intv. Kimberly Campanello at the Prague Micro Festival

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AN INTERVIEW WITH KIMBERLY CAMPANELLO BY CHRISTINA SCHNEEKLOTH SJØGAARD

 

Kimberly Campanello was born in Elkhart, Indiana, and she now lives in Dublin and London. She has an MFA in Creative Writing, an MA in Gender Studies and she recently got a PhD in Creative Writing. She has written a pamphlet called Spinning Cities, which was published in 2011 by Wurm Press. She later wrote her first full-length poetry collection called Consent in 2013, published by Doire Press, and in 2015 her new collection of conceptual poetry MOTHERBABYHOME will be published by zimZalla. Also in 2015, Strange Country, her full-length poetry collection on the sheela-na-gig stone carvings will be published by The Dreadful Press. Campanello’s work is influenced by investigation of the society in Ireland from a multi-angled feministic viewpoint. Her poems are often of a highly political nature, and she seems to search for justice in an unjust society.

 

Questions:

First of all, you have lived in different places in the United States, and now you live in Dublin and are often visiting London. Could you describe how the changing communities you have been a part of have influenced your writing, if so?

 

Living in different places has certainly influenced my work. Even when I lived in the US I was constantly moving – from Indiana to Alabama to Florida (west coast) to Ohio to Florida (east coast, very different from the west!). The differences among these locations prepared me for living in other countries. There is a tendency to think any given country or place is monolithic and predetermined – we have a sort of place-holder definition in our minds for what a location is. Only when we are there, and, I would argue, there in a very open way, do we note massive differences among people, interactions, expectations, politics, even within a square mile. A friend of mine, Dylan Griffith, who is also from the Midwest in the US and who is now a filmmaker in Los Angeles refers to the idea that as Midwesterners we are extremely flexible and adaptable because we have no distinct culture ourselves. We can easily live anywhere. They call our part of the US ‘flyover country’, and many Europeans and East or West coast Americans perceive us that way. However, to truly understand the American psyche, if there is such a thing, you’d have to understand its immense variation, which includes those lands and people you might normally ‘fly over’.

 

Which authors inspire you?

 

I’ve been influenced by the work of Etheridge Knight, H.D. and Susan Howe, all extremely different poets in terms of their approach, but all equally resonant for me. All three are ‘American’ poets approaching their work in different modes but with a similar core. Howe refers to her belief ‘in the sacramental nature of poetry’, which I think also applies to Knight and H.D., and which ultimately underpins my own work.

 

Much of your work has a sense of roughness about it, like when you write: “The number elevens on the necks/of hungry children. Tendons pushing/flesh at the base of the head. They record/the odds. One to one. A fifty-fifty/chance of making it out alive” in the poem “All Saint’s Day”. Why does this radical raw poetry interest you?.

 

I wouldn’t say it interests me as much as it seems necessary at the time of writing to create a certain imagery. Some of my poems do have a more familiarly lyric poetic approach: imagery and figurative language are emitted from a distinct poetic speaker. And my particular style of imagery does sometimes head into the rough, as you put it. However, other work definitely does not. Sometimes the imagery is deliberately muted in contrast to the subject, or sometimes the poem comes out of found text, sound poetry, visual poetry. I’m a magpie poet and refuse allegiances to schools (beyond the fact that I do feel more modernist than postmodernist). This belies the influences I’ve outlined above. I can use devastating imagery and a direct voice like Etheridge Knight. I can work on a vatic level like H.D. to create poems that feel like translations of recently discovered ancient texts, but which in fact are created from found text. I can manipulate and excavate an archive visually, like Susan Howe.

 

Actually, Irish language poet Aifric Mac Aodha recently translated a poem of mine into Irish for a large-scale project I’m working on (www.sacrumprofanumproject.com). This poem was created from a large archive of texts on the sheela-na-gigs, which I amassed over two years. When it’s translated into Irish, the poem sounds ancient. But this ancientness has a strange texture as it’s in modern Irish and some of the contemporary sensibilities in the English text have come across, of course. This process of translation after excavation can have a truly unexpected effect.

 

Do you consider your found poems to be ‘conceptual’? What is your opinion on conceptual poetry?

