In Damage Seasons by Michael McAloran

‘Clear the air! Clean the sky! Wash the wind!
Take the stone from the stone,
take the skin from the arm, take the muscle from
the bone, and wash them.
Wash the stone, wash the bone, wash the brain,
wash the soul, wash them wash them!’
The Chorus , from Murder In The Cathedral by T.S Eliot.
(we convulse in sun light there are skins to trace and there is flesh to caress in some sudden dawning where the sudden shakes the boundary’s clasp….)

Scene Forty Two, In Damage Seasons

 The structure underpinning Michael McAloran’s In Damage Seasons is Palladian (a.b.a) or a quasi-triptych. It isn’t however an altar-piece or a pleasure-dome of a book. The parts of the triptych structure are: Onset, In Damage Seasons, and nothing’s bones-. The thematic thrust of the book which fully comprises 130 pages interspersed with kaleidoscope images, is barely contained in the second section eponymously titled and consisting of fifty individual scenes. Onset opens the book setting the myriad kaleidoscope theme, and nothing’s bones-  the third part of the work, is a paean. It forms an accumulation and gathering of the essence of the book. It is a beautifully written after-death, where life is the exilic condition.
Make no mistake, the doors of the triptych: Onset and nothing’s bones-, barely enclose the mid-section of the book and do not make for a sense of containment let alone comfort. Their purpose is to iterate the wolf howl of loss and an uncompromising poetic-voice that sometimes feels oxygenless. The book encloses this disembodied voice that has deranged from its centre and meaning. In visual terms the book is the raw howl of a lost generation. McAloran is too consummately skilled  in his image making to drop his theme (the howl) and he works it with a fine acuity:
‘sing spun alone till dry of speech the asking of the
prayers from the hollow entity unto some foreign grace
 traceless depth will in end no end in depth sing spun
alone till speech evaporated’
from nothing’s bones-
The dystopian landscape and setting of In Damage Seasons is dense with image and requires the reader’s full concentration. Here the wusses may leave, it is not for you. Onset and nothing’s bones- form the closable field of the overall triptych that is In Damage Seasons. They are as splattered with blood, torn nails, ejaculate and shit as the Hieronymus Bosch nightmare mid-section of the book:
‘an amber nocturne and the force of blue stun a
silhouette a shadowing a trail of dead words scattered
behind in retrospect of hollow oblivion’s benign claim I
 or we/eye dead of yet but once heart meat heart less…’
Scene Twenty Five (is dead meat heart…) 
 The walls of the cylinder form occur throughout In Damage Seasons. The cylinder, of polished metal-sides, with an interesting kaleidoscopic window detail. Sylvia Plath often described the rarefied air of her bell-jar, and her reader knows that its breach involved the fatal-wounding of her panic-bird. She described her artifice, her work, as the blood-jet of poetry. In McAloran’s case its blood-jet, ejaculate, tearing, bruising, incision and excreta. It is loss, torture, violence and pain:
the blood comes to the fore and there is nothing.…’
 Colours inherent in the book are amber and blue, a streak of red, and shades of metallic. One minute the writer is imprisoned in the doom of the non-working affair, the next he is shattering the funnel against a stone-wall and walking through the shardings of glass barely observing the beauty he made. It is meant to wound his feet, his hands and his body. We read rupture, derangement of form and the screaming voice:
‘kicking convulsive in the reek asking of the breaking
night’s dissemble through the cortex mirror a sheen of
 black iris flowerings a kaleidoscope of burning
carousels spun alone reaching for none…
 the blade asks of the final wind the death inhaled the
caress of some vital wound ask of till subtle bound
some stasis somewhere other than sung aloud in glint
of darkness…’  Scene Forty Two (is stillness to brace…)
 There is no piety to the howling of the poet. There is a type of tenderness and wry acceptance which could not be called compromise in any way, shape or fashion. This is strong and assured work. It is unrelenting for the reader:
 ….here and there the blind terse the fettering of all spun
till head of till spire of spine recorded as if to un-know
hence laughter cracks the ice like some obscene
 symphonium trace of desire still the living clot in the
eye the tongue torn out silenced of all …
ah break the bones of it there’ll yet be asked of till
splendour held in mockery of stun shards of bone and
foreign silences child’s toy fragments the walls peeling
in the artificial light…
from Onset, 5-
 The sense, or aftertaste of a book gives it its meaning. I tend to leave down a McAloran book with a sense of altered-reality. To me that is the meat of the poetic work, and it is often absent from the canon due to a mistaken sense that poetry should lack violence, or maybe it should do something pretty. Like adorn the margins of a chocolate-box culture bent into its own restless consumption.
 If your taste runs to Bataillesque, then this is the meat for you. In Damage Seasons is post-apocalyptic with a hint of tender. The apocalypse inherent in the book’s imagery is of body and of mind. It contains the reality of violence worked on the body and told through the disembodied mouth in the brilliantly written nothing’s bones-
529303_526490027394180_1927032004_nIn Damage Seasons by Michael McAloran is Published by Oneiros Books In 2013.

