“Treatise on Uselessness” by Kevin Higgins

Treatise on Uselessness

after Rosita Boland

Throughout my truly enormous life,
I’ve never found a use for
gypsies.

When one decides to spend the night
searching online
for a worse deal
on one’s house insurance,
there’s never
a gypsy about to help.

Or when one advertises a vacancy
for Associate Professor of English at Trinity
there’s hardly ever a gypsy
around to fill it.

Or when the wedding
of an Eritrean goatherd and his beloved
is in crying need of a cruise missile,
there’s never a gypsy available
to press the required buttons
and later tell the inquiry
it was all a terrible
misunderstanding.

Despite millions ingested
by social programmes, we’ve mostly
failed to submerge gypsies
in the internationally agreed system
of an indecent day’s pay
for a decent week’s work.

Yet the state insists
on making gypsies compulsory
for those who’d rather never
have to speak to one.

What practical purpose does it serve
for us to continue to try to absorb
gypsies into what my late Popsicle
-a one time Viceroy of Upper Munster- used
to call society,

when all but a few fanatics know it’s futile
as trying to teach a Latvian cage dancer
how to speak Irish?

© KEVIN HIGGINS

kevin-author-photo-december-2013-1Kevin Higgins facilitates poetry workshops at Galway Arts Centre and teaches creative writing at Galway Technical Institute. He is also Writer-in-Residence at Merlin Park Hospital and the poetry critic of the Galway Advertiser. He was a founding co-editor of The Burning Bush literary magazine and is co-organiser of over the edge literary events in Galway City. His first collection of poems The Boy With No Face was published by Salmon in February 2005 and was short-listed for the 2006 Strong Award. His second collection, Time Gentlemen, Please, was published in March 2008 by Salmon. His work also features in the generation defining anthology Identity Parade – New British and Irish Poets (ed roddy lumsden, Bloodaxe, 2010). Frightening New Furniture, his third collection of poems, was published in 2010 by Salmon Poetry. Kevin has read his work at most of the major literary festivals in Ireland and at arts Council and Culture Ireland supported poetry events in Kansas City, USA (2006), Los Angeles, USA (2007), London, UK (2007), New York, USA (2008), Athens, Greece (2008); St. Louis, USA (2008), Chicago, USA (2009), Denver, USA (2010), Washington D.C (2011), Huntington, West Virginia, USA (2011), Geelong, Australia (2011), Canberra, Australia (2011), St. Louis, USA (2013), Boston, USA (2013) & Amherst, Massachusetts (2013). Mentioning The War, a collection of his essays and reviews was published in april 2012 by Salmon. (SALMON)

It Was For This by Kevin Higgins

Four voices confront the absence of women in Irish poetry

I have endured the scholastic training worthy of someone of learning.
I am versed in the twelve divisions of poetry and the traditional rules.
I am so light and fleet I escape from a body of men without snapping a twig,
without ruffling a braid
of my hair, I run under branches as high as my ankle and over ones high as my head, I scrape thorns from my feet
(not mine) while I run, I dance backwards away from myself, these rites
are quite common among primitive nations,
I am seldom admitted into the companionship of the older, the full privilege of the tribe, without them.
 
By Kathy D’Arcy A Meditation on Ireland, Women, Poetry and Subversion” at the Honest Ulsterman.
There is a narrative gap in Irish poetry that appears to the woman poet, her reviewer, and the poet essayist as ‘absence’, indeed as a type of intellectual privation. That a new generation of women writers are confronting Irish women poets absence from the canon, along with it’s previous attendant tokenism, is truly delightful to me. We are busily exploring emergent genealogies in Irish Poetry, or it could be stated that we are unhappy with what Eavan Boland refers to as a suppressed narrative. To bring forward a skewed national cultural narrative that disavows the woman poet’s place in the canon is to my mind culturally damaging. Not alone is it culturally damaging to present part of a narrative that claims the intellectual impetus in the imaginative creation of a nation, it is personally and professionally damaging to women poets and to nascent writers who are now devoid of their narrative heritage.

