Birthday of Giants

BeckettHeaney

Ireland has in total 8 Nobel laureates.  They break down by category as follows:

Literature:  4,  Peace: 2,  Physics: 1,  Physiology or Medicine: 1

It is hardly a surprise that Ireland excels in literature.  Irish mythology divides the society of the Tuatha Dé Danann into three tribes, the Tuatha (nobility) the Dé (priests) and the Danann (bards).  In medieval Ireland the communal body of  lore was protected by the Filí (court poet historians) and the Bards (itinerant poets, story tellers and minstrels).   These individuals were highly respected and honoured.  There are dreadful cautionary tales told of the fate of lords who failed to honour a bard properly.  No sword cuts as deeply as a well crafted satire.

The claim to fame of my own clan, the MacFhlannchaidh (Clancy) is that we were filí to the Dalcassian Sept.  We were the brehons (lawyers), historians, poets, diplomats, ambassadors and scribes.  Basically the civil service of the time.  The Dalcassians were one of the most powerful tribal groups in Ireland.  they successfully rebuffed attempts by the Normans to invade their lands.  Two American presidents, J.F.K. and Ronald Reagan trace their heritage back to the Dál gCais.

The Irish literature winners are W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney.

The last two were born on the same day, April 13th.  Happy birthday to half of all Irish Nobel Prize winning literature laureates.

Ascension; by Samuel Beckett

through the slim partition
this day when a child
prodigal in his own way
returned into the family
I hear a voice
it is excited it comments
on the football world cup

forever too young

meanwhile through the open window
over the air in a word
heavily
a sea swell of the faithful

her blood spurted in abundance
on the sheets on the sweet peas on her bloke
he closed the eyelids with filthy fingers
on the green eyes big with surprise

she lightly roams
over my tomb of air

 

Rite of Spring; by Seamus Heaney

So winter closed its fist
and got it stuck in the pump.
The plunger froze up a lump

in its throat, ice founding itself
upon iron. The handle
paralysed at an angle.

Then the twisting of wheat straw
into ropes, lapping them tight
round stem and snout, then a light

that sent the pump up in a flame
it cooled, we lifted her latch,
her entrance was wet, and she came.

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Man overboard

Ferry

In May 1927 Joe Lynch fell overboard from a ferry in Sydney Harbour.  He was drunk and his pockets were filled with beer bottles which helped drag him down.

This happened while the Sydney Harbour bridge was under construction and the only way to cross Port Jackson was by boat.

Joe was a cartoonist who worked with Kenneth Slessor for Smith’s Weekly magazine in Sydney.  The pair also worked together for Punch magazine in Melbourne for a time.  The night he died Lynch left work and met his brother Guy, Guy’s wife Marge, and Frank Clancy, another Irish Australian journalist who worked for Labor Daily.  They were boozing hard and loaded up with bottles when they boarded the ferry Kiandra at Circular Quay.  Somewhere along the way Joe leaned too far back over the rail and slipped away beneath the Harbour waters.

That might have been the end for Joe Lynch, an embarrassing end quickly forgotten.  But eight years later his old pal Kenneth Slessor had a bit of an epiphany as he listed to the watch bells ring from the Warships in the Harbour.  He penned his most famous, and one of Australia’s greatest poems.  Kenneth was born on this day in 1901.  Happy Birthday Kenneth Slessor.

Because of Slessor Lynch has become the most famous, and possibly the most preposterous, drowning in Sydney Harbour.

Below the poem you will find a photo of a war memorial in Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand.  It was sculpted by Guy Lynch using Joe Lynch as his body model.  It depicts a Kiwi soldier of WW1 coming off duty, and is nicknamed “The Untidy Soldier”.  This statue is the subject of “The Digger and the Faun” a poem by Michele Leggott.  So Joe Lynch is immortalised in poetry twice!  Not a bad memorial.

 

Five Bells ; by Kenneth Slessor

Time that is moved by little fidget wheels
is not my time, the flood that does not flow.
Between the double and the single bell
of a ship’s hour, between a round of bells
from the dark warship riding there below,
I have lived many lives, and this one life
of Joe, long dead, who lives between five bells.

Deep and dissolving verticals of light
ferry the falls of moonshine down. Five bells
coldly rung out in a machine’s voice. Night and water
pour to one rip of darkness, the Harbour floats
in the air, the Cross hangs upside-down in water.

Why do I think of you, dead man, why thieve
these profitless lodgings from the flukes of thought
anchored in time? You have gone from earth,
gone even from the meaning of a name;
yet something’s there, yet something forms its lips
and hits and cries against the ports of space,
beating their sides to make its fury heard.

