‘the goldberg variations’ by Chris Murray

scene 1: the goldberg variations

 

a kiosk at the end of a dark train in an abandoned travelyard:
two shadowmen ravel orange round about their nothing much

the magician in his moth coat appears in a vaudeville flourish.
your piano balcony is high above the narrow stone street,

your piano plays the rescued Goldberg,
plays, and plays through its charred pages,

– their black edges.

it is the gothic quarter
men move in their coffins.

 their coffins are white with crosses on (red)
 their coffins are on narrow shelves of (stone)

aside an archivum (shades of gray):
    a shady tree
    an etched stone
    a skull and crossbones

Scene 2 : the goldberg variations

 
 
that indestructible piano!
the undestroyed Goldberg is playing (again)

wending its tones above a skatepark of bullet-glass

(the melody plays, yes).

I see that:
 the romans left their life-size eggs and urns below the city
 stitches pull and sting on the underside of my elbow (pain)

softening the blow here and here
there is no stitching (as again) there was no magician –

he is always the hanged man (stasis)
  or as you (may have) whispered, mercury
 

Scene 3: sphinx

 
 
cat properly addressed as ‘riddle’ is a sphinx,
toothed warm fur claw(ed)

nobly in-dreaming he (of heads ?)
or of mice maybe (and not silently)

lover (‘not’ properly addressed)
dreams too (elsewhere from here).

he dreams gold or red heads (emanant)
for their reddish auras are tumbrelled
he fingers red…

yes.

sphinx cat lies on my egyptian cottons,
I find the heads.

& my lover’s red
is a wish-tree

the goldberg variations are © Chris Murray and were first published in Poetry Bus Magazine.

‘the goldberg variations’ by Chris Murray

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

‘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

Slán Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin

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It was with great sadness that I learnt of the death of Dr. Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin, Senior Lecturer of Early Irish (Sean-Ghaeilge), at the Centre for Irish Cultural Heritage at Maynooth University. Obituaries and remembrances are too formal a way to encapsulate the energies of the person who has passed away. What we may say about her on paper; on her authorship, her survivors, and her activities, pale in comparison to the ball of energy that she was. Muireann had a huge and warmly generous physical presence despite her tiny size. She was quite literally a ball of energy.
 
I first met Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin at the Four Courts, as one did during the campaigns that dominated the Celtic Tiger era. Protestors would be in and out of courts fighting on issues related to the complete destruction of any and all heritage laws by the Fianna Fáil Party who came up with new planning bills even as they tore down and scrapped institutions that were charged with the preservation of our natural and built heritage. News media would jostle to get near the government ministers who thought up new and ingenious ways to fast-track planning laws and ramming their tastelessness into property bubbles, bad housing, dublin satellites, and the ephemera of trash that can only be described as garbage politics. People like Muireann were almost criminalised for objecting to the fact that in the 13 years of political dominance by Fianna Fáil and it’s motley collection of political props, not one of them actually bothered to bring in a single heritage preservation bill. The media never asked why there were no heritage bills, they were busy selling houses for the government.
 
Muireann asked the awkward questions like why Dúchas was abolished by Martin Cullen TD, Why Bertie Ahern was so intent on a leadership that passed endless fast-track and Strategic Infrastructure Bills, and why successive Environment Ministers could not pass The Aarhus Convention into Irish law, they still haven’t. Why above all were we demolishing (‘Preservation by Record’) unique sites at Tara (39 sites were demolished) in the Gabhra Valley to allow for the M3 Toll Road. Decentralisation of protections like the OPW, and the defunding of existent preservation programmes were policies that ensured cheap housing and good profit to companies like the NRA (who also managed to take on the majority of archaeology programmes nationally) The media not alone did not trace these issues but they deliberately ignored or obfuscated them within a sugary silence that disallowed anything negative or challenging to emerge that might effect the status quo. There was no joining of dots, just a lot of quangoes and silence in the Tiger Era.
 
Despite this juggernaut of profiteering and short-termism, Muireann for the most part kept her temper and went into the courts, or she stood out on the Hill Of Tara in all weathers, or she waved orders into the faces of the Gardaí. She never cried in front of me but she witnessed a scarring and vicious tragedy that seems to encapsulate the appalling recklessness and greed of the Tiger Era. It was a devastation that was fuelled by greed and lack of education: bulldoze everything and make some cheap tract housing , extend the Dublin suburbs into Meath and while we are at it make a tidy little profit from unhooking all laws that preserve our unique heritage. Gombeenism is not the word for it.
 
Muireann’s gentler side emerged when she involved herself in cultural events like the Feis Teamhair where poets like Peter Fallon, Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, Susan McKeown and more came yearly to Tara to raise cultural voice and to sing their protest. It was probably at Feis Teamhair that I last saw her turn back toward someone who grabbed her arm and asked her a question or greeted her warmly.
 
We make public poets, great men and women who are imprisoned in the media glare. We want them to represent all that is good in Ireland, and we consign the irritating questioners to the margins. Muireann was an irritating questioner, a restless and enthusiastic spirit, a friend and colleague of great poets, she defended and embraced our literary and poetic heritage with all her health and drive.
 
She has not lived as long as those she opposed, but her name is inscribed in the history of Tara, a visual sign that people will battle great odds to illuminate truths that politicians and their wordless and grey supporters ignore. Dr. Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin has died a respected and feisty woman, unlike the liars she challenged daily and I will miss her big heart.
 
Tara Abú
 
Rest in Peace Muireann x
 
Christine Murray (published at The Bogman’s Cannon )
Slán Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin

AND AGAMEMNON DEAD : An Anthology of Early Twenty First Century Irish Poetry

Christine Elizabeth Murray:

Thanks to Michael J Whelan for this post on ‘And Agamemnon Dead: An Anthology of Early Twenty First Century Irish Poetry’ 

Originally posted on Michael J. Whelan - Writer:

And Agamemnon Dead An Anthology of Early Twenty First Century Irish Poetry Edited by Peter O'Neill & Walter Ruhlmann And Agamemnon Dead
An Anthology of Early Twenty First Century Irish Poetry
Edited by Peter O’Neill & Walter Ruhlmann

Hi everyone, I’m really happy to announce that a brand new anthology of contemporary Irish poetry has been published today (St Patrick’s Day) in Paris and I am also delighted to say that I have five poems included in the collection alongside a number of exciting and interesting new voices coming out of Ireland in the these early years of the 21st Century.

And Agamemnon Dead An Anthology of Early Twenty First Century Irish Poetry, Edited by Peter O’Neill & Walter Ruhlmann is published by Muavaise Graine (Paris 2015) –

see https://www.facebook.com/mgversion2datura

and among its 187 pages you will find poetry from

Michael McAloran — Amos Greig — Dylan Brennan — Christine Murray — Arthur Broomfield — Peter O’ Neill — Rosita Sweetman — Michael J. Whelan — Anamaría Crowe Serrano —…

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AND AGAMEMNON DEAD : An Anthology of Early Twenty First Century Irish Poetry