Alex Pryce confronts the absence of Northern Irish women poets in her thesis “Ambiguous Silences ? Women in Anthologies of Contemporary Northern Irish Poetry” I read about Pryce’s worthy thesis in Moyra Donaldson’s blog under The Influence of Absences sometime ago. I was so interested in what Pryce had to say that I downloaded the PDF from her Academia.edu account. At the same time, I was in conversation with Emma Penney who had sent me a copy of her thesis Now I am a Tower of Darkness: A Critical History of Poetry by Women in Ireland. Penney and Pryce are investigating and confronting the constructed heroic post-colonial narrative that has really has done it’s time by now. The post-colonial narrative beloved of some critics who would view the whole world as an extension of their ideation has been flogged to death. It’s over darlings. I grew up not knowing or studying any Irish women poets. The women writers that I read in college were Elizabeth Barrett-Browning (in epic poetry and quasi-feminism) and Virginia Woolf. It was as if women poets did not exist in Ireland.

Irish women poets have never quite left us however, despite their historical absence from anthologies and from third level academic study. There has been a slight recent improvement in the publication of women poets and in their critical review, but it is not enough. Our women poets emerge whole and singing in essays, in current blogs like in Billy Mills Elliptical Movements, and in lines of melody put through mine and others’ search engines. It is time to celebrate our absent poetry foremothers and to confront the indignity conferred upon Irish women poets who were thrown to the side in the search for a heroic poetry to express our chosen political-cultural narrative.

In her thesis, Now I am a Tower of Darkness: A Critical History of Poetry by Women in Ireland, Emma Penney challenges the critical reception of Eavan Boland and the restrictive criteria, developed in the 1970’s, under which poetry by women in Ireland has been assessed. She considers the subversive nature of women’s poetry written between 1921 and 1950, and calls into question the critical assumption that Eavan Boland represents “the first serious attempt in Ireland to make a body of poems that arise out of the contemporary female consciousness”. In Object Lessons, Boland concluded that there were no women poets before her who communicated “an expressed poetic life” in their work. Emma’s thesis reveals how this view has permeated the critical landscape of women’s poetry, facilitating an absurd privation of the history of poetry by women in Ireland and simplifying it in the process. Emma Penney’s work centres around the poet Freda Laughton, her thesis was picked up by Jacket2 Magazine and The Bogman’s Cannon blog.

Kathy D’Arcy looks at the absence of Irish Women Poets in anthologies, and at literary feminism, in her “A Meditation on Ireland, Women, Poetry and Subversion” at the Honest Ulsterman,
    Once there was a woman – no, two women. Then they became beasts, then trees, then stones then even stars. How they fought! And that woman was Cú Chulainn.[4] And that woman was Fionn Mac Cumhaill, daughter of Cumhall. And that woman was Queen Maeve. And that woman was Brian Boru. And that woman was Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill, and that woman was her husband Airt Uí Laoighire. And that women was Pope John Paul the Second. And that woman was Declan Kiberd.

In Catriona Crowe’s Testimony to a flowering, a marvellous essay on the erasures, faults, absences and blindness exposed for all to see in the first Field Day Anthology,
  “When confronted about the near absence of women from the book, Seamus Deane stated that ‘To my astonishment and dismay, I have found that I myself have been subject to the same kind of critique to which I have subjected colonialism. I find that I exemplify some of the faults and erasures which I analyze and characterize in the earlier period.’ It is perhaps possible to compress these sentiments into ‘I forgot’, but he did not say the words. He said that documents relating to feminism would be his first priority for inclusion in the revised paperback edition of the anthology, expected to appear in one or two years.