 

In the case of the found sheela-na-gig poems in Strange Country, I don’t see them as conceptual, rather I see them as re-assembled fragments resulting from the excavation of an archive. This excavation strives toward discovering and displaying something essential about the sheela-na-gigs that was previously hidden or submerged. I suppose the process I’ve just described is in itself a concept, but I don’t think that the concept is the driver here. The poem itself emerges from the text, as if from stone being carved

 

On the other hand, my book with zimZalla is conceptual, and concept is its driver. It will memorialise the 796 babies and children who died at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Ireland. I will create a 796-page record-book as there are death records, but no burial records for these children, so no one knows where they are buried. The mother and baby homes operated in Ireland even as late as the second half of the 20th century. Women who became pregnant out of wedlock were sent there. Their children were often adopted by Irish or foreign families in what is reminiscent of a business transaction brokered by the church. In addition to this trauma, the conditions in these homes were horrific, which led to high rates of infant and child mortality, and a huge amount of suffering for the women. There are accounts of women in labour not being given pain relief by the church-run medical teams because they were meant to appease for their sexual sin. More on that story can be found here. So again, I use whatever tools or modes feel necessary.

 

Your poetry seems to draw on the unpoetic to a high degree, what is it about the unpoetic that fascinates you?

 

I’m not sure what is meant by poetic in the 21st century. I think that arguably the notion of the poetic as ‘beautiful’ never actually existed, or if so, only very briefly and not even consistently in the work of those poets who might have espoused it for a little while. Blood-and-guts battles, degradation, injustice, suffering – these tropes have occurred in poetry since the very beginning.

In addition to the question above, I have noticed the fairly frequent use of the word “cunt” in your poetry – what meaning does this word have to you, as a feminist? Do you see this word as a dirty word at all?
 

In the contexts in which I use it, it is, variously: a provocation, a pun, a cast-off remark, a spell, a descriptor. It is like any word a poet might use, but perhaps with more genealogy.

 

Is there anything, a feeling, a stance, that you especially want to awaken in your readers? Most of your work provides a critique of the society and human behaviour by means of a certain amount of irony; do you find irony more powerful than other tools of critique?

 

Irony does seem to be used in my poems in a critical mode as you say, one that’s most often meant to reveal some catastrophic failure in the dominant logic (or a lack of logic altogether). This happens in my poem ‘Birthing Stone’ through the juxtaposition of Doubting Thomas insisting on touching Jesus’s wounds with the Irish medical team insisting on checking for a foetal heartbeat before granting Savita Halapannavar a termination, a delay that resulted in her death. Jesus’s wounds are sometimes portrayed like a vulva or cervix in medieval paintings to evoke the idea that his suffering and death gave birth to the ‘new world’ of eternal life. Pretty ironic in this context.

 

I’m not sure irony is more powerful than other tools of critique, or whether poetry can sustain and systematically critique in the same ways political or philosophical writing can (or whether it should try to). Irony in my work is a kind of last-ditch effort that certainly won’t win anyone over on a rational basis. None of it is rational, certainly not a person dying for no reason. It follows poetic, figurative logic, rather than the logic you can bring into Parliament or even a political blog post. This can awaken something, I suppose, in some readers? I don’t know.

 

Your way of reading your poems is very characteristic and at some moments even reminiscent of sound poetry, where does this technique come from? Has there been any inspiration by sound poetry?

I’ve always been intent on the sound of poetry, on poets reading their work and on the reading or reciting of a poem as something quite specific. It’s a quasi-performance, and yet the poet should be out of the way of the poem. There is the phenomenon of the poet who doesn’t read their work very well, or of the poet who inflects all poems with that dramatic ‘poet voice’. An article has even been written on this recently: http://www.cityartsonline.com/articles/stop-using-poet-voice. What I’m aspiring to when I read most of my work is what is naturally in the poem as I composed it. This is why I often have problems with actors reading poems because they have little regard for things like linebreaks and rhythm embedded in the text.

