‘Lament’ Recorded at the Smock Alley Theatre

I received this morning the sound files for a performance of Lament that occurred at the Smock Alley Theatre, as part of the 2012 Béal Festival. My thanks to Elizabeth Hilliard and David Bremner for programming the piece.

Friday Afternoon – part 3.wav

Containing:

Christine Murray: Lament (for three female voices) (performed by Dove Curpen, Réiltín Ní Charthaigh Dúill and Emilie Champenois; also with thanks to Rita Barror for organising and reading-through) (first performance)


Beal2012

Opening

Opening

A black feather from her black feather tree

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A black feather
From her
Black feather tree

Sways down

She has spread
Her red and blacks out
For carrion lovers

Lace their moons with trawling nets

Bird-pecked crabbed and sweet apple
Windfalls

Roll them into grass
Bamboo worms a curve into flared ground

Black feather sways down

Through dream
To this waking place
Of stones

A black feather from her black feather tree is the opening poem of SHE, published 12th March 2013.
© C. Murray


she-painting“I do not expect anyone will believe me, but I know that my dreaming life is as real as my waking life. Indeed, I have learnt not to call these sleeping narratives anything other than a different part of my reality.

When I first encountered the entity that appears on the towpath I was afraid for She seemed hardly human to me. I had gone little by little into this dreaming place over the course of twenty years, and I had explored it almost wholly. I do not know what my encounter with this lady means, I intend to find out.”

With She Christine Murray explores the spaces between waking and dreaming, that we all inhabit yet are so rarely revealed to us in this day and age. Part shaman part Sybil,she takes us on a Jungian odyssey to meet the archetype that stands at the crossroads of birth and death, one whom we are all destined to encounter sooner or later.

Thanks to Dave Mitchell at Oneiros Books, To Michael McAloran, and to Anastasia Kashian who painted her beautiful cover.

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

‘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

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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.

The Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell to the Harlan County Miner’s Grandson

screenshot201310aThe Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell to the Harlan County Miner’s Grandson by Kit Fryatt

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Published 2013 Knives Forks and Spoons Press
Pages 61


New Words to the Tailor’s Air

Rome, you barely inveigh
when governments settle
traders’ gaming debts
with money stolen
from the sick and children.
Instead you spew sermons
on the evils of condoms
to AIDS victims:
better die holy, Joe Slim
than fill a rubber
with a drachm of sperm.

Rome, your hypocrites
cant their pro-life spiel
(what touching pride
in avoiding homicide!)
but they’ll skewer
any born soul ever.
Life is a fig-leaf
Rome, for your kink:
convincing people
their desires & bodies stink
as bad as your shit

(…)

Rome, if I thought
you’d got a tithe
of your due, I’d lay off
you poison pit, werewolf
in faux-lambskin
black widow of a viper
I’d not take your pardon
if it came baked in
all your dough. Go home,
Rome, seek consolation
where the devil knows his own.

Excerpt from New Words to the Tailor’s Air © Kit Fryatt

A loose adaptation of Guilhem Figuera’s ‘D’un sirventes far composed in 1229, during the siege of Toulouse by papal crusaders. Guilhem’s original attacks not just the recent crusade but clerical corruption and the avaricious imperialism of the papacy.

  

In The Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell & Kit Fryatt is a musical Ariadne who weaves her learning into her coat. She jauntily engages her reader with her major themes of exile, loss, camaraderie, and she throws in some linguistic cardiovascular workouts for good measure too. The basic structure of The Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell & is conveniently bipartite. The poems are read aloud for the most part, and you can hear some of them performed here.

 

Here or there in Section I glints a word originating in the Anglo-Saxon. Fryatt eventually and wholeheartedly gives way and devotes the entire of Section II to an exploration of her themes through adaptations of medieval, Early Irish, and Anglo-Saxon poetic forms. Fryatt uses lament, polemic, and subtly provocative pieces on contemporaneous corruption remodelled on 13th century texts, as in New Words to the Tailor’s Air adapted from Guilhem Figuera’sD’un sirventes far‘. I suppose that corrupt practice and its effect has  an unchanging quality.