In Damage Seasons by Michael McAloran

25th Ezra Pound International Conference

Sheets_of_toilet_paper_on_which_Pound_started_The_Pisan_Cantos“The conference’s main host will be Trinity College Dublin, Ireland’s oldest university institution, founded in 1592 and located in the city centre. Our second host and other conference site on Thursday, July 11, will be Mater Dei Institute, the college close to what was Leopold Bloom’s residence at 7 Eccles Street.
The 2013 EPIC will open at Trinity College Dublin on 10 July with a Welcoming Address by the Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney. Individual plenary talks by distinguished scholars throughout the week will be on such topics as Pound and Irish Poetry, Pound and other writers (Beckett, Coleridge, Joyce, and Yeats), The Cantos Project, New Translations of Pound’s poetry into German and Italian, the Drafts & Fragments Notebooks, and Doing Justice to Pound. There will also be four days of paper sessions and discussions on a wide range of topics related to Pound’s works, life, and influence.”


25th Ezra Pound International Conference

‘Marriage Advice, 1951′ and ‘Waiting’ by Mary O’Donnell

Marriage Advice, 1951

Glossy women made her tremble,
every word shiny and sure,
we’re going to give Jenny a make-over,
Jen, the decaying building,
the clueless relic.
They made her sweat, even more,
those women with Dior skirts
and nipped-in waists, who warned
the night before the wedding
about being prepared.
But it was 1951. Next day,
she tried not to faint at the altar
although the neighbours whispered,
later forced herself to stuff
some morsel of the wedding breakfast
through her lips, like bad language
or something a woman never did
masticate, masticate, chew, chew, swallow,
the fist of the still-hidden child
walloping her gorge as the best man rose,
twinkle-eyed, yellow card in hand,
a twist of jokes she’d be bound to appreciate.
Marriage Advice, 1951 is © Mary O’Donnell




It has grown, not darkly, like mould, that sunless green. Sitting
provides the habit of air. Children – trees, coats, limbs,
the bounce of long hair as they troop the school road –

means stillness, expansion, despite unspeakable radio news
on the murder of infants in temperate suburbs. Muffled, gloved,
I grow in a car at the end of an eight-year planting, half of me

mulling the latest distant shooting. I would like to book a flight,
transplant skills, solutions, get there fast. Instead, I wait, the smell
of cooked dinner impregnating denims, boots, my cap, which she

inhales as she steps inside the car. I hold myself together
beneath iced winter branches in grey couteur, feel an invisible
frieze of buds stirring slowly, steady in deep cold.


Waiting is © Mary O’Donnell

Mary O' Donnell
Mary O’ Donnell

Mary O’Donnell is the author of eleven books, both poetry and fiction, and has also co-edited a book of translations from the Galician. Her titles include the best-selling literary novel “The Light-Makers”, “Virgin and the Boy”, and “The Elysium Testament”, as well as poetry such as “The Place of Miracles”, “Unlegendary Heroes”, and her most recent critically acclaimed sixth collection “The Ark Builders” (Arc Publications UK, 2009). She has been a teacher and has worked intermittently in journalism, especially theatre criticism. Her essays on contemporary literary issues are widely published. She also presented and scripted three series of poetry programmes for the national broadcaster RTE Radio, including a successful series on poetry in translation during 2005 and 2006 called ‘Crossing the Lines‘. Today, she teaches creative writing in a part time capacity at NUI Maynooth, and has worked on the faculty of Carlow University Pittsburgh’s MFA programme in creative writing, as well as on the faculty of the University of Iowa’s summer writing programme at Trinity College Dublin.

‘Marriage Advice, 1951′ and ‘Waiting’ by Mary O’Donnell

Veracity and Other Stories, poems by Sarah Clancy

Thanks For Nothing Hippies, 2012
Thanks For Nothing Hippies, 2012. Sarah Clancy

The following two poems are by Sarah Clancy  from a forthcoming collection of prose and poetry, called Friction.