 

When I was in high school, my friends and I made recordings of ourselves reading poems by Whitman, Rimbaud, Rilke, Celan and Ginsberg. We did a complete recording of Leaves of Grass on a cassette tape. Sometimes I would play records at the same time and distort or disrupt the poetry. This made sense at the time, but I’m not sure where I was getting the ideas. This was in the 1990’s, before the internet was such a vast resource, so I was piecing together an understanding of art, literature and music from an old-fashioned thing called a library card catalogue, as well as an amazing second-hand bookstore called The Bookstack in downtown Elkhart, Indiana, and whatever records and books various people in my family happened to have. My friends and I also jumped on the South Shore train to Chicago where I saw video installation for the first time at the Museum of Contemporary Art. I was not exposed to sound poetry per se until university where everything just opened up and it got so much easier to access everything both in libraries and digitally. I also trained as a musician. So I suppose all this culminates in how I read today.

 

Finally, are you looking forward to “Prague Microfestival” and could you perhaps reveal a little about what the audience can look forward to from your performance?

I’m very excited about the Prague Microfestival and grateful that Olga Pek invited me. I will be performing on the Sound Poetry evening. I will use my translation of the Hymn to Kali (an ancient tantric text written in Sanskrit). It’s quite a refined, H.D.-esque translation. It’s not sound poetry at all. The purpose of the performance will be to digest, degrade, distort and abjectify this translation all the way to the point of pure sound and then back to its original language, which is a very particular language indeed in the context of sound as the mantras themselves are meant to be actual vibrational presences of the gods/spiritual beings.

I will be performing with composer and guitarist Benjamin Dwyer. The guitar itself will also go through this same process. We will create a graphic aleatoric (semi-improvisational) musical score with text that we will use in the performance and which will be projected behind us.

The Prague MicroFestival (PMF) came about in an effort to resuscitate the Prague International Poetry Festival, which took place in 2004, a major undertaking on the scale of the Prague Writers’ Festival, with over 40 writers participating from over 20 countries (including Charles Bernstein, Andrej Soznovsky, Tomaz Salamun, Drew Milne, Jaroslav Rudis, Sudeep Sen, Anselm Hollo). Unlike the annual Writers’ Festival, the Prague International Poetry Festival was integrated into the local culture, with events in established local reading venues, with the aim of fostering dialogue among writers and audience members. PMF’s history dates back to April 2009, when a group of Australian poets (Pam Brown, Phil Hammial, Jill Jones, Mike Farrell) and Irish poets (Trevor Joyce, Maurice Scully) visited Prague thanks to funding from the Australia Council and Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs. Along with UK poet Kevin Noland and a group of local Czech and English-language writers, this combined week-long visit became the first MicroFestival. During the three years since that time, PMF has evolved into a major event on Prague literary scene and the only non-commercial literary festival of its size. Since 2011, PMF has entered into a partnership with the Czech poetry magazine Psí Víno and the publisher Petr Štengl, who has released the first anthology of Czech translations originated with the festival, Polibek s rozvodnou (2012).

The purpose of the PMF is to provide a forum for poetic exchange, an alternative to the existing Festival circuit which caters to primarily establishment writers with the inclusion of token Czech authors, and is commercially orientated. The PMF is run by artists, volunteers and students; all events are fully bilingual (English/Czech). The focus of PMF is threefold: to present writing that is innovative/experimental; writing that moves across genres and media (visual culture, music, film) and writing that could be broadly defined as “translocal”, that is, writing outside the confines of nationalism, pursuing a broadly cosmopolitan agenda. It aims to introduce new innovative approaches into the Czech milieu, as well as put Prague on the map of experimental world literature, show Prague as a re-emerging genuinely cosmopolitan centre, whose citizens from all backgrounds and nationalities are contributing to a vital and unique literary culture.

The PMF target audience is anyone with an interest in new writing, in experiment. This year the festival is being co-hosted by the magazines VLAK (in English) and Psí Víno (CZ), and will take place at Student Club Celetná, Celetná 20.

