Sons Are Older At The Speed Of Light by Macdara Woods

Macdara

I.

My father did not finish things
Such things as rows
Or playing parts ..And breakdowns
Retiring early ..Died too soon
His final words to me — A
Half a question ..Half unasked
At no point answered ..Comes there
Any answer ever? ..Do you…
Do you remember…When…and there
It stops unfinished in my head
Do you remember when we… ..Lost
The points of contact maybe
Or lost the faith ..Or lost our nerve
Lost certainty along the way
As is the way of things ..And now
That I am gathering speed
The train tracks meeting in the distance
Far behind ..The fearsome nameless
City rearing up in front ..where I know
No one ..and none know me
But where we all get off
It is too late to even think of asking questions
And of whom? ..The young Eastern
European with the tea-urn
Has passed up and down the corridor
Three times ..has disappeared
And gone for good
As has the man who checks the tickets
And the district nurse ..who is
The only one that anyone could trust
Out of the whole shebang and calaboose
Or – to use my mother’s phrase –
The Slaughterhouse
This travelling slaughterhouse on wheels
We call a life
……………..But not an unconsidered one
Out of the four last things
This one remains ..Impervious to fashion
Time or doubt: ..the flame ..it flickers
And goes out
The bird across the banquet hall
No more than that
………………………..And yet we
Mostly ..stand our ground ..because
It is expected
And what I am trying to understand
Even now at this late hour
Is your unhappiness and thus my own
Beyond the dopamine deficiency
And those endorphins
Creatures of ..the vasty deep
Who do not come when they are conjured

.

II.

Yesterday I climbed ..lungs heaving
Up the earthquake damaged street
……………………….Nocera Umbra
Much ..chiuso per restauri
And simple minimal ..so beautiful
So free of traffic ..free of noise
Mid-Wednesday afternoon
One self-conscious policeman
Checking doors so tightly shut
Not even dust could penetrate
And near the top
Two men are laying cobble stones
In sand ..tapping them square
Into the roots of time
In shadow
In the lovely buttered ..honey light
Of mid-September
……………………..This constant need
For rehabilitation ..Spells in John Of God’s
Cataracts removed
Appendices
Colonoscopies and cardiograms
Or how in 1991 in Moscow
So many Metro escalators stopped
Seized-up ..steep egress from the underworld
Sotto Restauro ..everywhere Ремонт
Remont ..we climbed up from
The marble bowels and chandeliers
Of Kruschev’s dream made real
But lacking maintenance
The way we do not finish things ..is
Where entropy comes in ..is Auden’s
Sinister cracked tea cup
And the Watcher in the shadows
Who coughs when you
……………………………would kiss
Or coughing ..labour upwards
On a stick and artificial hip
To the Civic Tower and campanile
La Campanaccia at the top
Built nine hundred years ago
And standing straight ..full weight
Erect proclaiming ..Eccomi
For I am here and have been here for all to see
And have been seen
………………………..As I too am here
And have been seen ..been part of this
Small space today between the Tower
And the Cathedral
All chiuso per restauri ..Have seen
The maintenance and putting things
In place ..Knowing that they must
And will go wrong again
And be put almost right again
Poor transients —
Until the Heracliten lease runs out

.

III.

And one day indeed the words ran out
And we ..with nothing ..left to say
Consulted over menus
Read bits of news ..repeated saws
To get us through the silence — you
Didn’t know
……………………..And I had yet to learn
That few words ..A simple few
Could be enough ..could tell it all:
A tendency to stagger to the left
And sometimes teeter backwards
Which could explain
My dreadful fall in Fiumicino
Too much saliva
Varied tremors ..Hands and chin:
And sometimes fingers clawed
In sudden spasm
…………………….Do I go on
Into the realms of dysgraphia
Staccato speech ..Shoulders stooped
A slowing of the gait?
I prefer
To watch the dancers in the village square
The ballo in piazza
Sunburnt mirth ..Provencal song
That so caught Keats’ fancy
Out of reach
And I have had a longer run than that

And not yet reached Astopovo:
Still travelling
………………..To places all unseen
Invisible to those with open eyes
It needs a certain antic 20 20 vision
To housepaint in the dark
As we have done ..And plastered walls
Without a light in Fontainebleau
Not cowboys then or now
Just battling with addictions
………………………Drink and pills
And work ..At labouring ..And selling
Two hours of life to buy a third
The hell with that bum deal
I said ..And I have now grown old ..And someone
Cooked the booksbooks
……………………….Along the way
The way we knew they would – So
Who owes what to whom is moot
Irrelevant ..We last from day to day
No more than that ..That’s it .Enough
For now
The diagnosis works ..Of course it does:
Who ever died a winter yet?