 

Fryatt weaves the universal themes of camaraderie and exile into Sections I and II of The Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell &. Exile is written as a full and complete isolation from a former life, a season in hell. Be the protagonist the wife of The Wife’s Lament (here written as a youth), or even The Wanderer. To lose one’s thane (or lord) who functioned as the hierarchical leader of a group, is to lose one’s very life and the meaning derived therefrom. These themes are borne lightly into our modern consciousness by Fryatt’s subtle approach to her writing, and no academic sense of the era is necessary to the understanding of the general reader.

The Wife’s Lament is a well know text from The Exeter Book. Its author is unidentified , but the exile is likely written from the perspective of the sinning woman. She may or not be speaking from the realms of death, lamenting her earthly loss and her exile. 

from The Wife’s Lament 

While at dawn, alone, I crawl miserably down
Under the oak growing out of my cave.
There I must squat the summer-long day,
There I can water the earth with weeping
For exile and sorrow, for sadness that can never
Find rest from grief nor from the famished
Desires that leap at unquenched life.

by Unidentified

Three From The Exeter Book

(ii) Coneycote

As I was told I stay in this brakebrush holt
bunkered beneath an oak
old earthwork. I am taken up with longing.
Shadow valley unswept moor
bitter pale of briars my houseless home.’

Coneycote is © Kit Fryatt

Fryatt writes coneycote as a boy or youth who is honouring the wishes of his thane. There is a type of equality inherent in Fryatts treatment of the theme which she achieves by reducing the high-tone of the language in the original (Exeter Book) to a more robust vernacular. This poem is a jewel in the book.  It sits well in Section II,  whilst picking up and re-threading the theme of exile  inherent in the language of Section I.

I have excerpted a small section of Three From The Exeter book above, and I  refer the  interested reader to Burton Raffel’s Poems And Prose From The Old English.

Fryatt well knows how to use her symbols,  Vis her reference  to the use of the oak  as symbol of a place of exile or punishment. The tree was associated with death, in the very least it was associated with societal disgrace, and a rabbit hole image refers to the disgrace of adultery. Interestingly the symbol play also ties in with the story of the women in the wall , or to the burial of women alive in regeneration myths such as in Sophocles Antigone or the story of Demeter. One supposes the pain of exile, or indeed the death of the individual to be necessary to their symbolic rejuvenation.

The voice of  lamenting is present in this book , yet one feels a powerful energy in Fryatt’s use  of  words that belie any sense of weakness. The preview section of KFS Press includes an excerpt of the first section of the book.

The eponymous title-poem of The Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell & sets the tone for the entire text, which is playfully vicious. Fryatt doesn’t seem interested in the issue of gendering,  she inhabits a poetic world of boyish and delighted charm along with a unique acerbically infused sweetness.

from, The Co. Durham Miner’s Granddaughter’s Farewell to the Harlan County Miner’s Grandson

Swiftly, my chancer, to the temple they danced you

dead leaves in your pocket and a mouthful of vine.

I thought I should slight you, but go where you might you

will come back to green grass, air and sunshine.

.

Darling, my hazard boy, I thought to have you

your body as straight and keen as a blade,

your mouth soft as eiderdown, stay you or hie you,

you’re bloodsworn to Fortune’s helpless parade.

Regarding the void through the lens of The Zero Eye

 

 

In the realm of suffering, affliction is something apart, specific, and irreducible.’

                                                                                  Simone Weil.


I equate Michael McAloran’s use of imaging in The Zero Eye with the concept of necessity propounded in Weil’s essay on affliction which I have quoted above here. There occurs a layering of image in The Zero Eye which explores at once the dissipation of language and the voidal space wherein a voice explores the themes of perception and the stripping down of conscience. In typical McAloran fashion a structural element is inserted into the book which undermines the preceding text,  in this instance he uses a coda at #10.