Contact: praguemicrofestival@gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PrazskyMicrofestival

intv. Kimberly Campanello at the Prague Micro Festival

‘modern art’ and other poems by Anamaría Crowe Serrano

the stress clinic

it’s ok	no one need know	only negligible
impending threat 	i’m going to leave you
   let healing happen
i’m turning left into the coffee shop	it’s easy 
	like this		one step	
                 one more
comforting to sit 
   even on seats slashed by spooks	

i can wait	learn patience is learnt on the edge
	other worlds where others wait
for the breath		something that “presents”
    a hiatus between one distress and 
the nest you’re reluctant to leave

it’s ok	the world is out there	still	the density
you love suspended in space	preparing 
the next problem for you to solve 	you’re good
at that		talented		
   are you ok?	me too 		it’s just 
the acid sprung on a tensile in my stomach

❧
at ulica Freta, 16 – before radium or polonium

the wood seeps into your bones
in a room that lives	as if its grain 
& whorls were part of your nervous
system – smooth	marrow – polished 

in your tea one lump, two	meticulous
the molecules contract till they disappear
  optical illusions have their own reality

billowing on the balcony	Poland
is diluted	Prussian Russian 
fission renames a people
  invents a purpose of its own

but you can shut it out	indomitable
in a room that soon is rubble while thunder
splits the summer	partitions your
future	gladioli everywhere 	alert
to your black dress	alive	your luggage
    waltzing in the street

(originally published in Can-Can #2)

❧



modern art

you’re slung 
   rigid
against the wall

boxed in the past

adroit
your mouth apes
bereft of tongue
hoping to emit
a word
a silence, even

something, anything
of the side-tracked route
you had to take
from primitive iron
lodged in some alpine nook
through ism, to prism
to plexiglass

you’re waiting - aren’t you
for me 
to gut you
get the warm feel
of your spasm
   when I tug
on the spinal cord

and watch you
crumple
to the ground
crimson
refusing to be pressed


❧

the stress clinic, at ulica Freta, 16 – before radium or polonium & modern art are © Anamaría Crowe Serrano. Read Jezebel & Taipei (PDF)

Anamaria Crowe Serrano-by RK at 7T

Anamaría Crowe Serrano is a poet and translator born in Ireland to an Irish father and a Spanish mother. She grew up bilingually, straddling cultures, rarely with her nose out of a book. Languages have always fascinated her to the extent that she has never stopped learning or improving her knowledge of them. She enjoys cross-cultural and cross-genre exchanges with artists and poets. Much of her work is the result of such collaborations. With a B.A. (Hons) in Spanish and French from Trinity College Dublin, Anamaría went on to do an M.A. in Translation Studies at Dublin City University. Since then, she has worked in localization (translating hardware and software from English to Spanish), has been a reader for the blind, and occasionally teaches Spanish. For over 15 years she has translated poetry from Spanish and Italian to English. Anamaría is the recipient of two awards from the Arts Council of Ireland to further her writing. Her translations have won many prizes abroad and her own poetry has been anthologised in Census (Seven Towers), Landing Places (Dedalus), Pomeriggio (Leconte) and other publicationsShe is currently Translations editor for Colony Journal: www.colony.ie.

‘modern art’ and other poems by Anamaría Crowe Serrano

‘Nocturne for Voices One and Two’ by Christine Murray

Nocturne for Voices One and Two

 
Voice 1
 
Sea pummels shore, wind and reed knock trees.
Winter trees’ wooded music is not green sapped
 
‘under the Greenwood tree.’
 
But yet, yet but,
and alone,
the moon is all ?
 
Voice 2
 
Moon is not all,
while the restive sea and you separate. Separated.
 
Silence,
quiet.
 
Quiet,
peace !
 
Voice 1
 
And sleep now ?
 
For,
The bird skims dark waters
The bird skims silver streams.
 
Stream encroaches on the bay,
Stream sieves the sand.
 
Voice 2
 
And sleep now ?
 
In silence
or peaceably.
 
The moon is all,
it lights a trail.
 
Voice 1
 
It is with the voice of longing that you speak,
Close your eyes that mock the moon.
 
Close your eyes that tremble on the reed,
Close your eyes that discern the wing.
 
Not distance,
not distance from.
 
Voice 2
Separated,
separating.
 
V1 /V2
 
We do not in our bodies meet.
 
Voice 2
The moon is all, it is an emptiness.
 
The moon is all,
The moon is all.
 
