Happy Birthday Jack Kerouac


Born this day 1922 Kerouac is famous for the way he smashed literary conventions.  To write “On the Road” he glued sheets of paper top to tail in a long continuous strip so he did not have to stop typing to change paper.  Then, fueled on a cocktail of mind altering substances he unloaded the book in a marathon writing session.  It took the James Joyce concept of stream of consciousness to an entirely new place.

The work catapulted Kerouac to fame as a leading light of the Beat movement alongside Ginsberg and Burroughs. It was Kerouac who coined the term “Beat Generation” and the “Beat” derived from “beat up” meaning old, used, poor, as in “a beat up old tramp”.  At the same time he was highly spiritual and declared that he was a Catholic not a Beatnik.

Though Kerouac died young he went on to influence a few people.


How to meditate; by Jack Kerouac

-lights out-
fall, hands a-clasped, into instantaneous
ecstasy like a shot of heroin or morphine,
the gland inside of my brain discharging
the good glad fluid (Holy Fluid) as
i hap-down and hold all my body parts
down to a deadstop trance-Healing
all my sicknesses-erasing all-not
even the shred of a ‘I-hope-you’ or a
Loony Balloon left in it, but the mind
blank, serene, thoughtless. When a thought
comes a-springing from afar with its held-
forth figure of image, you spoof it out,
you spuff it off, you fake it, and
it fades, and thought never comes-and
with joy you realize for the first time
‘thinking’s just like not thinking-
So I don’t have to think



Birthday Birthday


Publishing a book is, according to some authors, like giving birth to a baby.  You release it into the world and cut the umbilical of control over your work.  Now it is out in the world to be interpreted by others.  It is no longer your vision and yours alone.

On this day in 1922, on his 40th birthday, James Joyce had Ulysses published.  Sylvia Beach published it in Paris because no good Irish Catholic press would dirty itself with this filth.  She received the first three copies from the press on Feb 2nd 1922.

A serialised publication of the Nausicaa episode led to an obscenity trial in the USA in 1921.  Copies imported in the post were burned by the US postal service.  Ultimately it took another legal case in the USA to rule that the book was not pornography.  United States V One Book called Ulysses eventually admitted the novel to the USA in 1934.  The novel was banned in Britain until 1936.  It was not available in Ireland until the 1960’s.  It now comprises mandatory reading for any degree in English.

Joyce’s reaction to all this is best conveyed in his poem, Gas from a Burner, in which he lampoons the printer John Falconer, who destroyed sheets of his earlier short story collection “Dubliners”.   It also takes a swing at George Roberts, publisher at Maunsel & Co.

The final part of this poem is a concerted and intentional blasphemy.  He has the printer keep the ashes of the burnt pages in an urn, and has his foreman daub a crucifix on his bum with them in a parody of the Ash Wednesday rite of the Catholic Church when the ashes of the palms from the previous Palm Sunday rite are used to signify the penance of Lent.

