The Censorship of ‘Fragmens Sur Les Institutions Républicaines IV’ by Shane Cullen

IMMA Image of Cullen's work
IMMA Image of Cullen’s work

It interests me when politicians, whether local or national, decide that they’d really like to censor the work of artists. This interest stems from my studies at UCD under Dr. Alistair Rowan, Dr Nancy Dunn-Czak, and of course Dr. Paula Murphy. The study of the History of Art includes numerous modules on censorship of art, including the censorship of art works here in Ireland from the foundation of the state onwards.

Mostly I am interested in calls for censorship that derive from a political system that has existed in an unreformed state for many years, wherein politicians achieve power through local agitation, or as we refer to it here gombeen politics. Power in Ireland is sought after and attained when a (mostly) young male climbs from his youth group, to council, to government. A degree or equivalent isn’t really necessary to the hot housing of politicians, and therein lies the difficulty.

Maybe I expect that local  politicians should have an awareness of the major policy issues of their party in government and if there is a lack in their understanding, then surely they could take advice? Advice on art censorship can be had simply enough by a call to one or other of our university art or historical departments.

Shane Cullen’s Fragmens sur les Institutions Républicianes IV has caused some controversy in Athlone, where Cllr Mark Cooney has tabled a motion to have the work withdrawn from the Luan Gallery. Cllr. Cooney is a local politician of the Fine Gael party who are in coalition government with the Labour Party. Fine Gael has presented our Arts Department with our current Minister for Arts, Jimmy Deenihan T.D, who has made numerous pronouncements on the independence of both the arts and the boards of cultural institutes. Most recently in relation to unpopular merge proposals for our National Cultural institutes. 

I read the (arts) manifestos, such as they were, of all the political parties coming up to the 2011 elections. They were not very inspiring and seem to present a seamless continuation of the previous government’s policies, that is, cuts to and bureaucratization of the arts. Nowhere was it mentioned that the then opposition parties would repeal the 2003 Arts Act which has had such profound effect on the independence of the arts in Ireland. Apart from slinging finances at The Gathering and the 2016 Commemorations, there are no new ideas. The Arts have always been second cousin to sports here, or maybe to a twee sentimentalism that represents how our country wishes to be seen abroad.

A small local row about censorship has done enough for me to be convinced that a Cllr. of the FG Party calling for censorship of visual art has absolutely nothing new to bring to the table with regard to how he perceives the attainment and the usage of his power. I am waiting to be convinced that it is otherwise, but the Minister of Arts is conspicuously silent on the issue and the problem of censorship is hived off into local rows that speak of ignorance in responsibility to culture, heritage and arts in Ireland.

Locus+ Image

Dreaming poems; editing “Julian of Norwich” and ‘The Dream of the Rood’

1. ‘Lo! I will tell of the best of dreams,
what I dreamed in the middle of the night,
after the speech-bearers were in bed.
It seemed to me that I saw a very wondrous tree
5. lifted into the air, enveloped by light,
the brightest of trees.’
from The Dream of the Rood (electronic edition),  created by Mary Rambaran-Olm.

A few weeks ago my attention was called to an annotated electronic edition of the Dream of the Rood , created by Mary Rambaran-Olm.  I thought to link this edition on Poethead  to compliment some of my earlier posts about women editors and writers. There are an amount of works on the blog dedicated to the poetry of the mystic-writer, these posts deal specifically with the woman’s mystic voice rather than approaches to contemporary editing by women.

The sole exception to the above is based in a few scattered posts that allude to Marion Glasscoe’s magnificent editing of Julian Of Norwich’s  A Revelation of Divine love. Glasscoe’s Julian is in my opinion a seminal text, and I have retained my copy since I studied it in UCD some years ago. There are many modern versions of Julian’s Revelation which attempt to bring her luminous writing toward a contemporary audience, however, mostly the texts that I have read go nowhere near the Glasscoe for clarity of expression. I have referenced ideas and images from the Glasscoe in a couple of  Poethead posts , which I am adding here and here. 