Voice 1
 
And sleep, and dream with ?
Or a wisp of memory to wake a nothing from cold sun,
 
What now, sleep ?
Nor grieve.
 
Voice 2

Quiet !
 
The soul whispers reed (…)
 
Soul troubles the wing
Soul gathers in the dewy
morning, and the heart it ties to.
 
Quiet !
 

Nocturne For Voices One and Two is © Christine Murray (Published in Outburst 15)

Outburst 15 Preamble by Dr. Arthur Broomfield.

.
The age of the triumph of the lowest common denominator is upon us, it seems from the RTE short list of Ireland’s best poetry of the past hundred years, and the so predictable winning choice, Seamus Heaney’s potato peeling sonnet from the ‘Clearances’ series in The Haw Lantern . The majority of the ten named poems indulge the national predisposition to wallow in the sentimental and the anti-intellectual, Derek Mahon’s ‘A Disused Shed in County Wexford’ being the notable exception, though this, we fear, will be misread by a people who shy from poetry that challenges the cerebral. Yeats’ ‘ Easter 1916’ a pre-Beckett poem that in its irreducible essence addresses the relationship of language to perception is included, we fear, as a sop to the vulgar Nationalist agenda that has long sought to hijack the outstanding work for ideological purposes. Eavan Boland, for too long side-lined by a Southern, guilt driven urge to doff the cap to the Northern Ireland block, has written poems that confront the lazy inclination to sentimentalize, but ‘Quarantine’ is not one of them. With a few exceptions the shortlist sits firmly into the death and potatoes tradition and struggles to escape the tired vocabulary of Catholic ritual and the bleeding heart victim. The list, of course, will be lauded by those with vested interests. It’s a bad day for poetry. The few who encourage innovation, those who struggle against the influence of the Heaney sycophants, has been dealt another cruel body blow.

                                                                                                                                                                       

Christine Murray
Christine Murray

Christine Murray   is a Dublin-born poet. Her chapbook, Three Red Things was published by Smithereens Press, Dublin (June 2013). A collection Cycles was published by Lapwing Press (2013). A dark tale The Blind  (Poetry) was published by Oneiros Books (2013). She  a book-length poem was published by Oneiros Books (2014). Signature a chapbook was published by Bone Orchard Press (2014).
Creative Commons License
Nocturne For Voice One and Two by Christine Murray is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://poethead.wordpress.com.

‘Nocturne for Voices One and Two’ by Christine Murray

‘Sea Scarf’ and other poems by Victoria Mosley

Shiny shine

 
Milk on the turn
midnight history muffles
owl’s cry: narcissus pulsing
through dull earth to release
birthday colour.
 
I’ve become muted: afraid
of the shine shine glitter
hidden here as time
brushes messages
on parched skin.
 
Pacing corridor
always waiting for
sun – skim star-burn
impatient of humdrum
yearning magnificence.
 
Milk on the turn
garden hovers to unfurl
blossom of spring: new joy
pulsates at the click click clunk
of the white sea gate.
 

Sea scarf

 
Sea a black scarf
wrapped around the harbour
it’s cold tonight, so cold
the wind is taut
& moon hangs silent
huge immobile willing.
 
Sea sends whispers
of how it should be
sailors ghosts ride high
their songs mixed with
mermaids breath
the slink of seal at rest.
 
Sea calls to me
I’m immune caught up
beach sweeps a canvas
of wind ,water ,longing
connection to every other,
footsteps follow I turn
 
sea is a black scarf
enfolding me.
 

Mute route

 
Deaf with night’s hollow whispers
silk shawl cast aside
bare flesh masking muslin pillow
love untying caution’s ribbon
 
as we let it slide
like young girl’s curls
masking asking faces.
 
You rest in oblivion
stroking candied women
delicate filigree phantoms
breathless in their brilliance
 
while I try to tame the tiger
hush the rush of sweetness
turn aside from logical explanations
 
see you as you want me to,
 
a summer sorbet
fresh with sun kissed satisfaction
that crisp wisp of magnificence
tipped to fly away:
 
& I plug these riptide words
the cries that raise me from my sleep
why’s and how’s dulled with ice cold wine
follow your unmapped route
 
to a mute and foreign destination
where nothing is given away
but time.
 

