Happy Birthday Eleanor Ross Taylor

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As a poet Eleanor Ross Taylor serves as a beacon of hope for late bloomers.  A woman who put aside her writing ambitions in favour of her husbands career, she published her first poetry collection in 1960.  She was then largely ignored for most of her life, despite publication of four poetry collections, until she attained overnight success 38 years later.  She passed away in 2011, recognized and validated in her own lifetime.

Eve; by Eleanor Ross Taylor

The serpent in my Eden
swallowed Adam.
He slithered into meals;
of course, my bed.
Wrapped himself tighter, tighter,
all around me,
ejecting sweetish venom
in my head,
no simple adder.
That stupe’s gone, he said,
strangling,
love me instead.

 

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Farewell to June

Royalty - Queen Elizabeth II State Visit to Ireland

May 2011 visit by Queen Elizabeth acknowledged at last Irelands WW1 legacy

As June 2017 draws to a close in broken showers and typical Irish summer weather I give you a poem about closing and June from the Poet of the Blackbirds.  By rights Ledwidge is a war poet, but it became unfashionable in post revolutionary Ireland to admit to a career in the British Military.  It took 100 years before the Irish nation could honour those Irish who responded to the call of John Redmond and spilled their blood on Flanders fields.

In a neat stroke of marketing Francis Ledwidge was cast as a poet of field and stream, of nature and songbirds.  His Lament for the Irish patriot Thomas MacDonagh was given pride of place while his poems from the French and Turkish trenches in which he fought were swept under the carpet.  Sadly even Poetry is not immune from politics.

June: by Francis Ledwidge

Broom out the floor now, lay the fender by,
and plant this bee-sucked bough of woodbine there,
and let the window down. The butterfly
floats in upon the sunbeam, and the fair
tanned face of June, the nomad gipsy, laughs
above her widespread wares, the while she tells
the farmers’ fortunes in the fields, and quaffs
the water from the spider-peopled wells.
The hedges are all drowned in green grass seas,
and bobbing poppies flare like Elmo’s light,
while siren-like the pollen-stained bees
drone in the clover depths.  And up the height
the cuckoo’s voice is hoarse and broke with joy.
And on the lowland crops the crows make raid,
nor fear the clappers of the farmer’s boy,
who sleeps, like drunken Noah, in the shade.
And loop this red rose in that hazel ring
that snares your little ear, for June is short
and we must joy in it and dance and sing,
and from her bounty draw her rosy worth.
Ay! soon the swallows will be flying south,
the wind wheel north to gather in the snow,
even the roses spilt on youth’s red mouth
will soon blow down the road all roses go.

Capture of Ned Kelly

Armour

On this day in 1880 the famous Australian Bushranger Ned Kelly was captured at Glenrowan.  What immortalized Kelly above other outlaws was the suit of armour he cobbled together from bits and pieces of metal.  All his gang were dressed in the armour but only Kelly survived the shootout with the police at Glenrowan.

Son of Irish convict Red John Kelly a man from Tipperary , the County where I live, Ned Kelly won the hearts of the ordinary people.  They represented smallholders, the downtrodden, victimized by the police and all that was wrong with the British Imperial system.  Kelly was already a folk hero before his capture and there was a groundswell of opinion to pardon him.  The crown saw the world differently and Kelly was hanged.

He represents the Australian psyche, a rebel spirit, a frontier mindset, a reluctance to slavishly bind to rules and laws, a desire to kick at the traces of British overlordship.  Many of the original Australian settlers were convicts and their descendants who had more in common with Kelly than with the Crown.  He ranks with other Aussie heroes like Jack Duggan the “Wild Colonial Boy”, and those of song and story like Clancy of the Overflow and the Man from Snowy River.

This brings me to a funny association, because one of my favourite poets is Shel Silverstein who also wrote some great songs.  Here is “Blame it on Ned Kelly” from the 1970 movie starring Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.  Lots of people I love all involved in the same project.

Happy Birthday Lucille Clifton

Amazons of Dahomey

Warrior Women of Dahomey

A raunchy poet, someone who revels in the human body, celebrates it, owns it.  Also a celebrated champion of African American Heritage.  She was brought to public note by none other than Langston Hughes when he published her in his anthology “The Poetry of the Negro” in 1967.

She traced her roots to Benin and the celebrated Kingdom of Dahomey, home of the fierce Warrior Amazons, not of legend but of recorded history.  They formed the King’s bodyguard and female regiments made up one third of all the armed forces in the Kingdom.  The last of the Dahomey Amazons died in 1979, aged over 100, and claimed she fought the French, which would have been in 1892-1894.

