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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I Was Swallowed by a Harry Clarke Window and Other Poems by Niamh Boyce

I was swallowed by a Harry Clark window.

 
All that flesh. So exquisitely etched.
Decked in magenta, Prussian, cobalt, lemon
even the halos are mandarin. And, oh
so sweet are those cool palms that peek
from viridian pashminas to pray and bless.
 
I’m on the side altar, reverent, gazing
mouth open, keeping clear of the sacristy
(old habits die hardest) when
the scalding tangerine of Saint John’s robe
pours down my throat. Burnt, I douse my
 
tongue in a panel of inky night. Graze stars,
how they bite! And bite, and bite…
 
Fully digested, I stretch
on a glass horizon that peaks like a breast.
Oh, all here is holy, and all here is sex.
 
I Was Swallowed By A Harry Clarke Window was published by New Irish Writing Magazine

 

Frida Kahlo

 
Eyes me from the blue wall of my semi d
in bare necked upbraiding majesty.
 
How luscious is my pain, she exclaims
and I, can produce it, for you, again and again and again.
 
Prefer me bleeding in the red dress
or the yellow one? Like a bone for a token?
 
Just love the way I left absolutely nothing
unspoken? My torment glued to tin votives
 
for eternity. My pudenda pushing its way
through a bouquet of bad memories.
 
Pray gringo, pray for me.
Pick me clean but pray for me.
 
Frida Kahlo was published in The Poetry Bus

 

The First Time She Painted Me

 
She done me in my blue dress
She done me in my pale blue dress
and the wall about the door sang blue too
 
like the breast of a beautiful bird – soar, soar
then I saw the light, the light pour in
thought of church, candles, the Virgin
 
Mary with a snake underfoot
I saw her smile and move that foot
let the serpent wind round her ankle
 
till she swooned and dropped the infant
he shattered without a sound.
Oh Mary, said I, what’ll you do now?
 
Woman, keep your hair on, says the virgin
there’s plenty more where he came from.
 
The First Time She Painted Me is previously unpublished
 

Auld Lang’s

 
Play us an old tune Harvey!
Get on with you Cecil!
 
Why are all these people in my dream?
Have I died and gone to the BBC?
Is this what god meant by purgatory?
Cut glass accents splintering under hoof?
Ties tight enough to strangle Adams fruit?
 
And there’s the sweet lord
lifting a Daz white shirt
like a flasher in the park
as dry lips get to grips
with cigars off which
teeny tiny ladies
plunge, flashing
regions nether
and sausage gut
suspenders.
 
Guts, I’ll have yours for garters
says uncle Toff, as he sucks his teeth
with a short shnup
like a rubber glove
coming off.
 
And all the men grow pink cheeked and sprout wings,
tiny things, that wouldn’t carry a budgie across a kitchen,
but they rise and rise and their bellies hang sky high,
there must be a dozen or so of them,
overblown milk fed men,
their navels like punctures ready to happen,
and drown us all,
drown us all who waltz
across the parquet floor
paired and in time, mouthing Auld Lang’s Syne
 
as the piano woman doubles
to set herself against the clock, and the count
(of ten, nine, eight…) down, towards midnight
 
and I look again and see she’s not bent,
that her spine curves with intent
under the daisy dashed taffeta
hailing down her back,
 
five, four, three,
the fat men go cerise,
and two, and one,
and the year
bursts open.
 
Auld Langs was published in The Poetry Bus
 

Petronella

 
Sleepless under hotel sheets I summon
the sleeping child pose of my sleeping child
the wild raspberries on the saucer beside him
 
that tired mother this morning, her twins
sucking slim wedges of melon, those two
tanned magpies who speared all the fruit.
 
Then Alice’s maid, who preys on my dreams
climbs in, with herb fingers and hot breath
clutching a sack cloth dyed red, whispering
 
whoever needed a scapegoat as much
as Alice? Four greedy husbands hoping
for the deeds? Step-children planting seeds?
 
I drift off under thin sheets, sensing poetry
in these walk on parts, the after charge
of a passing heavy goods vehicle
my heart that will someday stop beating.
 
Note: Petronella was the maid of Alice Kyteler and was burnt as a witch in 1324.
 
Petronella was published in The Moth Magazine
 

Night

  
Blue-black fur skims every part of me that moves
and I move quickly, from mother bed to a maze
of paths, glazed with scattered crumbs of glass.
A creature whose voice I can’t hear, whose face
 
I can’t see, is teaching me to read with my feet.
This is a time, not to think. Travelling deep
is tough. It’s always winter. No. Love isn’t enough
in the tinker palace of memory. Bird women squawk
 
overhead, a carnival of forgotten babble.
Baubles swing from their claws, clear spheres
pregnant with sea, moon and sky. They swoop.
Their eyes are yellow with history. Look back!
  