Gas from a Burner: by James Joyce

Ladies and gents, you are here assembled
To hear why earth and heaven trembled
Because of the black and sinister arts
Of an Irish writer in foreign parts.
He sent me a book ten years ago
I read it a hundred times or so,
Backwards and forwards, down and up,
Through both the ends of a telescope.
I printed it all to the very last word
But by the mercy of the Lord
The darkness of my mind was rent
And I saw the writer’s foul intent.
But I owe a duty to Ireland:
I held her honour in my hand,
This lovely land that always sent
Her writers and artists to banishment
And in a spirit of Irish fun
Betrayed her own leaders, one by one.
‘Twas Irish humour, wet and dry,
Flung quicklime into Parnell’s eye;
‘Tis Irish brains that save from doom
The leaky barge of the Bishop of Rome
For everyone knows the Pope can’t belch
Without the consent of Billy Walsh.
O Ireland my first and only love
Where Christ and Caesar are hand and glove!
O lovely land where the shamrock grows!
(Allow me, ladies, to blow my nose)
To show you for strictures I don’t care a button
I printed the poems of Mountainy Mutton
And a play he wrote (you’ve read it I’m sure)
Where they talk of bastard, bugger and whore
And a play on the Word and Holy Paul
And some woman’s legs that I can’t recall
Written by Moore, a genuine gent
That lives on his property’s ten per cent:
I printed mystical books in dozens:
I printed the table-book of Cousins
Though (asking your pardon) as for the verse
‘Twould give you a heartburn on your arse:
I printed folklore from North and South
By Gregory of the Golden Mouth:
I printed poets, sad, silly and solemn:
I printed Patrick What-do-you-Colm:
I printed the great John Milicent Synge
Who soars above on an angel’s wing
In the playboy shift that he pinched as swag
From Maunsel’s manager’s travelling-bag.
But I draw the line at that bloody fellow
That was over here dressed in Austrian yellow,
Spouting Italian by the hour
To O’Leary Curtis and John Wyse Power
And writing of Dublin, dirty and dear,
In a manner no blackamoor printer could bear.
Shite and onions! Do you think I’ll print
The name of the Wellington Monument,
Sydney Parade and Sandymount tram,
Downes’s cakeshop and Williams’s jam?
I’m damned if I do–I’m damned to blazes!
Talk about Irish Names of Places!
It’s a wonder to me, upon my soul,
He forgot to mention Curly’s Hole.
No, ladies, my press shall have no share in
So gross a libel on Stepmother Erin.
I pity the poor–that’s why I took
A red-headed Scotchman to keep my book.
Poor sister Scotland! Her doom is fell;
She cannot find any more Stuarts to sell.
My conscience is fine as Chinese silk:
My heart is as soft as buttermilk.
Colm can tell you I made a rebate
Of one hundred pounds on the estimate
I gave him for his Irish Review.
I love my country–by herrings I do!
I wish you could see what tears I weep
When I think of the emigrant train and ship.
That’s why I publish far and wide
My quite illegible railway guide,
In the porch of my printing institute
The poor and deserving prostitute
Plays every night at catch-as-catch-can
With her tight-breeched British artilleryman
And the foreigner learns the gift of the gab
From the drunken draggletail Dublin drab.
Who was it said: Resist not evil?
I’ll burn that book, so help me devil.
I’ll sing a psalm as I watch it burn
And the ashes I’ll keep in a one-handled urn.
I’ll penance do with farts and groans
Kneeling upon my marrowbones.
This very next lent I will unbare
My penitent buttocks to the air
And sobbing beside my printing press
My awful sin I will confess.
My Irish foreman from Bannockburn
Shall dip his right hand in the urn
And sign crisscross with reverent thumb
Memento homo upon my bum.

Happy Birthday Gerard Manley Hopkins


It must be rough to be a poet of the scale and stature of John Ashbery, to have won every award worth winning, to rise to the very height of your profession and then to find each year that your birthday is best remembered for a master of your craft who died before you were born.  Hopkins was born on this day in 1844 and died in 1889.  Ashbery was born in 1927 and celebrates his birthday under a weight of Hopkins credits.

If that’s not bad enough Beatrix Potter was also born on this day in 1866 which is why Peter Rabbit gets the picture credit.  As a gardener of course I am no friend of Peter Rabbit, nasty large eared rat with a short tail that he is.  I’m with the Farmer on this one.

I love Hopkins because I think he was one of the first writers who grasped the song of word, how the word itself can craft the poem.  James Joyce brought this understanding to prose but Hopkins gave it to Poetry.  The power of words has increasingly been recognized in fields of study such as neurolinguistic programming and nominative determinism.  This poem is an excellent example of how he plays with the word sounds to capture the echo of birdsong through the wood.

