerite Porete, l’inspiration de Maître Eckhart. Montréal: VLB Editeur, 2012. [A novel classified as science-fiction/fantasy.]Bobin, Christian. Le Très-Bas. Paris: Gallimard, 1992.
Camp, Kate. The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls. Wellington, New Zealand: Victoria University Press, 2010. [Poetry.]
Carson, Anne. Decreation: Poetry, Essays, Opera. (“An Opera in Three Parts”). New York: Knopf, 2005; Vintage Contemporaries, 2006.
Carson, Anne. The Mirror of Simple Souls: An Opera Installation Libretto. The Kenyon Review, New Series 24.1 (Winter 2002): 58-69. On JSTOR.
Coverley, M. D. [Marjorie Luesebrink]. “The White Wall: Reframing the Mirror.” Currents in Electronic Literacy 5 (Fall 2001). University of Texas at Austin. Online.
Crespy Le Prince, Charles Edouard de. Chroniques sur les cours de France dédiées à M. le vicomte de Chateaubriand par le baron de Crespy-Le-Prince. Paris: Roux et Cassanet, 1843. On Gallica. [Qualifions ces "chroniques" de fiction.]
Dalglish, Cass. Nin. Duluth, MN: Spinsters Ink, 2000.
Daly, Catherine. “In Medias Res: Five poems, freely adapted from Marguerite Porete / Porette of Hainault [sic] / de Hannonia,” in DaDaDa. London: Salt Publications, 2003. Table of contents and sample.
Del dominio umanitario e della civile barbarie. Paderno Dugnano: Colibri, 1999. [Symbolically attributed to "Margherita Porete" and Jonathan W. Loguen.]
Dörge-Heller, W. “Der Spiegel der einfachen Seelen. Requiem für Marguerite Porete. Sprechstück mit Tanzchoreographien & musikalischen Interpretationen.” ["The Mirror of Simple Souls: Requiem for Marguerite Porete. Spoken Word Performance with Dance Choreography and Musical Interpretation."] Choreography by Tuja Heller. Karlsruhe, February 28, 2002. Online.
Dube, Christopher. “Marguerite Porete’s House of Fire.” Mystics Quarterly 28 Part 3 (2002): 154. [Poem.]
Follett, Ken. World Without End. New York: Penguin, 2010. [Sequel to The Pillars of the Earth.]
Huysmans, Joris-Karl. Sainte Lydwine de Schiedam. 10th ed. Paris: Stock, 1901. Online. [Cette représentation de Marguerite Porete est fantaisiste à tel point qu'il vaut mieux classer ce texte parmi les œuvres de création littéraire.]
Luesebrink, Marjorie → Coverley, M. D.
Maillet, Caroline. Le roman athlétique de Enlila Apkalu. Paris?: Publibook, 2011.
Lupus, P. Sufenas Virius. All-Soul, All-Body, All-Love, All-Power: A TransMythology. Anacortes, WA: Red Lotus Library, 2012. Section 3, p. 48. [Poetry.]
Lupus, P. Sufenas Virius. Devotio Antinoo: The Doctor’s Notes, vol 1. Anacortes, WA: Red Lotus Library, 2011. Section 3, p. 49, 137-38, 168. [Spirituality/poetry.]
Maitland, Karen. The Owl Killers: A Novel. Delacorte Press, 2009; Bantam Books, 2010.
Moriarty, John. What the Curlew Said: Nostos Continued. Dublin: Lilliput Press, 2007. p. 65, 335, 365… [Autobiography/ spirituality.]
The addition of What the Curlew Said by John Moriarty to the Bibliography of http://www.margueriteporete.net , with thanks to Zan Kocher
Recently, I wrote a post about how government bodies tend to view poetry. Indeed, I would say that given funding cuts to poetry and writer’s societies on both sides of the English Channel that the view tends toward jaundiced misunderstanding rather than outright aggression. The image embedded in the piece was that of a woman placing flowers at Ted Hughes‘ memorial stone at Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey.