No surprise, with roots like these, that Lucille Clifton could spin a man like a top with her big hips.

 

Homage to my Hips; by Lucille Clifton

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top

Puppy Love

Dog

Never underestimate the simple unadulterated joy to be had from holding a puppy.

If you feel sad hug a baby animal.

This is Ali, or Alley, or Allie.  We know her name but not sure how to spell it yet.

 

Song; by T.S. Eliot

If space and time, as sages say,
are things which cannot be,
the fly that lives a single day
has lived as long as we.
But let us live while yet we may,
while love and life are free,
for time is time, and runs away,
though sages disagree.

The flowers I sent thee when the dew
was trembling on the vine,
were withered ere the wild bee flew
to suck the eglantine.
But let us haste to pluck anew
nor mourn to see them pine,
and though the flowers of love be few
yet let them be divine.

Battle of Plassey

Clive

Robert, 1st Baron Clive of Plassey

On this day in the year 1757 Robert Clive led his army of 3,000 soldiers against an Indian and French army of 50,000 at the village of Palashi, north of modern day Kolkata.  On the morning of this day the British position in India was highly uncertain.  The French or the Dutch could easily have ended up as paramount European power in India.

After the battle of Plassey the French were neutralised.  Two years later the British were able to consolidate their position by defeating the Dutch at the battle of Chinsurah.

The Battle of Plassey was won by two secret weapons; bribery and tarpaulins.  Clive negotiated a deal with Mir Jafar and a group of senior Indians.  Jafar commanded the left wing of the Indian forces at Plassey, and defected to the British for a bribe.  There was also an issue of two different sets of treaties that were drawn up to hoodwink certain of the conspirators.  Sadly this type of double dealing is all too common in the history of British diplomatic dealings.  Beware perfidious Albion.

On the military side the victory was not assured.  The early stages of the battle were a stalemate as the French and English artillery pounded at each other with little strategic effect.  Then the rain came down.  The French and Indian artillery saw their powder drenched.  Their fire rates plummeted.

This was the signal for the massive Indian cavalry contingent to sweep the British from the field.  They charged the British guns only to be decimated by a hail of grapeshot.  The British had tarpaulins and they deployed them to keep the powder dry.  This simple expedient turned the course of the battle and gave the day to Robert Clive.  The ennobled Clive built his Estate in County Clare in Ireland and named it Plassey Estate.

Across the Shannon River Thomas Maunsell, scion of another General of the British Army on the day named his Limerick House after the battle, Plassey House.  These lands now house Limerick University.  Students nickname the building “The White House”.

 

Happy

It’s Friday, the longest Friday of the year here in Ireland.  The weather is good, the economy is healthy, life is good.  Celebrate happy!

If you haven’t seen it yet, watch the movie “Happy” directed by Roko Belic.  He tells you the secret to being happy.  Here is link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1613092/

But back to being happy! Listen to this

And why not listen to this too?  Be happy folks.

 

Happy Birthday Kris Kristofferson

Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash

Born in 1936 on this day Kris Kristofferson is well known as an actor and singer.  He was also a song writer and a pretty good lyricist.  I am not a big fan of Country & Western music but when it’s good it’s good.

I remember a few years back when Maurice Pratt was head honcho in Super Crazy Prices, the supermarket chain that evolved from Quinnsworth and was subsequently taken over by Tesco in Ireland.  Maurice did an interview on radio about his career in marketing that always stuck with me.  When he was asked what his favourite song was he nominated “Sunday Morning Sidewalk”.  Made famous by Johnny Cash, the “Man in Black” the song was penned by Kristofferson.  Reading the lyrics you may wonder what kind of life Maurice Pratt was living.

But Maurice said it was not the words themselves that he loved, but the sentiment.  Working in the Supermarket industry he was a busy man 6 days a week and an early riser.  His Sunday mornings were the times he could chill for a while and they were precious to him.  For Maurice “Sunday Morning Sidewalk” is not about the booze and cigarettes of the night before.  It is all about the Sunday Morning vibe, not having to go out onto those “Sleeping City Sidewalks” unless it’s for your Sunday Paper.

Sunday Morning Sidewalk; by Kris Kristofferson

 

Well I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad so I had one more for dessert
Then I fumbled in my closet for my clothes and found my cleanest dirty shirt
And I washed my face and combed my hair And stumbled down the stair to meet the day

I’d smoked my head the night before with cigarettes and songs I’d been pickin’
But I lit my first and watched the small kid playin’ with a can that he was kickin’
Then I crossed the empty street and caught The Sunday smell of someone’s fryin’ chicken
And it took me back to somethin’ that I’d lost somewhere somehow along the way.