Who knew there were so many of us? I see beasts
unfettered freaks. Feathered, furred and taking
corners until undergrowth gives way to cliff face.
Blinding sapphire waves break, plunge us
  
one by one into an amniotic ice blue sea
where we settle to an alert rest. If
you look now, I’m still. Except for a fishy
under-lid flicker. Sleeping. Not
  
bottom of the ocean, breathing water.
Permeable. Suckling the rushes of some
early second. When a secret runs past
my fingertips, I listen.
 

Night was published in Southword Literary Journal

Niamh Boyce
Niamh Boyce

Niamh Boyce’s novel The Herbalist (Penguin Ireland) won 2013 Newcomer of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. She won Hennessy XO Writer of the Year for her poem Kitty in 2012 and her unpublished poetry collection, The Beast Is Dead, was highly recommended in the 2013 Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award.

Kate O’Shea is a crack poet

Eggs

 
His poems are words upon words
like eggs smeared with henshit.
They could be free range or organic –
who knows? Too calculated to be risky.
I buy 30 for 1.99 in Liberties Market
and dodge small boys with girls’ earrings
who have never heard of Jackson Pollock
but make an impression on the
bottom of Francis Street and day-trippers,
a stone’s throw from the Bad Art Gallery
which is pretty all right if you like
Mia Funk and well-built women
doing dirty things with bananas.
That’s the problem with men
who are too into blowjobs
more words upon words
like eggs smeared with henshit –
stylised, idolised.
 
Eggs is © Kate O’Shea
 

Tadpole

 
Misery heaped on misery like an Irish Sunday dinner.
It’s hard to swallow; lives like this happen to people
that sprouted dreams like Mr Potato head.
Once fat faces chipped away by keeping body
and soul a hive of useless colony,
the queen bee washed-out and martyred.
Even back then with bamboo rod
and fishing net, catching tadpoles in jam jars,
I wrote sentences in water, used the strange
bodies as living commas, apostrophes
following Os, no ownership,
unlike other daughters I scrutinized in photographs,
I turned wild like the ditches dividing fields,
at the roadside, always on the edge, barbed,
 keeping out of the way, scuttling in the sunlight
with rabbits and wrens, foxes, badgers, and hedgehogs.
Words hurt like a kick in the teeth. A fist.
 
Sitting at a desk I feel I have come full circle.
Tadpoles swim in the pupils of my eyes,
drip from my tongue, squirm on the page for all to see.
I imagine a thumb come to squish them.
I imagine his hazel eyes,
dumb as nuts telling me nothing –
the mouth moves like a loom.
Conformity, conformity, conformity.
I am sick of language, and even he cannot comfort me.
Old allegiances like dead frogs
spread-eagled to reveal their insides.
Anatomical clocks. Ancillary. Tadpoles.
 
Tadpole is © Kate O’Shea
 

Dandelion Clocks

 
Female poets with cropped hair bang on about their weariness,
world-weariness and immortality on the grey page.
There is grief and they are all alone, day after day after day,
their lovers have skedaddled, now they drag the icy moon
after them like a giant pill into middle age.
 
This is the stage I dive roll across like a navy SEAL
avoiding cat flaps and vintage night gowns with tiny buttons
up to the neck, trying not to look pensive,
that finger-cocked-under-the-chin faraway gaze
like Rodin’s statue, but not the same. Bang.
 
I inhabit a different space, my only dread, going home,
or whatever that means, to hang like a windsock
on a calm day, slightly awkward and out of place.
I have moved on and how I chose to wear my hair
contains no clue to my tabernacle, the fugitive in me
plays rummy and quaffs light beer, takes two foreign holidays
a year and listens to Wallis Bird full blast – ‘To My Bones’.
 
I scrimped and saved all my words for grand sentences
and the joy of christening nameless things,
whether broken or chipped, chilled by the breath of history,
no longer walking on tiptoe but stomping a sean-nós dance,
and here is the mystery, my feet dodging the bodies
scattered across the floor like unloved seeds of blow balls,
our dandelion clocks.
 
Dandelion Clocks is © Kate O’Shea

Kate O’Shea lives in Dublin. Her chapbook Crackpoet is available on Amazon. She was short listed for the Cork Literary Review Poetry Manuscript Competition and the Patrick Kavanagh Award twice. She is widely published in journals abroad. Her latest publications were in The Seranac Review, Orbis, Cyphers, Outburst, and Prole. Most recently she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in America.
 

