Happy Birthday Andrew Motion

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UK poet laureate from 1999 to 2009, following in the footsteps of Ted Hughes (husband of Sylvia Plath).  The top choice for that gig was Seamus Heaney, but the Irishman ruled himself out.

Born Oct 26th 1952 Motion had the good fortune to study under W.H Auden in Oxford and to have Philip Larkin as a colleague at Hull.  He followed Malcom Bradbury as professor of creative writing in University of East Anglia.  Now esconced at Johns Hopkins University, Maryland, USA.  A brilliant poet from a stable of brilliant poets.

Andrew Motion shares a birthday with Dublin Poet Trevor Joyce, but we’ll give this page to Andrew on the day England defeated the All Blacks in the 2019 Rugby World Cup Semi-Final in Yokohama.

Diving; by Andrew Motion

The moment I tire
of difficult sand-grains
and giddy pebbles,
I roll with the punch
of a shrivelling wave
and am cosmonaut
out past the fringe
of a basalt ledge
in a moony sea-hall
spun beyond blue.
Faint but definite
heat of the universe

flutters my skin;
quick fish apply
as something to love,
what with their heads
of gong-dented gold;
plankton I push

an easy way through
would be dust or dew
in the world behind
if that mattered at all,
which is no longer true,
with its faces and cries.

Happy Birthday Louis MacNeice

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Poetically associated with W.H Auden and C. Day-Lewis who he met in Oxford.  He was also in school with John Betjeman and the Art Historian/Soviet Spy Sir Anthony Blunt, who lost the knighthood of course.  MacNeice is from Northern protestant stock and grew up in Carrickfergus.  Though educated in Dorset and Oxford his Irish roots ran deep and he has been an inspiration to many poets, especially Northern Irish poets and in particular Paul Muldoon.

Wolves; by Louis MacNeice

I do not want to be reflective any more
Envying and despising unreflective things
Finding pathos in dogs and undeveloped handwriting
And young girls doing their hair and all the castles of sand
Flushed by the children’s bedtime, level with the shore.

The tide comes in and goes out again, I do not want
to be always stressing either its flux or its permanence,
I do not want to be a tragic or philosophic chorus
But to keep my eye only on the nearer future
And after that let the sea flow over us.

Come then all of you, come closer, form a circle,
Join hands and make believe that joined
hands will keep away the wolves of water
Who howl along our coast. And be it assumed
that no one hears them among the talk and laughter.

 

Garth Brooks & the Cabinet Reshuffle

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Can’t let this week go by without saying something about the vagaries of the political silly season.  When government goes on holidays every year the journalists have time to be more strategic about the issues they cover.  Instead of reacting to the hurdy gurdy of politics they can step back and analyse the direction of politics with a cold eye.

This is not good news for politicians.  In the moment the politician works hard to control the message, control the spin and manipulate events to suit their stated agenda.  If journalists step back from the day to day cut and thrust, and evaluate the last 100 days, the cracks in the spin are all to obvious.  Throw a microscope over any politicians track record and the flaws will appear.

So every year the political powers will attempt to engineer some current news story during the “silly season” to keep politicians in the here and now.  This year the government has manufactured a cabinet reshuffle, but has been handed a better distraction on a plate.  The Garth Brooks debacle is a solid gold gift for government in the height of the silly season.  The politicians can wash their hands of the affair, and throw the concert promoters, the GAA and the planning authorities to the wolves.

A lot of social media commentators have pointed out that this country has better things to focus on than the fate of a country music tour.  This is naive thinking.  Politicians can achieve nothing in the summer recess.  It is a time for holidays and for constituency relationship building.  The last thing they need is for journalism to focus on real political issues.  So Garth Brooks is manna from heaven.  They will do their level best to keep this story alive for as long as it can run.

September 1, 1939; by W. H. Auden, 1907 – 1973

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
“I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,”
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.