And yet, privations occur and recur in poetry lists, in national celebrations, and in other media or tourist-led strategies that consistently and poorly neglect the woman literary artists’ voice. I do not know if it is intellectual laziness, or if it is that the cultural narrative is so engrained that no-one questions the historical absence of women in Irish poetry? Indeed also in the theatre arts, as can be seen in the recent Waking the Feminists debacle. Maybe it is time to look closely at the Irish view of women that is set in stone in the Constitution and confront the idea that women literary artists fought for our cultural heritage just as hard as men did, but for some lazy and elusive reason, we refuse to celebrate their work.

 

Dorothea Herbert

 

‘Cry Oceans’ by Mary Cecil

Cry Oceans

 
Cry oceans and weep the seas
Where waves flow over
The endless motions of life
The swimming perfection that flees
 
The Armageddon of destruction
By all means possible
The mechanisation of death
The beginning of the end
 
For whales and tuna to consume
The mercury to garnish
The insatiable greed to fill
The merciless plunderers
 
To crush and pulp for cattle
The wanton waste of the world
That flies in the face of God
And wilts in the sun
 
The lonely song of the whale
That echoes in silent reproach
The albatross that soars
Over oceans of emptiness
 
The flowering coral that dies
Blooming in acid
The hymn of death
Beneath blue heaven
 
© Mary Cecil, Rathlin Island
 
Written in protest to the mechanisation of fishing with super trawlers

Mary Cecil is the mother of large family and Grandmother to eleven. The widow of Rathlin Island’s famous campaigner, diver, author (Harsh winds of Rathlin) Thomas Cecil. Lover of Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland’s only inhabited island. Mary enjoys community development and current events. She has been writing poetry for several years. Enjoys writing a variety of poems, spiritual, war, romantic, protest and nature. Keen to compose more poems based on Rathlin Island’s myths & legends. She worked in owning and managing tourist facilities both on and off Rathlin Island. Public Appointment as Lay Member, The Appropriate Authority, Criminal Legal Aid Board .

Mary Cecil’s Rathlin Island poems

‘Janus- His Mistress Responds’ and other poems by Peter O’Neill

Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus, by Diego Velasquez (1617-1618)

For Máire Holmes

Through the serving hatch, or silent butler,
The Christ is seen at the moment of revelation,
While the maid, in the foreground, averts her eyes
From the immediate task at hand.

The bowl, which is falling from the table,
Like a globe, and which has just startled her
Is certainly for mixing the ingredients;
As the garlic lying temptingly to her side would testify.

With it, no doubt, the contents of the mortar;
Pepper and the ‘fine spice’ to add to her
Dobladura De Carnero – Hercules being
Mythologised in the toasted hazelnuts.

Circumnavigating the room, bread breaks to thunder clap,
And the bowl erupts at the announcement of the returning of the lamb.

Dies Solis…

An unseen yellow dwarf, over one million KMs
In diameter, transforming 620 million mega tons
Of hydrogen into helium per second, in a process
Of thermo nuclear fusion, generates luminance,
Which is transported upon solar winds,
Taking eight minutes and sixteen seconds to touch
The earth.

Such are the scientific facts behind revelation.

And, such is how a particular convent in Seville
Was illuminated for the painter Diego Velasquez,
When he painted the Moorish model la mulata in his depiction
Of the events at Emmaus, in the early seventeenth century.

Although these astonishing figures only in part explain
The accident which is about to happen.

Janus- His Mistress Responds

“O man magicked Evil with the first pelvic thrusts,
His Juju Daemon damning up my hulls, with bull lust.
And the dawn shall have even more repugnant abominations
To daily chide us our births, beavers flailed and strung
Up alive, all screaming in Pythagorean mode, orchestrated
By Saint Saëns, though handless, on one of Cliquot’s organs-
The lacerated tongues of Siberian Cossack, the voice makers
To windpipe his Te deum. While, in Saint James Gate,
Minos is housed, his dark spirit fermenting, anticipating
The precious imperial measure, when he too will be poured only
To lie like Mercury on the glass floor for the sons and daughters
Fore-score, to raise and cheer before the storm blows out the old year.
And there, in table-breaking, earth momentum pound,
Rupture, shag, break the hell hound’s round.”