September 19th 2014

—Macdara Woods

First published in Numéro Cinq

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Tipping my hat to female poets

Books

I’m doing an inventory of my poetry books in anticipation of preparing my writing room for a tenant who’ll be moving in while we move to Zimbabwe for a few months. In honour of International Women’s Day, I thought I’d do a roll call of the female poets on my shelves: the 178 full collections and chapbooks together are the works of 148 poets (damn, I bet I have one or two lurking elsewhere in the house…) I picked up most of these books at festivals, as well as a few gems at the Time Travellers’ Bookshop and also the Salmon Poetry Bookshop in Ennistymon, which has a great second-hand section; a number were sent to me for review too. Another favourite bookshop is the Book Stór in Kinsale.

Each of these poets has been an inspiration in one way or another, and I just wanted to say thank you! Here are the names:

Aifric MacAodha
Alice Oswald
Alice Walker
Alyson Hallett
Amy De’Ath
Andrea Mbarushimana
Angela T. Carr
Angela France
Anna Akhmatova
Anna Journey
Anne-Marie Fyfe
Ailbhe Darcy
Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh
Anne Carson
Anne Fitzgerald
Anne Rouse
Anne Sexton
Bethany W. Pope
Breda Wall Ryan
Brenda Shaughnessy
Carol Ann Duffy
Caroline Smith
C.D. Wright
Chrissy Williams
Daphne Gottlieb
Deborah Tyler-Bennett
Deirdre Hines
Denise Blake
Denise Levertov
Djuna Barnes
Doireann Ní Ghríofa
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
Eileen Casey
Eileen Sheehan
Eleanor Hooker
Elizabeth Bishop
Ellen Kombiyil
Emilia Ivancu
Emily Berry
Emily Dickinson
Eva H.D.
Fiona Moore
Fiona Sampson
Fran Lock
Frances Horovitz
Geraldine Clarkson
Gill Andrews
Gillian Allnut
Gillian Clarke
Grace Wells
Hannah Lowe
Helen Farish
Helen Mort
Ileana Malancioiu
Ingrid de Kok
Isobel Dixon
Jackie Kay
Jane Clarke
Jane Kenyon
Jane Hirshfield
Jane Weir
Jannice Thaddeus
Jean O’Brien
Jessamine O’Connor
Jessie Lendennie
Jessica Traynor
Jenny Lewis
Jodie Matthews
Joan McBreen
Jo Shapcott
Kapka Kassabova
Karen Press
Karen Solie
Kate Noakes
Katherine Kilalea
Kathryn Simmonds
Kathy D’Arcy
Kerrin McCaddon
Kerrie O’Brien
Kerry Hardie
Kit Fryatt
Kimberly Campanello
Kim Moore
Leanne O’Sullivan
Leeanne Quinn
Leontia Flynn
Lianne Strauss
Lo Kwa Mei-en
Maeve O’Sullivan
Maggie Harris
Marcela Sulak
Marie Howe
Martina Evans
Marion McCready
Mary Mullen
Mary Noonan
Mary O’Malley
Maya Catherine Popa
Meg Bateman
Medbh McGuckian
Meredith Andrea
Minal Hajratwala
Michelle O’Sullivan
Molly Minturn
Monica Corish
Moniza Alvi
Moya Cannon
Natasha Trethaway
Nell Regan
Nessa O’Mahony
Nicki Jackowska
Nina Karacosta
Nuala Ní Chonchúir
Nuala Ní Dhomnhnaill
Orlaith Foyle
Paisley Rekdal
Pascal Petit
Pat Borthwick
Paula Cunningham
Paula Meehan
Renée Sarjini Saklikar
Rita Ann Higgins
River Wolton
Robyn Rowland
Roisín Kelly
Rosemary Tonks
Ruth Padel
Robin Houghton
Sandra Ann Winters
Sarah Clancy
Sarah Howe
Shirley McClure
Shikiha Malavia
Silvia Secco
Sharon Olds
Sinéad Morrissey
Sophie Hannah
Sujata Bhatt
Susan Millar du Mars
Suji Kwok Kim
Sylvia Plath
Tania Hershman
Theresa Muñoz
Ulrikka S. Gernes
Victoria Kennefick
Virginia Astley
Vona Groarke
Wislawa Szymborska
Zoë Brigley

Two poems by the Argentinian poet, Jorge Fondebrider

Jorge Fondebrider

Jorge Fondebrider, well-known as one of Argentina’s foremost critics and cultural historians is also – or rather is first and foremost – an eminent poet and translator of poetry, both from French and English. He is the author of four collections – painstakingly spread out at the rate of around one per six years. Fondebrider’s poetry is meditative, wistful and ironic, although it can be savage in its indictments of hypocrisy and pretension.