Walk with me (for my Dad)

 
Walk with me again
over sunlight speckled streams
through the tart nettles & the
sharp tooth brambles to the
smooth green sward of an upland field
where the sheep scatter crazily at our feet
& the cuckoo spits her tuneless song.
 
Walk with me once more
arm in arm through the breathless hordes
of the rush hour crowd,
to turn aside at an open bar, rest in silence
while the traffic roars & the ferryboat plies
her starlight trail, across the harbour.
 
Sit & hold my hand
round an open fire, just to tell me
how you are & why you’ve been
so far away when you promised me
you’d be here to stay. Why you left
in that awful rush with those bustling nurses
the sweat of the incense, the rich red mass.
 
Walk with me again
along our small curved shore
with the fishermen mending nets
the harvest moon blazing
turning to solitude, for there is only ”I”
& the essence of ”you”.
 
These poems are © Victoria Mosley

  • ICA standing (1)Victoria Mosley is a poet novelist and spoken word artist. She has four published poetry collections and nine published novels. She has run events and club nights in London and beyond, from the Groucho Club to the ICA, Austin Texas to Indonesia, from Jazz nights and Charity Events to new bands. She has worked for the British Council in Surabaya and in Canada, has produced and presented her own radio shows. She has worked as Artist in Residence in the Film and Media Studies Department at the School of Oriental and African Studies London University, and in the Astro Physics department of Imperial College where she taught her own courses on Creative Writing and Performance and wrote an MA option. She is presently concentrating on writing novels. She has written nine novels in the What if series now available on Kindle. Her debut novel, published by Quartet in 2011 Moonfisher is set in Second World War torn France and present day London, and is a story of the Maquis and the Special Operations Agency which sent British Spies into occupied France. (Published by Quartet on D day 2011) is available on Amazon.
    .
    Poems from her new collection Out of Context are published in small press magazines, in anthologies, by Forward Press and in online magazines such as Ronin Red Ceiling and http://www.thewolfpoetry.org. Poems are published internationally online from Australia to America she has a poetry following in fifty three countries and she also writes online articles. She has just completed a Heritage Lottery Funded project in Kent.
  • victoriamosley.com
  • Amazon Author Page
  •  www.thewolfpoetry.org.
  • All At Sea (Amazon)
  • Ultramarine (Amazon)
‘Sea Scarf’ and other poems by Victoria Mosley

‘Self Portrait as She Wolf’ and other poems by Breda Wall Ryan

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.
 

The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife

 
(Katsushika Hokusai. The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, woodcut c.1820.)
 
In the dark my fisherman shapes
me, his girl-diver, to his wants,
tastes his dream-geisha,
inked teeth in her reddened moue,
face nightingale-shit bright,
 
hair a lacquered bowl, camellia-oiled.
I slip from his shingle-hard grip,
sink in the dark undersea with octopi.
I dream Hokusai dreaming me,
a frisson as his paper-thin blade pares
 
deep into woodblock, each of us
picturing jet hair undone,
strands fish-oil glazed root to tip,
a reef-knotted waist-long cascade.
Two days have passed since I bathed;
 
my breasts are sweat-pearled,
ripe with aromas of fruit de mer,
My tentacled one unfurls, his touch
exquisite as the brush of electric eels,
his glossy fingerings on my nape
 
supple as young pine shoots.
The artist’s chisel probes
again and again, sliver by fine sliver
till at last I am dreamed
heartwood, printed in India ink.
 
He hand-tints my skin
while I dream his mouth-filling tongue,
my dream of a thousand years
in colours fleet as this floating world
no fisherman comes near.
 

Woman of the Atlantic Seaboard

 
You might meet her anywhere on the coast:
at Moher she is Rosmari, she walks the high cliffs
away from the busses and tour guides,
her face turned towards the west, sea in her hair;
or at Renvyle where a white carved stone
remembers the unbaptised, as Maighdean Mara,
she keeps vigil where the sea stole
their bones from the shore.
 