Ted Hughes’ stone was placed in close proximity to that of T.S Eliot‘s in the Abbey. Eliot, the banker, the poet, and editor of Faber and Faber mentored and supported Hughes. Eliot’s writing was of the monumental type, and clearly directed to posterity. It lacked intimacy, but produced in his readers the most tremendous reactions. I will admit that my favourite Eliot is his play, Murder in the Cathedral. I have for years tangled with the voices of the women, the chorus. This then is poetic-posterity. These women of Canterbury are doom-sayers, they are from the Greek-chorus. They are both ignored and later chided for their melodramatic utterances. They are however heard and regarded by the martyr Thomas À Becket. They are not in the play to provide a dramatis-personae or as part of a construction, they actually make the play. I decided that I would add a section of the recording here for those interested in how T.S Eliot used the women.
Aside from Eliot, I find it quite difficult to relate to women characters that are written by men, as there is an absence somewhere that I regard as experiential. I look for women-writers with whom I can resonate. I think maybe Anna Livia as written by Joyce has for me a similar resonance to the Canterbury women written by Eliot.
Posterity seems to have increasing importance to those writers who have criticised Carol Ann Duffy in recent weeks. It took 341 years for the English people to countenance a woman laureate and then her laureateship is attacked by the guardians of poetic- dogma, who not once sought to define (say) Ted Hughes’ Laureateship,
“Conversely, Carol Ann Duffy’s work which speaks so clearly to many today may seem stale to posterity. I have no idea whether this would distress her.” (Allan Massie)
The idea of poetic-posterity being defined by intellect is almost risible. The life of a poem is defined by the resonance of the image (or images) that are captured within the form of the poem, it is not a question of the perceived intellect of the poet but how the poem illuminates the reader. Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill‘s images are fine-hewn and unforgettable, as are Plath’s, as are the images created by Anna Akhmatova, by Margaret Fuller, by Stevie Smith, or by Ágnes Nemes Nagy. The fact that a certain coterie of critics are glued to the idea of posterity whilst mistranslating the idea of popularity (or populism) wholly misses the point of poetry. It is not about how wordy and intellectual the poet, but how that image which they have fashioned can adapt, and move with the reader through their lifetime and be always different and always challenging. That government-appointed funders do not recognise the place of poetry in our societies is worrying.
I am adding here two excerpts of poems/prose which I will properly attribute next week. I want the reader to investigate the images and form therein, and then possibly wonder at how stupidly gendered and egotistical the intellectual poets’ profound disconnect with their reader actually is become.
Poetry and Poetic Prose, two excerpts.
“Learn. The winter trees.
Hoarfrosted crown to root.
And learn too of the zone
where a crystal steams
and trees merge into mists,
as the body in recollection of it.”
’I came to a land where freedom had been realised or was at least believed to be very close to its full realisation. For the people here the word freedom could consequently not be applicable to themselves but only to other peoples who had not yet discovered the happiness-making formula that means the realisation of freedom. In this land,therefore, the people talked much and with a strong sympathy for all the people beyond the frontiers of their own land who were not free. It was said that one ought to exert oneself to the uttermost in order to liberate all the lands and peoples of the earth. On the other hand, it would hardly have been the right thing if it had occurred to some compatriot to longingly, invoke, for example, the concept of freedom in an internal context to himself or any of his fellow-countrymen. To be sure, it was not forbidden by law to use the word freedom in that last-mentioned way, but a universally sanctioned convention in reality liquidated the word from any contexts other (than) external ones.
Since everything in this land was so new, so thrillingly and inspiringly new, I became like a child, reborn, receptive and avid for knowledge, and also became involved in teaching in a school. By day and by hour I received proof which confirmed that freedom really was being realised in this land as in no other. On the way to work, in buses, trams and underground trains the workers sat studying books which promised them the chance of experiencing freedom completely realised in their own lifetimes; a mother married to a simple sailor told me with eyes moist from emotion that there was every reason to expect that her son would attain the rank of admiral one day, and everywhere there was testimony to the fact that here women were acknowledged as beings equal to men with all their human rights acknowledged; among other things the fact that within the military profession they possessed the rank of captain, major and even colonel.”
Excerpt # 1 was Trees by Ágnes Nemes Nagy , from Between Dedalus Press (Dublin) and Corvina Press (Budapest) 1998. In translation by Hugh Maxton.
Excerpt # 2 is by Mirjam Tuominen , The short prose Travels , is from Theme with Variations, published in 1952.
Murder in the Cathedral , the women , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxA_3qyN1lk
T.S Eliot and the death of poetry , http://poethead.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/t-s-eliot-and-the-death-of-poetry/
‘Posterity and all that‘ by C Murray/Poethead is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at poethead.wordpress.com.