There is no day of total happiness
– he says in exasperation –
there is always the shadow of the dead,
pigeons on the roof,
the dentist’s chair, an expiry date.
There’s always something
more powerful than the sun, your company.
Look – she says, more seriously –
neither you nor I are going to be here
forever,
so we’d better hug each other
while there is still something to embrace,
while we are here today. He manages to hear her
and suspects that they are strange bodies,
alien as everyone,
even in love,
always.

Translation by Afric McGlinchey

No hay día enteramente feliz –le dice contrariado–.
Siempre está la sombra de los muertos,
palomas en el techo,
el turno del dentista, vencimiento .
Siempre hay algo
que puede más que el sol, tu compañía.
Mirá –le dice seria–
ni vos ni yo vamos a estar
siempre,
así que mejor nos abrazamos
mientras hay algo que abrazar,
mientras estamos hoy. Alcanza a oírlo
y sospecha que son cuerpos extraños,
ajenos como todos
los cuerpos aun en el amor,
siempre.

Jorge Fondebrider (Buenos Aires)

La noche tiene mil ojos

No possible denial between waves
that fold into their dark pages.
Behind the horizon follows the sea,
then constellations and corals,
submerged stars
like the cold foam,
and here the moon
shuffling among the ships without logic or order.
Mountains or palm trees. It does not matter.
It’s only a matter of creating a scenario
in which to plant a self lost in thought,
without logic or order.

Translation by Afric McGlinchey

The night has a thousand eyes

No hay negación posible entre las olas
que doblan sus páginas oscuras.
Detrás del horizonte sigue el mar,
después, constelaciones y corales,
estrellas sumergidas
como las espumas frías,
y más acá la luna
rielando entre los barcos sin lógica ni orden.
Montañas o palmeras. Da lo mismo.
Todo es cuestión de plantar un escenario en que transcurra
un yo cualquiera perdido en pensamientos
sin lógica ni orden.

Good Friday by Daragh Breen

Daragh Breen.jpg

Good Friday (Part III of a poem sequence titled The Sun King)

The sun, as always, sets just off the stone-rubble
of Connemara, dragging with it the dark from
just beyond Mars, drowning all the fuchsia-clogged
lanes of childhood summer evenings out along
Dog’s Bay,
and Clifden also topples into the dark,
only its rooftops visible in the moonlight, like
the jellyfish that cobbled the coast’s warm beaches
and across which we step once more into the hotel
hallway where you once lead the four of us
to look at the photographs on the wall of
Alcock and Brown who made that first Trans-Atlantic
flight in what looked like a homemade aeroplane of
lashed together tarpaulin, travelling sightlessly
through the Atlantic night.
Some morning saw us rumbling
towards the flaming pyre of the sun as it coloured
the inside of the plane the yellows of the gorse
that smells of the cheap macaroon bars that you
loved so much, talking about Little Richard, Jerry
Lee Lewis and Midfield Generals,
and in this ford of your memories
I realised that someday the same Dark Bull would
trample free of its stall and come snorting
across the sea of clouds, coming ashore in the weakening
mind.
Yet, I have seen you now as a man,
a youth, a young boy, and when all our collective
years have slipped from us, drip by slow-slow drip,
and lie pooled in the universe’s stilled dark silence,
the spaces where we sat or walked or talked
will remain, like hollowed-out ghost forms,
waiting for some future sun to nest in their
wide, bridging arms.

From the collection, What the Wolf Heard (Shearsman Books)

Next up, Teen Camp!

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So, we’ve had the president’s visit, (here’s one of my young writers reading to President Michael D. Higgins from the magazine of poems we produced) and the Uillinn Arts’ Centre is now officially up and running. Very exciting to see the regular transformations, as things change all around me. The fabulous organza gown, the hundreds of names embroidered in squares on a pair of tapestries, have been and gone, along with Tess Leak’s magical ‘I shall build for myself a castle’ series of giant drawings and artifacts.

DSC_0897

Lucija and I are sitting in front of the fantastic permanent sculpture by Michael Ray who is one of Ireland’s most rated glass artists. My new neighbour and fellow artist in residence is Toma McCullim, from Scotland, who is replacing American artist Al Zaraba, who SHOULD have been here, but unfortunately was taken ill on arrival in Ireland and is currently recuperating in Galway hospital. But he’ll be with us shortly. Meanwhile, we have the glorious Toma, who invited me to visit an archaeological dig going on at the site near where the old workhouse used to be. We met the professor from Maryland University with his students (coincidentally, Al Zaraba is also from Maryland). We also came across a memorial plaque to 22 year old Patrick McCarthy at the site where he was shot by guards in 1922 for being a dissident. That’s bound to work its way into a poem!

As well as a staircase poem, Toma’s own project also includes artifacts that have naturally rusted – and what do you know? On our wanderings, we came upon a whole collection – like a found exhibit – nestled in a field! Toma had her conceptual way with these objects and they are now on display in a stairwell. Also poem material for me!