Are you shouting at me, dead man, squeezing your face
in agonies of speech on speechless panes?
Cry louder, beat the windows, bawl your name!

But I hear nothing, nothing…only bells,
five bells, the bumpkin calculus of time.
Your echoes die, your voice is dowsed by life,
there’s not a mouth can fly the pygmy strait –
nothing except the memory of some bones
long shoved away, and sucked away, in mud;
and unimportant things you might have done,
or once I thought you did; but you forgot,
and all have now forgotten – looks and words
and slops of beer; your coat with buttons off,
your gaunt chin and pricked eye, and raging tales
of Irish kings and English perfidy,
and dirtier perfidy of publicans
groaning to God from Darlinghurst.
Five bells.

Then I saw the road, I heard the thunder
tumble, and felt the talons of the rain
the night we came to Moorebank in slab-dark,
so dark you bore no body, had no face,
but a sheer voice that rattled out of air
(as now you’d cry if I could break the glass),
a voice that spoke beside me in the bush,
loud for a breath or bitten off by wind,
of Milton, melons, and the Rights of Man,
and blowing flutes, and how Tahitian girls
are brown and angry-tongued, and Sydney girls
are white and angry-tongued, or so you’d found.
But all I heard was words that didn’t join
so Milton became melons, melons girls,
and fifty mouths, it seemed, were out that night,
and in each tree an Ear was bending down,
or something that had just run, gone behind the grass,
when blank and bone-white, like a maniac’s thought,
the naphtha-flash of lightning slit the sky,
knifing the dark with deathly photographs.
There’s not so many with so poor a purse
or fierce a need, must fare by night like that,
five miles in darkness on a country track,
but when you do, that’s what you think.
Five bells.

In Melbourne, your appetite had gone,
your angers too; they had been leeched away
by the soft archery of summer rains
and the sponge-paws of wetness, the slow damp
that stuck the leaves of living, snailed the mind,
and showed your bones, that had been sharp with rage,
the sodden ectasies of rectitude.
I thought of what you’d written in faint ink,
your journal with the sawn-off lock, that stayed behind
with other things you left, all without use,
all without meaning now, except a sign
that someone had been living who now was dead:
At Labassa. Room 6 x 8
On top of the tower; because of this, very dark
and cold in winter. Everything has been stowed
into this room – 500 books all shapes
and colours, dealt across the floor
and over sills and on the laps of chairs;
guns, photoes of many differant things
and differant curioes that I obtained…

In Sydney, by the spent aquarium-flare
of penny gaslight on pink wallpaper,
we argued about blowing up the world,
but you were living backward, so each night
you crept a moment closer to the breast,
and they were living, all of them, those frames
and shapes of flesh that had perplexed your youth,
and most your father, the old man gone blind,
with fingers always round a fiddle’s neck,
that graveyard mason whose fair monuments
and tablets cut with dreams of piety
rest on the bosoms of a thousand men
staked bone by bone, in quiet astonishment
at cargoes they had never thought to bear,
these funeral-cakes of sweet and sculptured stone.

Where have you gone? The tide is over you,
the turn of midnight water’s over you,
as Time is over you, and mystery,
and memory, the flood that does not flow.
You have no suburb, like those easier dead
in private berths of dissolution laid –
the tide goes over, the waves ride over you
and let their shadows down like shining hair,
but they are Water; and the sea-pinks bend
like lilies in your teeth, but they are Weed;
and you are only part of an idea.
I felt the wet push its black thumb-balls in,
the night you died, I felt your eardrums crack,
and the short agony, the longer dream,
the Nothing that was neither long nor short;
but I was bound, and could not go that way,
but I was blind, and could not feel your hand.
If I could find an answer, could only find
your meaning, or could say why you were here
who now are gone, what purpose gave you breath
or seized it back, might I not hear your voice?

I looked out my window in the dark
at waves with diamond quills and combs of light
that arched their mackerel-backs and smacked the sand
in the moon’s drench, that straight enormous glaze,
and ships far off asleep, and harbour-buoys
tossing their fireballs wearily each to each,
and tried to hear your voice, but all I heard
was a boat’s whistle, and the scraping squeal
of seabirds’ voices far away, and bells,
five bells. Five bells coldly ringing out.
Five bells.

 

Untidy.jpg

Happy Birthday Bob Dylan

Dylan

In a signature year for Robert Allen Zimmerman he is this years recipient of the Nobel prize for literature, the award being made in 2016 Dylan took his time in accepting it.

Zimmerman changed his name after coming across the beautiful lyrical works of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.  He was at the time searching for something deeper than rock and roll.