She has been published in Icarus, Electric Acorn, Poetry Ireland Review Issue Number 34 (1992), The Burning Bush, Riposte, Poetry on the Lake , Silver Wyvern Anthology (Italy), Out to Lunch Anthology 2002, Poetry.com, Shamrock Haiku, Bamboo Dreams an Anthology of Haiku Poetry from Ireland, Poetry Bus 3 & 4, Outburstmagazine Issues 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 & 13, First Cut, CANCAN (Scotland) June 2013, LucidRhythms (U.S.A) ,Angle Poetry Journal, Australia (Issue 3, March 2013) The Galway Review and Turbulence Magazine (U.K.) June 2013.
  
Her first published work was a short story, and for this, she won the Prudential Young Irish Writers’ Award 1990. Her humorous sketches were broadcast on Mike Murphy’s Arts Show on RTE Radio 1. She was one of the youngest members of the Dublin Writers’ Workshop, and after that went on to found Chocolate Sundaes at La Cave with William Kennedy and Christopher Daybell in the mid nineties. She was the winner of the Gerard Manley Hopkin’s Poetry Award 1991 and took the overall prize for poetry in the 1998 Clothesline Writers’ Festival. Two poems highly commended by Al Alvarez, were published in The Silver Wyvern Anthology in Italy, 2001.
  
Kate edited and published posthumously, the selected poems of her good friend Christopher Daybell, The Man With The Crowded Eye (2001).
  
She is an accomplished performer and respected on the open mike circuit. She wrote about her experiences in Poetry Ireland Review Magazine (2003), and has read in New York and Rome. She recited in The Palace Bar 2009 to honour Patrick Kavanagh; in 2010 she did a reading/stand up routine, for GLÓR, International Bar. She was one of the poets from Dublin’s lunchtime reading series organised through Bank of Ireland’s Arts Centre and featuring contemporary poetry in Ireland today. The OUT TO LUNCH anthology (2002) featured the works of “…young, emerging poets like Paul Grattan, Conor O’Callaghan, Kate O’Shea, and Enda Wyley.”

Review: All Stepped / Undone – by Michael McAloran.

the griefscape as no-place: All Stepped / Undone – by Michael McAloran.

endless ribcage of the sky / the glut of blood beneath
and a pulse of shit / dry your eyes / it’s just beginning

( p123 ,  all stepped / undone – ) is © Michael McAloran


All Stepped /Undone- is Michael McAloran’s fifth full poetry collection, and his second full collection with Oneiros Press. Tracing a line through McAloran’s work to date, one can discern a drive to whittle his poetic voice to its essential core.

All Stepped /Undone- is sometimes a griefscape, the collection is by turns both nihilistic and elegiac in its tone:

as if to –

 
cylindrical
   echo(es)
 
bled winds of
   the unspoken
 
spasm lock of the atoned blood
   no not enough
 
paling into
birthing as if to ….
 
(ah
                       .spit)

(p54 , as if to – from in thin dreaming- ) is © Michael McAloran
 

In structural terms All Stepped /Undone is loosely tripartite, however it is not as structurally underpinned as in McAloran’s In Damage Seasons – (Onerios Press 2013) which was somewhat more defined and contained within the poet’s structuring of his text. This is no bad thing in itself, as an evident structure can limit the movement of the text. I have included my reading of In Damage Seasons- at link.  cf. my note at the end of this post.

The three parts of All Stepped /Undone- are :  till claimed – of thin dreaming – ,  and all stepped /undone- .

till claimed- and of thin dreaming – are quite similar in form and in their sharing of theme and image. all stepped /undone- while sharing and picking up on these themes is aphoristic and condensed in its poetic expression:

head of dust / no /that was the drapery of the silence /
called upon /subtle till graceless / till bounty / reflected
upon /lest the burgeoning see

(p106 , all stepped /undone – ) is ©  Michael McAloran

One can see the development of McAloran’s voice from his earlier collection of aphorisms , Attributes, through the third section of this current book. His poetic voice has become skilled and honed to allow for his sure expressiveness which he achieves in the least amount of words.

Readers of Michael McAloran would do well to acquire the books Attributes and In Damage Seasons to see how he has developed and opened out his poetic work. I mention those previous works in particular as they are most related to the current text under review, in my view.