And Agamemnon Dead

The ovarian arms is the true embrace of all
Horizontal extension; Fuck elevation –
The systematic bureaucratisation
Of all phallocentric concentration !

Plato is truly the author to be despised,
The cunt of cunts ! I seek to undermine
Your perfect calibration, decode or unravel
The genetic-social cuntstruck.

Around the two burn the Herakleteon fire,
Which we both step into, lost among
The panorama of Ephesus.

Through the equalling stratagem of the walk,
With you, muse, finally off your pedestal,
We can perhaps begin to walk together into our future.

Janus- His Mistress Responds and other poems are © Peter O’Neill from Dublin Gothic (Kilmog Press, 2015)

Peter O’ Neill (1967) was born in Cork where he grew up before moving to live in France in the nineties. He returned to Dublin in 1998, where he has been living ever since. He has been writing poetry since the eighties, and has been published in reviews in Ireland, USA, UK and France. His debut collection Antiope (Stonesthrow Poetry, 2013) was critically acclaimed: ‘certainly a voice to be reckoned with.’ Dr Brigitte Le Juez (Dublin City University). With over six collections behind him, he is currently translating Les Fleurs Du Mal. His second collection ‘The Elm Tree’ was published by Lapwing Press in 2014.

The Elm of the Aeneid and Spadework by Peter O’Neill

‘Punishment’ and other poems by Mary Kennelly

Punishment

 
The music woke me up
To early morning winter dark.
I have been neglectful of my craft
These past few months.
Now this new dawn is filled
With unexpected promise.
Before long all those other things
I had set before the sound are gone.
I am the mad dog
Chasing the wild boar of song.
I only crave the tune.
But ill-use refuses to reward.
My words will not be moulded,
They jostle and jar and scorn the path
My meagre skill sets out.
Locked in this struggle,
I begin my day with failure,
The melody is gone.
 

Treasure Trove

 
When she is gone
They’ll sort out all her stuff –
Clothes and shoes to charity
In seemingly endless bags –
Jewellery, paintings, ornaments –
All divided out or sold –
The books, to God knows where.
Then they’ll find the box,
Her lifelong treasure chest.
Inside a silver-plated wedding coin,
First locks, first shoes, first teeth,
A plastic holy-water bottle,
Price intact at thirty pence,
Gift from a three-year-old,
Home-made birthday cards,
Baptismal candles, a christening gown,
Her list with weights, and times and dates,
Copies, pictures, drawings.
Cardboard-encased memory.
 

Prince Charming

 
In fairness, it’s nothing like it promised in the story book.
Maybe we should sue that blasted fairytale ’cause
To be honest our little castle soon got rather cramped
When you moved in with all your rugby gear and magazines.
And three kids really do make a lot of mess and noise
As they hoover up our money, space and time,
And precious little else.
They also did for our spontaneous encounters
Upon the kitchen table.
Our passion – if you could call it that –
Now calls for military precision, five minutes on a Thursday night.
Inside I know I’ve betrayed the sisterhood but
I find it hard to be a feminist while picking
Smelly clothes from the bedroom floors
And cooking endlessly same, stale dinners.
Even if you brought me champagne every day –
Which of course you don’t –
Kids’ homework with a hangover is the biggest pain on earth
And my liver just cannot take it any more.
But still it has its compensations and I know
That you will be with me through all our mess
To reap the whirlwind of the life that we have sown
And you’ll still come running with the loo roll
When it runs out while I’m sitting on my throne.
 
Punishment’ and other poems are © Mary Kennelly from Catching Bats Takes Patience (Liberties Press, 2015)

Mary Kennelly has been involved in arts events in Ireland for many years, including Listowel Writers’ Week and the Brendan Kennelly Summer Festival. She was a participant in Mindfield: Spoken Word section at Electric Picnic 2014, where she performed alongside the Limerick collective The Whitehouse Poets. She has written for publications including The Kerryman, The Sunday Independent and The Sunday Tribune. Originally from County Kerry, she now lives in County Limerick.