The Woodlark; by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Teevo cheevo cheevio chee:
O where, what can tháat be?
Weedio-weedio: there again!
So tiny a trickle of sóng-strain;
and all round not to be found
for brier, bough, furrow, or gréen ground
before or behind or far or at hand
either left either right
anywhere in the súnlight.
well, after all! Ah but hark—
‘I am the little wóodlark.
. . . . . . . .
To-day the sky is two and two
with white strokes and strains of the blue
. . . . . . . .
Round a ring, around a ring
and while I sail (must listen) I sing
. . . . . . . .
The skylark is my cousin and he
is known to men more than me
. . . . . . . .
…when the cry within
says Go on then I go on
till the longing is less and the good gone

Tut down drop, if it says Stop,
to the all-a-leaf of the tréetop
and after that off the bough
. . . . . . . .
I ám so véry, O soó very glad
that I dó thínk there is not to be had…
. . . . . . . .
The blue wheat-acre is underneath
and the braided ear breaks out of the sheath,
the ear in milk, lush the sash,
and crush-silk poppies aflash,
the blood-gush blade-gash
flame-rash rudred
bud shelling or broad-shed
tatter-tassel-tangled and dingle-a-dangled
dandy-hung dainty head.
. . . . . . . .
And down … the furrow dry
sunspurge and oxeye
and laced-leaved lovely
foam-tuft fumitory
. . . . . . . .
Through the velvety wind V-winged
to the nest’s nook I balance and buoy
with a sweet joy of a sweet joy,
sweet, of a sweet, of a sweet joy
of a sweet—a sweet—sweet—joy.’

Happy Birthday George Bernard Shaw


Born in Synge Street, Portobello, Dublin on this day in 1856 Bernard Shaw makes it onto my page more as a playwright as he was not really a poet.  I know of only one poem that he wrote and that is satirical.  in 1924 and 1925 a writer by the name of Herbert Langford Reed published two anthologies of Limericks.

Langford took a poetic form that was widely employed to tell rude jokes with sexual innuendo and cleaned it up for publication.  The result is a lot of sanitized and frankly unremarkable pieces of doggerel.  Shaw’s limerick is the perfect critique of the work of Langford Reed.

Shaw himself is rightly seen as a giant of the literature world.  How many writers get their own adjective?  When you describe something in the manner of Bernard Shaw you call it “Shavian”.  It may also be employed as a noun to identify a fan of Shaw.

A prolific writer of brilliant, intelligent and witty drama, rightly a Nobel Laureate.  Shaw was less successful with his pursuit of the 20th Century novel and turned down opportunities to pen librettos for opera with Elgar.  He was a friend of the Irish Literary Revival, a member of the Protestant ascendancy, albeit at the poorer end, he connected with William Butler Yeats, Lady Gregory, George Russell, James Joyce and was friend and inspiration to Sean O’Casey who became a playwright after seeing “John Bull’s Other Island” the play that made Edward VII laugh so hard he broke his chair.

When John Millington Synge passed away Yeats and Lady Gregory offered the post as director of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin to Shaw, but he declined.

Although he never returned to live here he maintained his links with Ireland throughout his life and in his will he bequeathed the rights of several of his plays to the National Art Gallery in Dublin.  One of the plays, Pygmalion, was given a musical overhaul by Lerner and Loewe in 1956 and became the smash hit musical “My Fair Lady” making the art gallery wealthy in the process.

Contemporary with Oscar Wilde and both leading lights on the London theatre scene at the very height of its prominence.  Shaw was the later arrival, Wilde already a celebrated star before Shaw emerged on the scene.  It is said that Shaw admired all Wilde’s work until “The Importance of Being Ernest” which he detested.

Shaw was a mixed bag.  For all you find to love in him you will find plenty to dislike.  He was a eugenicist, an anti-vaxxer, he admired aspects of fascism and Hitler, met Stalin and described him as a Georgian Gentleman, was opposed to anti-semetism and his views on religion and spirituality are confusing, conflicting and contradictory.  His sexuality is a matter for debate, he was painfully shy and celibate until age 29 and did not marry until age 42 to a woman of his own age.


Langford Reed saved the limerick verse: by George Bernard Shaw

Langford Reed saved the limerick verse,
From being taken away in a hearse.
He made it so clean
Now it’s fit for a queen,
Re-established for better or worse.