The thing about rock’n’roll is that for me anyway it wasn’t enough… There were great catch-phrases and driving pulse rhythms… but the songs weren’t serious or didn’t reflect life in a realistic way. I knew that when I got into folk music, it was more of a serious type of thing. The songs are filled with more despair, more sadness, more triumph, more faith in the supernatural, much deeper feelings.”                  ………….Bob Dylan

The youth of the counter culture of the 1960’s agreed and the songs of Bob Dylan joined those of Woodie Guthrie and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott as cornerstones of the protest movement.

While gigging around Greenwich village he came across an extended family of Irish brothers from Carrick-on-Suir in County Tipperary.  They shared the simple farming and fishing folksongs and the tradition of rebellion through song of Ireland with him.  The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem found fame in their own regard and Dylan acknowledged their contribution to his emerging iconic style.

The citation from the Nobel committee says he was awarded the Literature prize for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.

Happy Birthday Bob and may you see many more.

Just like a woman; by Bob Dylan

Nobody feels any pain
Tonight as I stand inside the rain
Ev’rybody knows
That Baby’s got new clothes
But lately I see her ribbons and her bows
Have fallen from her curls
She takes just like a woman, yes, she does
She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does
And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl

Queen Mary
She’s my friend
Yes, I believe I’ll go see her again
Nobody has to guess
That Baby can’t be blessed
Till she sees finally that she’s like all the rest
With her fog, her amphetamine and her pearls
She takes just like a woman, yes
She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does
And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl

It was raining from the first
And I was dying there of thirst
So I came in here
And your long-time curse hurts
But what’s worse
Is this pain in here
I can’t stay in here
Ain’t it clear that

I just can’t fit
Yes, I believe it’s time for us to quit
But when we meet again
Introduced as friends
Please don’t let on that you knew me when
I was hungry and it was your world
Ah, you fake just like a woman, yes, you do
You make love just like a woman, yes, you do
Then you ache just like a woman
But you break just like a little girl

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Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem

Suicide cycle

13-reasons-why-5-stills-released-see-here

A lot about suicide going on this week.  Both Esha and Gavin are in the Cycle Against Suicide tomorrow from Rockwell College Cashel to Ursuline College Thurles.  So they are cycling from Gavin’s school to Esha’s.

In work people are registering for the “Darkness into Light” walk raising funds for Pieta House, which has a huge role in addressing self esteem issues in young people.

The  big hit TV series is “13 Reasons Why” the Netflix show which follows the set of cassette tapes recorded by a teenage girl before she commits suicide.  Teenagers are eating it up.  I watched it myself and really enjoyed it.  But.  Sorry…BUT (it’s a big but).

As one commentator pointed out tonight on the radio, they are young,  they are downright hot, they are so cool, they are all good looking, well dressed, highly alluring. The production is glossy, the music is fantastic, there is a teenager driving a Ford Mustang for goodness sake.  They are the teenagers that teenagers want to be.  They are the fashion queens, the sports jocks, the cheerleaders, the smart kids, the ones who matter.  When the teenagers your teens want to be are killing themselves in a form of revenge ritual you need to be concerned.  Maybe the reports are anecdotal, maybe not, but all suicide and self-harm agencies are reporting a rise in incidents.

So to my newest favourite poet, who has just released a new poem.  Not about suicide, but about the very opposite.  I just love this sentiment.  It reflects what I believe about social media.  When you are having fun, put the phone away.  Live in the moment.  It doesn’t last long.  Celebrate the NOW.

 

Blink and You’ll Miss It: by Esha Hourihane Clancy

Unlike a million other things, happiness is a choice.
A choice we all have and one we all make,
make for ourselves but for others we fake.
Fake a smile, fake a laugh,
whose to know, or much less care?
When you smile the world smiles back.
It can’t see past the façade we wear.

I cannot be bought by the wealthy nor donated to the poor.
Who am I? What am I for?
Why do plays and poems celebrate the aching and breaking of hearts?
The rolling of heads and the rolling of tears precede and interrupt the happier parts.
I guess poets and playwrights know all too well
that it is best to write when you are drowning in hell.
It’s easier.
What a sin it would be to pick up a pen while laughing.
To interrupt joy in such gross kind, you would certainly scare it away.
A deer in the woods isn’t so hard to catch.

Document the sad times, the sloths and the snails.
Fill oceans with tears and draw great blue whales.
Sing sad songs ’til the cows come home
but don’t ever try to write a happy poem.
Lions and tigers are too fast for your flash.
Reach for your pen and off they’ll dash.
Don’t worry about forgetting it
because it’s going to get forgotten.
Just enjoy it now, before it’s gone.

Look!