Veracity and other stories

for Alice Kennelly
I’ve lived in four different decades today
stepped onto three continents
I took no visas no tickets no passports
I wrote my own bill of passage I forged it
and what of my fraud if it served us?
I inhabited flesh that wasn’t my own
I scratched it kneaded stiff shoulders
with hands that emerged from some other wrists
some forearms some oxters then I left it
I walked from it and encountered new bones
new ligaments new eyes with which I saw
what I wanted I decided you were an abstraction
so I tried to walk through you but couldn’t
I put my palm on your chest but it met
with resistance I got caught in your substance
then fuck it I lied about it said you meant nothing
that your whole existence was a blip a pot-hole
that no-one was fixing and I burst a tyre or might have
I buckled my wheel rims in it didn’t I?
but then I gunned it and drove on
I read my old diaries as page turners with no idea
what might happen from one page to the next
I took guesses blind stabs at historic events
to see if it seemed like they’d happened me
then whatever I remembered what I wanted
even if I had to invent it I swore it as fact
rose to my feet to defend it
it was my truth in that moment and there wasn’t
a chance I’d let it be rebutted and as a result
I found myself heartless my past cast off
all reinvented and I liked it I was made light by it
and as to the future all those futures I’m writing
I’m telling you I’ll inhabit several actions at once
and believe what I want
I’ll pay no dues to this fiction
this tyrant
this actual bastard
I’m over it.
©Sarah Clancy January 2013

I met the take-it back man down in the shopping centre
where he was soap boxing, waxing lyrical and I drank his potion.
It was said that it could cure the worst of all the words
you’d ever spewed out in fury or in disappointment
and if a cure was beyond the bounds of either language or elixirs
it could reclaim the offending utterances and put them in storage
so long as you swallowed and didn’t spit that is. It could make
happenstances fall from their standing, go over old ground
and make it new sown, it could undo the damage sharp tongues
had inflicted on the unsuspecting, the suspicious and the blameless.
It could pale the blushes from stupid outbursts, cool them
before they ever hit your cheekbones – if that is you took
just two small mouthfuls and vowed to stay quiet for the duration
of its troubled ingestion. It could banish shame before it ever
caught your tonsils and traipsed its way down your resistant gullet
I know it sounds far-fetched but I for one swallowed it.
©Sarah Clancy November 2012

Veracity and Other Stories, poems by Sarah Clancy

‘The Headless Bird’ by Ileana Mãlãncioiu

The Headless Bird

According to custom, the old people have shut me away
Not to scare me stupid when they killed the bird,
And I am listening by the bolted door
To the trampling and the struggle.

I twist the lock time has worn thin
To forget what I have heard, to get away
From this struggle where
The body races after the head.

And I jump when the eyes, thick with fear
Turn backwards, turn white,
They look like grains of maize,
The others come and peck at them.

I take the head in one hand, the rest in the other,
And when the weight grows too much I switch them
. . .   around
Until they are dead, so they are still connected
At least in this way, through my body.

But the head dies sooner,
As if the cut had not been properly done,
And so that the body does not struggle alone
I wait for death to reach it passing through me.

© Ileana Mãlãncioiu , Trans. Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

Ileana Mãlãncioiu is a familiar poet to Irish readers as she is translated by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin in the editions,  After the Raising of Lazarus, (SouthWord) and more recently Legend of the Walled-Up Wife (Gallery Press). I have referred before now on the blog to  After the Raising of Lazarus, SouthWord Editions, 2005. Poems by Ileana Mălăncioiu. Translated from Romanian by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, which is in my small library of women poets and translators.

I thought to do a short post today on the work of collaborative translation, which my readers will know that I prefer in the approach to disseminating poetic literature. I also prefer bilingual poetry editions where possible. I think there is a good tradition of collaboration and poetic sympathy in Irish translators’ work, be it in Hugh Maxton’s sympathetic approach to the wonderful  Nagy, or Peter Fallon’s translations of The Georgics Of Virgil. I have also recommended  Tess Gallagher‘s translations of Liliana Ursu, and John Felstiner’s translations of Todesfuge  by Paul Celan, as demonstrative of sympathetic approach in poetry translation. These authors have discussed their approach to translation in essays which are linked in the body of my short posts on the individual poets, or available in the books mentioned above.

Poethead readers interested in reading more on Ileana Mãlãncioiu  can access her reviews, her books and websites which I have included below this brief post in Related Links. I particularly recommend Jennifer Matthews’ review of Legend of the Walled-Up Wife for SouthWord.

Related Links

‘The Headless Bird’ by Ileana Mãlãncioiu