To my mind a masterpiece is a work of art that has the ability to generate interest and to inspire derivatives in the visual and musical arts. The work that has gone into the creation of the electronic edition of The Dream of the Rood allows for a contemporary audience to access it’s unique quality of expression. Here, in Mary Rambaran-Olm’s pages are her transcriptions, translations and notes from the original manuscript. The translation pages  run along the left-hand column of the Rood home page and are subdivided to allow for easier reading. There are also extensive images of the Vercelli Book (Folios 104v-106r).  It’s an online treasure-trove.  The poem is available on the right-hand of the home-page under the heading of Translation and Original Poem.

I did question whether I should write a post about Julian of Norwich and the Dream of the Rood for this Saturday, and I hope my regular readers enjoy the piece. I believe that poets are inspired across a variety of modes of expression and that the contemporary modes of dissemination can ameliorate access to masterpieces such as the two above-mentioned triumphs of editing by both Glasscoe and Rambaran-Olm.  Dreaming and vision-poems have an agelessness about them that defies time.

I am wary of some translations which I have discussed before now, but there is an endurance in this writing which has influenced many a writer. One quick search for Julian’s writing uncovers a vast array of related works. It is really up to the reader in how they wish to access the works mentioned above, but I’d feel somehow that I’d have let down my readers if I did not acknowledge the trojan work by these two women editors in their creation of accessible translations for modern readers.

Note. It’s rather alarming that  a dreaming poem such as  Dante’s The Divine Comedy has been subject to an attempt at evisceration and censorship at this moment.  If there is a loss anywhere in this issue it is in the Gherush92 campaign.   I have said online and elsewhere this past week that this campaign is about getting into newspapers in the most risible  fashion, rather than about  any offense caused by a  poem that continues to inspire  a great deal of visual and literary art.

Beati in Apocalipsin libri duodecim 900-950 (Spain)

Paul Muldoon and the Art of Poetry, No.87, Paris Review

The Griffin Poetry Prize has been making excellent use of Social media, including Twitter to publicise this year’s prize list and as little of note happens in the Irish Sunday papers, I thought to add in by way of my blog their link to the Paris Review interview with Paul Muldoon . Poetry readers familiar with this site will know that it is  a rare occurrence for me to link to the Paris Review interviews , but that I think they are always worthwhile.

Paul Muldoon came to Tara in 2008 to celebrate our unique heritage, along with Susan Mc Keown and Seamus Heaney , this was a protest, a lament and an attempt to support those campaigners who had fought through Ireland’s courts and the EU about radical fast-track planning. One Irish newspaper  of note reported the Turn at Tara as ‘Heaney celebrates Heritage Week’ !  One expects this type of bilge as a matter of course in an undifferentiated mass-media that distrusts ideas. But I digress –

Related Links

I said it once this week but it bears repeating , radical censorship is unnecessary in Ireland, a media group-think can just marginalise to sustain intellectual poverty, and what better way than to push trash-culture, ego-driven self publicity and other ephemera of failure ??
Heaney, Mc Keown and Muldoon : Singers at Tara

‘Secret Waters’ by Eva Gore-Booth.

Secret Waters


Lo, in my soul there lies a hidden lake,
High in the mountains, fed by rain and snow,
The sudden thundering avalanche divine,
And the bright waters’ everlasting flow,
Far from the highways’ dusty glare and heat.
Dearer it is and holier, for Christ’s sake,
Than his own windy lake in Palestine,
For there the little boats put out to sea
Without him, and no fisher hears his call,
Yea, on the desolate shores of Galilee
No man again shall see his shadow fall.
Yet here the very voice of the one Light
Haunts with sharp ecstasy each little wind
That stirs still waters on a moonlit night,
And sings through high trees growing in the mind,
And makes a gentle rustling in the wheat. . . .
Yea, in the white dawn on this happy shore,
With the lake water washing at his feet,
He stands alive and radiant evermore,
Whose presence makes the very East wind kind,
And turns to heaven the soul’s green-lit retreat.

by Eva Gore Booth.

( also published the OSG ‘The Whores will be busy’ poem elsewhere, and they were….)