On a Sunday morning sidewalk I’m wishing Lord that I was stoned
Cause there’s somethin’ in a Sunday makes the body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’ half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleeping city sidewalk Sunday morning coming down

In the park I saw a daddy with the laughing little girl that he was swinging
And I stopped beside a Sunday school and listened to the songs they were singing
Then I headed up the street and somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringing
And it echoed through the canyons like the disappearing dreams of yesterday

On a Sunday morning sidewalk I’m wishing Lord that I was stoned
Cause there’s somethin’ in a Sunday makes the body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’ half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleeping city sidewalk Sunday morning coming down

 

Hot, hot, hot.

kinks

The Kinks lazing on a sunny afternoon……in the summertime

Today is summer Solstice and in Ireland we are “sweltering” in a heatwave.  A heatwave in Ireland is like a warm spring day in somewhere like Madrid, Kansas City or Cincinnati.  In other words, it’s not really that hot.  26 degrees Celsius or 79 degrees F is a heatwave here.

Something else that is hot is the lyrics of Ray Davies, one of my favourite songwriters who set the tone for the Kinks.  It is Ray’s birthday today, so here is one of his song lyrics.  What made Davies such a good writer was his mix of relevant social commentary with cutting wit and downright great tunes.  Ray, you’ve really got me.

Muswell Hillbillies is about the impact of slum clearance from city centres, a process of moving people from dangerous and unhealthy housing in vibrant communities out to safe accommodation in soulless housing estates in the 1950,s and 1960’s in the UK and Ireland.  Communities were ripped apart and families were left floundering trying to come to terms with a new paradigm for living.

 

Muswell Hillbillies : by Ray Davies

Well I said goodbye to Rosie Rooke this morning
I’m gonna miss her bloodshot alcoholic eyes
She wore her Sunday hat so she’d impress me
I’m gonna carry her memory ’til the day I die.

They’ll move me up to Muswell Hill tomorrow
Photographs and souvenirs are all I’ve got
They’re gonna try and make me change my way of living
But they’ll never make me something that I’m not.

Cos I’m a Muswell Hillbilly boy
but my heart lies in old West Virginia
Never seen New Orleans, Oklahoma, Tennessee
Still I dream of the Black Hills that I ain’t never seen.

They’re putting us in little boxes
No character just uniformity
They’re trying to build a computerised community
But they’ll never make a zombie out of me.

They’ll try and make me study elocution
Because they say my accent isn’t right
They can clear the slums as part of their solution
But they’re never gonna kill my cockney pride.

Cos I’m a Muswell Hillbilly boy
But my heart lies in Old West Virginia
Though my hills are not green
I have seen them in my dreams
Take me back to those Black Hills
That I have never seen.

Happy Birthday Paul Muldoon

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One of a gang of Northern Irish poets who flowered in Queens University, Belfast, during the worst of the Troubles, Muldoon is often compared with Seamus Heaney.  He maintained he was a poor student and should have dropped out of college.  He has gone on to become one of the most honored writers of the 20th Century, Professor of multiple universities including St. Andrews,  Princeton and Oxford, winner of Pulitzer and TS Eliot prizes, poetry editor for the New Yorker magazine.  The list goes on.

Here is a poem about the birth of his daughter.  I love the way he contrasts the magical world of apple-blossoms and chanterelles with the clinical sterility of the hospital with its scubs, shears and stables.

 

The Birth; by Paul Muldoon

 

Seven o’clock. The seventh day of the seventh month of the year.
No sooner have I got myself up in lime-green scrubs,
a sterile cap and mask,
and taken my place at the head of the table

than the windlass-woman ply their shears
and gralloch-grub
for a footling foot, then, warming to their task,
haul into the inestimable

realm of apple-blossoms and chanterelles and damsons and eel-spears
and foxes and the general hubbub
of inkies and jennets and Kickapoos with their lemniscs
or peekaboo-quiffs of Russian sable

and tallow-unctuous vernix, into the realm of the widgeon—
the ‘whew’ or ‘yellow-poll’, not the ‘zuizin’—

Dorothy Aoife Korelitz Muldoon: I watch through floods of tears
as they give her a quick rub-a-dub
and whisk
her off to the nursery, then check their staple-guns for staples