|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.
Rest in Peace Muireann x
Christine Murray (published at The Bogman’s Cannon )
The Elm of the Aeneid
|Peter O’ Neill’s debut collection Antiope was published by Stonesthrow Poetry early this year, “certainly a voice to be reckoned with.” Wrote Dr Brigitte Le Juez (DCU). He has had poems published in The Galway Review, A New Ulster (5,8,12), The Scum Gentry, Abridged (29) New Town How (1) Danse Macabre Online Review (66, 70) The Original Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology (8) among others. He has an honours degree in philosophy, just completed a Masters in Comparative Literature and he has just presented his first paper on Heraclitus in the works of Samuel Beckett at the annual Beckett and the ‘State’ of Ireland Conference at UCD.|
Given that the Irish Times Books of the Year did not make mention of poetry books for 2011, I thought to add some links to Irish poetry presses and imprints for those readers of poetry who are not catered for in the list-system. I have to say that I do not think of such ephemera as dates when I approach a book of poetry and my reading included some 2010 volumes (and earlier). The beauty of poetry is that it is timeless and poetry books are always relevant. I am going to add links for some poetry publishers, and then some good online resources for readers and writers of poetry. I wonder how many of the books at link will survive the test of time ? (or even taste, ” So good, so funny, so real, so very, very sad” , is what amounts to review in the article).
Irish presses and poetry journals.
- The Gallery Press have an eminently worthwhile list of poets and writers, I am adding a link to their online catalogue for this and for previous years. http://www.gallerypress.com/wprs/shop/category/poetry/
- Dedalus Press is a vibrant and industrious publisher of Irish titles , their catalogue can be found here
- Salmon Press has a wonderful list of poets, and this year published Ann le Marquand Hartigan and Nuala Ní Chonchúir amongst other titles http://www.salmonpoetry.com/bookshop2.php?c2=2
- Cló iar-Chonnacht has an eclectic list of Irish Language artists, both musical and poetic, http://www.cic.ie/books.aspx for all ages of readers
I can add to this list Poetry Ireland , The SHOp Magazine , Moth (Little Editions) , Post (DCU) , Crannóg , Burning Bush , The Munster Literature Centre ( and SouthWord), The Western Writers Centre, Over the Edge, Tigh Filí , and The Irish Writer’s Centre . Online Poetry concerns include Writing.ie , Emerging Writer , Wurm in Apfel , Nuala Ní Chonchúir, and all of the above mentioned presses that use online as a source of income and connection for writers.
2011 bits and pieces.
I reviewed a few books this year and I have blogged these over the past twelve months, I liked Jeet Thayil‘s edition of Contemporary Indian Poetry and told him too, The moth magazine ‘Little Editions’ , Susan Lindsay’s ‘Whispering the Secrets, John Walsh’s ‘Chopping Wood with T.S Eliot, Human Chain by Seamus Heaney. I intend to get Memorial, by Alice Oswald and I will probably blog that too. AND this year 2011, I published some almost lost Doris Lessing Poems Here , in all a wonderful poetic year for me as a reader and writer.
This year saw the cutting of funds to Poetry Now ! and barely a whisper of protest in the media, and there was some controversy at the T.S Eliot Prize . My favourite story of the year had to be the restoration of Sue Hubbard’s ‘Eurydice’. The fourth annual Turn at Tara occurred, although some newspapers would rather not look at the wound created by rampant planning unbalanced by a single heritage and conservation bill in over a decade! Poetry happens in the most wonderful places , although these places are generally not full of literary liggers. Two wonderful editors had a spat, although Irish media coverage of same was void ,empty. I really do wonder if poetry loses importance due to the glitter and tinsel of PR management, and souped-up interest in disposable tales (the type that makes it to the charity-shops within three-four week periods of publication and sells for 1-2 Euros ?).
As is usual , I have to say that good poetry discussion occurs at Jacket2, UBUWEB, The Poetry Foundation , Salt , Anon. Pierre Joris’ Nomadics is an interesting site for those interested in translation and outsider poetics.
Other newspapers have published poetry lists for 2011.
- Boston Globe list http://bostonglobe.com/arts/books/2011/12/18/best-poetry-books/EMwDBZdDcYcbfbVNhLyh6L/story.html
- Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/poetry-songs-of-elegance-and-of-experience-6278591.html
- Guardian List http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/poetry
- And some New Yorker choices from 2011: http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/poetry/
- The Harriet Blog, 2011 list http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2011/12/the-poetry-foundation-staffs-favorite-books-of-2011/ (Poetry Foundation)
- and then there was this…..http://zito.biz/fuckyou/?p=2533 (Fuck You Blog)
- http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2011/12/the-year-in-reading-poetry.html (New Yorker 2011 Poetry List)
- http://www.npr.org/2011/12/29/144197310/truth-and-beauty-2011s-best-american-poetry?sc=tw&cc=share David Orr’s Selection of 2011 Poetry books
While brushing my teeth
I stop to think of the Minister’s words
and I feel how lucky we are indeed
to have a Green Minister like him to tell us
not to be wasting water running it
while brushing our teeth.
And I wonder if he’s noticed
that it’s been pissing the rain for weeks
and the eco-warriors are up to their eyes in muck
in their flooded dugouts on the Hill of Tara.
But he says he is not in a position to go there
for he is afraid of getting his hands dirty
and he’ll have to go washing them all over again,
wasting everyone’s time and energy,
including his own.
Seamus Heaney thinks it’s a disgrace,
but sure nobody listens to him.
Thanks to John Walsh. This poem is from Chopping Wood with T.S Eliot, Publ. Salmon Poetry 2010.
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 –
- The Paris Review interview is here : http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/30/the-art-of-poetry-no-87-paul-muldoon
- The Turn at Tara (2008) is here https://poethead.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/a-turn-at-tara-august-28th-2011/
- Poethead piece is here : https://poethead.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/from-wraiths-iii-white-nights-by-seamus-heaney/
- Anne Sexton (Paris Review) : https://poethead.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/paris-review-anne-sexton-the-art-of-poetry-no-15/
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 ??