#10

the zero eye fails/ cannot/ can or cannot only in/ barren vice of obsolete/ of film upon eye in glimmer tide/ of cataract projectile upon/ itches to be gone in eye of/ absurd of/ zero else of black/ no nothing of/ zero eye not feel/ unblinking black/ gallows none/ razor none/ (+0)/ skeletal as if/ no not infinite/ yes infinite

Weil describes affliction through her construction of the image of a hammer hitting the nail in the exact dead centre of the wood, that the reverberating echo would traverse all space and time. McAloran’s dead-centre is the black lens of the death-eye, over which pass worlds. Eye’s monologue occurs in a space peripheral to where voice’s bodily humanity lies.

#2

crafted in absence of voice/ here or there a nothing of/ claimed yet ever-fading/ yet silenced ever/ still yet/ breakage upon rock of night’s forever distance/ motion of which feeds flame of/ yet ever to rage against/ shift unto/ remnants in midst/ shadowed by final yes/ once absence births/ hands cold/ search through weight of cold/ silhouettes of/ cannot lacks cannot or cannot/ hence proliferation of/ sound upon distance/ and of echoing/ undoing…

The Zero Eye is 24 pages long and it represents a step away from the grief-scape that McAloran created through his recent books, none is closer (or further) from his present  intent than the Lapwing Press published ‘The Non Herein-’. The created space developed in that book has given way to intimate space, be it a shack,  a room, or the artificial space of the stage.

#1

in shed of flame that was never light/ better yes never of it/ bite down upon edge-solace of/ trade anguish for oblivion/ yet naught as ever/ final as/ less or more/ ever was/ remnants of then or nothing left to/ no/ no breaking forth/ no never again/ let it/ decline of/ yes death of/ yet will not/ clings unto/ as if to say/ the zero eye/ un-scattered none/ falls unto or not/ utters without pause for/

McAloran’s instinct as a writer is to bring the reader into the created space, and then to turn their expectation on the head by radically altering the pace of the piece,  which he achieves in his coda.

The major carrying image of this book is the eye/I. The eye/I occurs as symbol throughout McAloran’s work, but in this case it represents a shift in focus from the universal to the particular, or the intimate.

#2

the zero eye will ever be/ shape without form/ density of rind branded by sting of inescapable/ rots through unto/ until/ yet given to silence/ scatters breath of nocturne/ clasp of weight/ says nothing more of I/ clean break/ subtlety of design/ crafted in absence of voice/ here or there a nothing of/ claimed yet ever-fading/ yet silenced ever/ still yet/ breakage upon rock of night’s forever distance

There is a subtextual violence throughout The Zero Eye, which I read as lament. Words occur and re-occur, they voice a violent out-rooting of the sense of moment, spliced, rixt , marrow of spliced, ….translucent carrion ,  density of rind, deformed, empty, shadowless, rupture.

#9

zero black pupil of/ of what/ (question once in text/ believed)/ no matter/ erase/ recommence where there is naught/ raging blindly/ hop-scotch…

Here voice, or voice’s echo is knitting together themes in a manner that prepares the reader for the coda, where a nihilist rejection of the almost sweet lament that occurred in the preceding ten pieces is shot through with a clownish repetition and cut-up technique turning the book onto its head and abruptly ending it.

Coda

(…text no/ this is not a/ this is not/ not this/ is/ a text not/ not this a/ this/ this is not text/ not a text/ text not this is not/ a/ this/ not a/ text no this is a/ not a text this/ this is not a/ this not a text is/ this not a/ not a this a text is not/ not/ not this/ a text/ not a/ text not this is a/ this is not a text this is not a text this is not a text this is not a text this is not a text this is not a text/ text no this is not a/ text no/ a text not this/ not a/ text not this is not a…ad infinitum).

Kicking to the kerb of the subtle beauty of the lament, McAloran forces the reader to remove herself from the hypnosis of the previous text, and address the worthlessness of human-suffering. The Zero Eye represents a culmination point and a watershed in McAloran’s work as a writer. His use of structure and symbol is highly developed in all his recent books, yet inherent in this book is a cool limpidity not heretofore noticed by me.

McAloran’s excavation of his psychic depth in books like All Stepped/Undone and The Non Herein- led to the creation of a huge internal landscape. Here there occurs a reduction of the claustrophobic element of  his previous books, and a movement towards a smaller and more intimate space, wherein voice in the form of soliloquy or monologue is given freer reign.