Happy Bloomsday 2017


The day has dawned bright and sunny and warm and augurs well for feather boas and straw boaters.  Dust down your butchers shop delivery bicycle with the large wicker basket on the front.  Break out your dickey bow and your silver handled cane.  Hunt out a monocle and a fedora.  Throw your self back to 1904 once again when Leopold Bloom perambulated his way about Dublin in his reenactment of the trial of Odysseus.  It is a day to be Homeric!


Ulysses; by Alfred Lord Tennyson


It little profits that an idle king,
by this still hearth, among these barren crags,
match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
unequal laws unto a savage race,
that hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
life to the lees. All times I have enjoy’d
greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
that loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
vext the dim sea. I am become a name;
for always roaming with a hungry heart
much have I seen and known,- cities of men
and manners, climates, councils, governments,
myself not least, but honor’d of them all,
and drunk delight of battle with my peers,
far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.

I am a part of all that I have met;
yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
forever and forever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
to rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
were all too little, and of one to me
little remains; but every hour is saved
from that eternal silence, something more,
a bringer of new things; and vile it were
for some three suns to store and hoard myself,
and this gray spirit yearning in desire
to follow knowledge like a sinking star,
beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
to whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
this labor, by slow prudence to make mild
a rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees
subdue them to the useful and the good.

Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
in offices of tenderness, and pay
meet adoration to my household gods,
when I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
there gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me,
that ever with a frolic welcome took
the thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
free hearts, free foreheads, you and I are old;
old age hath yet his honor and his toil.

Death closes all; but something ere the end,
some work of noble note, may yet be done,
not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
the long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.
‘t is not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite
the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
to sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
it may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
and see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
we are not now that strength which in old days
moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
one equal temper of heroic hearts,
made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Happy Bloomsday

James Joyce

Here is a photo of James Joyce rockin’ the guitar.  Bet you didn’t know he could do that!  Joyce also won a medal in the Feis Ceol, Ireland’s premier music competition, as a Tenor.  He only came second.   Beaten by some guy called John McCormack.  He was a dab hand at the poetry too, as attested below.  Of course nowadays everyone associates him with the prose he wrote.

Today is Bloomsday, when the literary world celebrates the day which provides the backdrop for Ulysses.  Dublin comes alive with delivery bikes, Edwardian clothing and lookalikes.  Reading events are staged to celebrate his works.

Wasn’t like that when the dirty bird was still alive I can tell you.  Back in the 1930’s he would have been whipped naked through the streets over the ashes of his burning books.  Filth!  Sure it’s only pornography without the pictures.


Now, O now, in this brown land
Where Love did so sweet music make
We two shall wander, hand in hand,
Forbearing for old friendship’ sake,
Nor grieve because our love was gay
Which now is ended in this way.

A rogue in red and yellow dress
Is knocking, knocking at the tree;
And all around our loneliness
The wind is whistling merrily.
The leaves — – they do not sigh at all
When the year takes them in the fall.

Now, O now, we hear no more
The vilanelle and roundelay!
Yet will we kiss, sweetheart, before
We take sad leave at close of day.
Grieve not, sweetheart, for anything — –
The year, the year is gathering.

James Joyce



The 16th of June was the first day that James Joyce went out on a date with Nora Barnacle, who later became his wife.

Joyce then chose this day, in 1904, to be the canvas for the events that unfolded in his Opus Magnum, Ulysses.  The central character of that novel was Leopold Bloom, and the name Bloom’s Day derives from this source.

Today Bloomsday is a world wide celebration which usually involves dressing up in Fin de Siecle garb, impersonating James Joyce, re-enacting scenes from Joyce Novels, consuming the inner organs of beasts and fowls, cycle rallies on old style delivery bicycles, wearing sandwich boards, interminable readathons and generally hanging around in groups speaking in vaguely intellectual terms.

My Love is in a light attire; by James Joyce

My love is in a light attire
Among the apple-trees,
Where the gay winds do most desire
To run in companies.

There, where the gay winds stay to woo
The young leaves as they pass,
My love goes slowly, bending to
Her shadow on the grass;

And where the sky’s a pale blue cup
Over the laughing land,
My love goes lightly, holding up
Her dress with dainty hand.