Call her Atlantia, she who waits in the lee
of the sea wall at Vigo for the boats to come in.
She looks deep into fishermen’s eyes,
as if eyes can give back what they’ve seen,
a waterlogged husband, brother’s shin bone,
a son’s lobster-trap ribcage to carry home
in a pocket of her yellow oilskin.
Enough for a burial.
 
She is Marinella on Cabo Espichel, Morwenna
in. Among wild women who comb
blueberry barrens in she is Maris,
her fingers long as the sea’s ninth wave,
stained from plucking sharp fruit in sea fog.
Find her on shore where ponies
ride out the surf. Take her home,
give her the stranger’s place at the hearth:
 
she won’t stay. Inland, she adds salt to her bath,
boils potatoes in seawater down to a salt crust.
Feed her dilisk and Carrigeen moss; she can’t help
but return to the waves, to kelp and ozone.
She is Muirghein, born of the sea, the sea
salts her blood. Or call her Thalassa, mother
of Kelpies, Selkies, fin-flippered sea-mammals,
neoprene-skinned fish-hunters, creatures of the tide.
 
All lost to her. the seafarer’s daughter,
sister, mother, wife; on a widow’s walk in ,
scanning the horizon for a floater or a boat.
Meet her on the brink of the ocean, alone, winter
seas in her eyes. Call her by any of her names:
she will turn from you, to the blue nor’wester,
shake brined beads from her hair. She will wait
for her drownlings forever, standing in the salt rain.
 
(from Céide Fields)
 

The Inkling

To the last Neolithic farm woman of Céide Fields
 
That first time it breathed a sigh on your neck,
why did you brush it aside?
You should have taken it into your head.
 
There was still time to build it a shrine,
offer crowberry prayers and top-of-the-milk.
White breath hung over the cattle-pens.
 
You carried on felling and burning,
spread baskets of kelp and sand on the land.
The inkling shivered your spine.
 
Did it come from the ocean?
It lurked in the mizzle, blackened the haws,
wormed down to your worrybone.
 
Years have gone by. The cradles lie empty.
Summer is wetter than winter. Rain
drenches the land. It quenches the sky.
 
Your sleán breaks the earth’s skin,
you drive the blade deep with your foot.
Bogwater wells from the wound.
 
Grass lies down in the fields and drowns,
cattle bawl their hunger pains.
There is only one child in the house.
 
You can’t shake the inkling,
it niggles, raises the back of your hair,
sly and fat as a tick.
 
Barley decays in the ground.
The cow is near dry. You must choose
between calf and child.
 
It is out of your hands.
 

The Snow Woman

 
She was a blow-in then,
the snow a wordless paper sheet,
her footprints the first blunt penstrokes
with everything still to write:
spring planting, barley sheaves,
a bitter crop of stones and chaneys
at the turn of the year.
Windblown crows dropped in
through holes punched in the sky,
gossiped year after year.
She wrote children,
they built the scarecrow in the field.
 
Now she’s a native,
the graveyard peopled with some of her own:
a greyed husband planted these two years,
a girl half-grown,
the rest of her children flown
a thousand miles as the crow
flies from the snow-blind fields,
silent hills shoulder her close,
crows call her name from tall trees.
She has carried the scarecrow into the house.
 

Self Portrait as a She Wolf‘ and other poems published here are © Breda Wall Ryan

Breda-852 (Colour) (1)Breda Wall Ryan grew up on a farm in Co Waterford and now lives in Co. Wicklow. She has a B.A. in English and Spanish from UCC; a Post-graduate Diploma in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and an M.Phil. in Creative Writing (Distinction) from Trinity College, Dublin. Her awarded fiction has appeared in The Stinging Fly, The Faber Book of Best New Irish Short Stories 2006-7 and The New Hennessy Book of Irish Fiction. Her poems have been published widely in journals in Ireland and internationally, including Skylight 47, Ink Sweat and Tears, Deep Water Literary Journal, And Other Poems, Fish Anthology, Mslexia, The Ofi Press, Orbis, Magma and The Rialto. Her first collection, In a Hare’s Eye, was published by Doire Press in 2015. A Pushcart and Forward nominee, she has won several prizes, most recently the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize, 2015.
‘Self Portrait as She Wolf’ and other poems by Breda Wall Ryan