The wonderful thing about being ‘in residence’ is the serendipity of what occurs. Socialising with Toma and Justine Foster, who makes things happen here, and also Rita and Jackie. As I’m in Skibbereen at the moment, a friend from UCC gave me a ticket to see the Galway Druid Theatre Company’s magnificent production of FOUR Shakespeare plays, back-to-back. Six hours of Shakespeare – and it flew. (We did have breaks for drinks and even dinner, provided by Riverside Café). Their next performance is in New York. Also, thanks to meeting Toma, I ended up in Levis’s pub in Ballydehob to hear the haunting Aboriginal music of Frank Yamma, with David Bridie, from Australia. Fantastic.

The opening of the Members’ Exhibition was a massive affair – as well as sculptures, there were over 300 paintings wonderfully hung  – and it was followed by a spell-binding poetry performance by Canadian/ Indian poet – Renée Sarojini Saklikar, whose ongoing project involves the Air India crash in West Cork in 1985. The audience participation was very moving.

Throughout my stay here, I’ve been so impressed by Emma Jervis’s extraordinary photographs of events, candid moments, beautifully captured. Wow. The Centre is so lucky to have her. She’s archiving an impressive visual diary of Uillin’s events and exhibitions.

As for me? Well, it’s been a frenzy of editing and writing – and next up is Teen Camp! I’ll be offering an intensive three-day workshop from the 8th to the 10th July. As I’ve discovered that teenagers are writing novels these days (why not?) the focus will mainly be on structuring, pacing, adding layers to character and using metaphor to bring language to life. The short story and poetry won’t be neglected either. The best novelists, in my view, are natural poets.

And that, sadly, will bring to a end my residency here. But I will be doing a reading of poems created during my time as Poet in Residence at the end of the month. And there will be Autumn courses on offer

Scribblers, Higgins and Teen Camp

Uillinn
Making letter shapes

Wow, the time flies. One of the highlights of the last couple of weeks was visiting Alison Glennie’s drama group, and doing poetry with them. Of course, first they had to warm up by making letter shapes together. Then down to the hard work:

Writing poems

We’ve almost reached the end of the Scribblers course– only one workshop to go, when we’ll be working on the cover of our magazine, to be printed in time for Michael D’s visit on the 11th June. A lot of excitement about that. So many poems and stories for me to type up this week!

One of my young writers surprised me with this poem last Friday.I think she captured me perfectly! Have to share it with you:

Lucija's poem to me

I’ll have a couple of weeks to respond to new work at Uillinn, and to work on my collection, as well as continuing the one-to-one editing surgeries. Anyone interested in that can phone me on 086 3633567 to book an appointment.

Then it’ll be on to the Teen Camp taster, from the 8th-10th July, which will end my residency. As well as a little poetry, we’ll be doing fiction. I’m hoping for teenagers (aged from 13-18, although so far those booking are around 16) who are serious about writing.

TEEN CAMP brochure

And I’m not sure if that will open! But you can call me on 086 3633567 for details or to book.

‘Tings are quite’ – Scribblers and Slow Art

Afric young poems_17

Sad red cats and weird bed-cars, cloud-soups and monster mice, butterfly-lions, aliens raining beans and timely planets – these are some of the bizarre, delightful apparitions that turned up this week in Scribblers, my Young Writers’ Taster workshops. As one child put it, ‘a magic puffed.’ Really looking forward to the rest of the Programme, which will take place on Fridays from 3.30 – 5.00pm. All children from 8-12 years of age are welcome. The poems created during these workshops will be compiled into a pamphlet, in time for President Michael D. Higgins’s visit in June.

I joined Alison Cronin’s Slow Art Afternoon on World Slow Art Day, where she made us look at individual exhibits for ten whole minutes, without speaking. The effect was amazing. I saw so much more, as time passed, and began to connect with each piece in a profound way. Later we had afternoon tea and exchanged our ideas about the artworks.

Inspired by the experience, for today’s Poem to Go workshop, I took my students to this painting by John Doherty, wonderfully titled ‘Tings are quite’ and got them to study it for a while, before writing an ekphrastic poem in response to it:

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The Tuesday Poem to Go sessions have moved from the art space (which has been taken over for Life Drawing classes) to my studio, a more intimate experience.

This week, I’ve also written a poem in response to Emma Jervis’s beautiful photograph of the moon:

Thank you for 1500 likes

(Thanks also to Emma for the other photos above. Her website is here: http://www.emmajervis.com/) My poem will be showcased at the end of my residency, along with other completed collaborations.

The one-to-one editing surgeries are growing into two hours instead of the promised one hour and 20 minutes! I’m hoping those availing of this service find it good value, at €35 per surgery. For today’s session, we managed to get through nine short poems. Anyone interested in making an appointment can ring me on 086 3633567.