I feel that McAloran is directing his skill toward a quality of expressiveness that is the sure mark of the artist. He is developing a mature poetic voice that has a quality of tone  rare in contemporary Irish poetics :

back-flexed / the arrow’s breath to claim the sky of /
night / the bread broken / such was the blade’s redeem /
or the blood-cut star of light / glistening /of the heart’s
tolling

(p 116, all stepped /undone -) is ©  Michael McAloran

Whilst related to McAloran’s collection of aphorisms, Attributes, in form, and to In Damage Seasons in its intent and expression, this work is more loosely structured than both, and is therefore built wholly in the active poetic voice. The poet’s voice as mouthpiece of the internal landscape. In this case the voice or protagonist is mouthing his grief and alienation.

Of the three parts to this book , till claimed- is the furthest the writer will go in terms of his willingness to express alienation. The poems herein, and those of in of thin dreaming- are generally longer than in the final eponymously titled section.

There is as always with McAloran  a complexity of image and a deprecating humour, the poem scuttle- can be read a few ways:

.

scuttle –

impossible ashes
 
I/
splice of
 dread knock and yet …
 
split
drought/pageant/silenced
 
of the lock upon
 
intoxicate
spill of spurious lights
 
    caress of…
 
sun light
worthless as breath
 
I/
  splice
with my little eye
 
longing of
scuttle of dead hand wavering
 
obscene
 

scuttle – is from till claimed – p11 of All Stepped/Undone and © Michael McAloran

 One is never quite sure, hence my delight at word-play and at McAloran’s image-play/ply of.

  
With McAloran a longer poem can be less expressive than the short aphorism. it is often akin to witnessing the unleashed voice in I (till claimed – ) warm up and spit out a gully :
 

throes-

why ask
 
till
answered /
 
   (absence of light)
 
rage of death
 
and the cold ravage
of stone
 
    in dead weather sun light
 
coil/casket of
love
 
X.-ed out
 
final throes
of
 
          .none

(p 71 , of thin dreaming – ) is © Michael McAloran

.

The unaccommodated and loosely structured poetic voice suits the visual artist in McAloran:

biting still-

 
vortices of …
 
(ah spill the night
     ..into cups of earth)
 
in this dry sunlight
   breaking for favour sensed
 
earthed from out of which to cast
vacantly as shadow
 

(p46 excerpt of biting still- from of thin dreaming- ) is © Michael McAloran.


Note : I have linked my reading of In Damage Seasons- here , the reason being that while the two texts share a tripartite structure , they are vastly differing works in terms of how the writer manages his expression. In Damage Seasons- has a structural containment, a triptych architecture, that felt almost imprisoning as it tied down the poet’s voice.

263_All_Stepped_Undone

‘Swallows’ and other poems by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

Swallows

The knitting needles
drew melodies from silence
as stitches seemed to follow
one another like swallows
alighting upon a wire,
watching the tiny dress
of softest yellow wool
grow like a sunrise
waiting for she
who waited within.

She, who came
and left
all too soon.

Stretched and stitched,
I lie empty, raw, alone
In the cold corridor of the hospital
grey knot of my mind
grasping blindly for meaning
I hold the soft brightness to my cheek,
then unravel the stitches
one
by
one

Swallows of hope
disappearing at sunset
to some unfathomable,
faraway land.

My grief grows, like wound wool.
Dull. Full.

Swallows is © Doireann Ní Ghríofa
 

Recovery Room, Maternity Ward

(for Savita Halappanavar)
 

The procedure complete,
I awaken
alone, weak beneath starched sheets.
As the hospital sleeps, my fingers fumble
over the sutured scar, a jagged map
of mourning stitched into my skin —
empty without and empty within.
Beyond these white curtains,
stars shine bright as Diwali
in a cold night sky.
Someday, within these walls,
I will hear my baby cry.
Cradling my hollowed womb,
I trace this new wound and weep.
The only sound I hear now is the fading retreat
of a doctor’s footsteps, echoing my heartbeat.

Recovery Room, Maternity Ward is © Doireann Ní Ghríofa
 

Rusted Relic

Drifts of dust muffle the old typewriter’s surface
each dead key is encrusted with rust—
a forgotten Gaelic font
of blurred syllables and bygone symbols.
Muted music. Smothered percussion.

 Rusted Relic is  © Doireann Ní Ghríofa

doireannDoireann Ní Ghríofa’s poems have appeared in literary journals in Ireland and internationally. Her Irish language collections Résheoid and Dúlasair are both published by Coiscéim. The Arts Council of Ireland has twice awarded her literature bursaries (2011 and 2013). In 2012, she was a winner of Wigtown Gaelic poetry contest— the Scottish National Poetry Prize. Her short collection of poems in English Ouroboros was recently longlisted for The Venture Award (UK).