 

Cycle

Cowboy Advertising

marlboro-country-1970

There is a great story told in the Leo Burnett Advertising agency about how the boss created the Marlboro Cowboy campaign.  As with all ad agency stories, it has a smidgen of truth masking a lot of fuzzy reality.  The story is that Philip Morris invented a new cigarette, with a filter tip and a crush proof box.  Leo Burnett pointed out that the innovations would be copied within 6 months.  Instead he came back with an image of a rugged cowboy, and the legend of the Marlboro Cowboy was born.

The truth is that the tobacco companies were well aware of the health implications of cigarettes.  Filters were an approach to cleaning up their act.  But filters were seen as unmanly, they were for women.  Marlboro was originally marketed as being “Mild as May”.

Burnett realised that any concession to “health benefits” would simply raise the looming specter of the long term damaging effects of the product.  So he wanted to avoid talking about the filter.  To make the filter acceptable to men he designed a campaign that would show “manly men” smoking Marlboro.  The Cowboys were supposed to be followed by Sea Captains, Weightlifters, Construction workers.  Sort of like an early version of YMCA, a homoerotic muscle man revue (in retrospect anyway).

What happened is that the Cowboy succeeded beyond expectations, and you don’t fix what ain’t broke.  So the Cowboy became Marlboro.  Ad agencies never admit that their successes are accidental, but the truth is, you need a hefty dose of luck on top of all your good planning and design work to make an iconic campaign.

The cowboy is a symbol.  That is the secret of the success.  In the same way as we talk about the heart, but really mean love, when we talk about the cowboy we really mean freedom, adventure, excitement.  It is a male fantasy of escape from the drudgery of the job and the responsibilities of mortgage, bills and the hassles of family life.  This escape fantasy is personified by the cowboy, or the drover.  You will find it in the Banjo Patterson poem “Clancy of the Overflow”, Eric Bogle’s song “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” and in the Irish poem below.

The Drover; by Padraic Colum

To Meath of the pastures,
From wet hills by the sea,
Through Leitrim and Longford
Go my cattle and me.
I hear in the darkness
Their slipping and breathing.
I name them the bye-ways
They’re to pass without heeding.
Then the wet, winding roads,
Brown bogs with black water;
And my thoughts on white ships
And the King o’ Spain’s daughter.
O! farmer, strong farmer!
You can spend at the fair
But your face you must turn
To your crops and your care.
And soldiers—red soldiers!
You’ve seen many lands;
But you walk two by two,
And by captain’s commands.
O! the smell of the beasts,
The wet wind in the morn;
And the proud and hard earth
Never broken for corn;
And the crowds at the fair,
The herds loosened and blind,
Loud words and dark faces
And the wild blood behind.
(O! strong men with your best
I would strive breast to breast
I could quiet your herds
With my words, with my words.)
I will bring you, my kine,
Where there’s grass to the knee;
But you’ll think of scant croppings
Harsh with salt of the sea.

Where the grass is greener

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The grass is always greener on the other side.  Far away hills are green.  Far away cattle have longer horns.  You can’t be a prophet in your own country.  Familiarity breeds contempt.

Our language is turgid with aphorisms, metaphors and maxims that cast warnings to those who would travel in search of a better life.  We are advised to look before we leap, for there is no place like home and home is where the hearth is.

And yet the impetus of wanderlust remains strong.  Country bumpkins dream of the bright lights of the big city, the big smoke replete with crowds, jobs, opportunities, noise, bustle, anonymity, rampant consumerism, flux and a frisson of danger, life in the fast lane.  City folk harken to a slower pace, an easier life, of simple pleasures, community, courtesy, living space, clean air and water, a green and pleasant land, a rural idyll, perhaps even a backwater.

City pad or an escape to the country?  What is your dream?  Do you want to be at the centre of a chic crowd of suave urbanites who work hard and party harder, or do you fancy a potter in the garden and making an apple tart with fruit from your own orchard?

Here is one of the great poems on this theme.  An Australian classic, about a drover who shares my name.  If you want to follow the fortunes of Clancy further you can find him in a poem entitled “Clancy’s Reply” and he also plays a starring role in another Paterson poem “The man from Snowy River”.

CLANCY OF THE OVERFLOW – A.B. “Banjo” Paterson

 

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better

Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,

He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,

Just “on spec”, addressed as follows: “Clancy, of The Overflow”.

And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,

(And I think the same was written in a thumbnail dipped in tar)

‘Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:

“Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving, and we don’t know where he are.”

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy

Gone a-droving “down the Cooper” where the western drovers go;

As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,

For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him

In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,

And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,

And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy

Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,

And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city

Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.

And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle

Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street,

And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,

Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.

And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me

As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,

With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,

For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.

And I somehow fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy,

Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,

While he faced the round eternal of the cashbook and the journal –

But I doubt he’d suit the office, Clancy, of “The Overflow”.