Monday, August 17, 2015

Shame A Sidhe Nee Note

'I credit poetry for making this space-walk possible. I credit it immediately because of a line I wrote fairly recently recently  (1995) instructing myself (and whoever else might be listening) to' -


What's the story? The message? What are we being encouraged to do by Seamus Heaney as people who might be listening?

From the response of the local and global Heaney audiences, an emerging consensus seems to affirm what Heaney hinted it meant in his Nobel acceptance speech, shortly after he'd first written the poem, The Gravel Walk, that appears half-way thru his first post Nobel collection, The Spirit Level, in which the line's earliest poetic context appears.

Enact the line above as a living person. 

Or as Heaney said himself in a 2008 interview: 'I began to look up rather than keep down. I think it had to do with a sense that the marvellous was as permissible as the matter-of-fact in poetry.'

Certainly Historian Eugene Kielt who runs Heaney tours, gets it right, in my opinion, when he opines that it is 'very inspirational. It is about going for it. We are naturally cautious and sometimes someone should throw caution to the wind.'

Kielt continues, that though some charge of this advice is about 'keeping your feet on the ground', it's  about 'looking up as well. It is (primarily) about risk taking and not being inhibited, losing your inhibitions.'

If Heaney chose this epitaph himself, as Yeats did his own, the Heaney family can rest assured that there's at least one from the vigorous throng of poets on Britain and Ireland following in the wake of this Ard Ollamh - with a forty year presence at the very top of world poetry - with nothing but what Heaney calls, the 'professional love' a wordsmith has for their Muse.

Held in such internationally high regard because he had learned as authentically as any filidh taught on the curriculum that turned out forty generations of Irish rhymers from the fifth to the seventeenth century.

I was never introduced to Ireland's last ard ollamh during this past decade in which I've been living in Dublin. And incertus oneself - indeed it was noted when I first arrived that I looked like a younger version of the great poet - I was too timid and shy to approach and introduce myself to him.

This is because Heaney was the only poet I knew, or was consciously aware of, that - in my own mind at least - had the power to personally make or break my belief in the veracity of what I was up to, at that stage starting out on the road of literary learning and letters myself; as barely a foclo or macfirmid, 'word-weaving beginner', or 'son of composition'

I was happy and feel blessed to have just been in the same room as him, observing and learning from the best poet in the world, on their home turf, just another of the many filidh in the ultra-competitive  throng at Tara seeking affirmation, validation and favour from a high king-poet and linguistic leader of himself alone, first; then his family, and people that flocked from all over the globe to watch and learn from this then living container of pure poetic spirit that had earned the right to walk rhyming on air, and talk with ultimate authority of the poetic act and art, not because of who he stood next to, or who was socially drawn to him, but by being the best at what he did. Filíocht.

I was blessed by poetry, fate and dán - that in its most antique and authentic context means 'fate' as well as 'poem', 'poetry' and 'art' -  to witness Heaney speaking, both poetry and prose, on five or six occasions. One one occasion, four months after I'd first arrived, in the thick of the Kavanagh 2004 centenary; during a St Patricks College, Drumcondra, Seamus Heaney Series, of six lectures, on child cognitive abilities, the week following his own on Kavanagh, that I also attended - I looked up from the note-taking I'd been writing and there was Heaney's back, directly in front of me, sitting down watching and listening to the same lecture.

I only realised it was him close to the end of the lecture. Note-taking thru most of it, it had gradually, over the final minute or two, dawned on me, as I intermittently looked up and caught glimpses of this senior  person's head turning occasionally slightly to the right and left; that the best poet in the world had chosen to sit right in front of me. He'd sat down after me, and, no doubt, had observed before he did, me writing in my own private circle of studious concentration, oblivious to his presence. Unlike most other scribes and would-be poets of Ireland in the room that night, I suspect.

As I already mentioned, when I arrived in 2004 it was Kavanagh's birth centenary, and everyone in Dublin was on the bandwagon. Somewhat ironically he had become an establishment icon, long after his life was over, when the official Irish literary establishment didn't give him the time of day.

During that summer, a new pal I'd just made from Write and Recite, a weekly poetry open-mic (no special guests, just an open mic) that ran in Dublin from 2004-8, PJ Brady, was in a one-man play in which he plays the role of Patrick Kavanagh, and I had volunteered to put a couple of posters from his ten or so full-size glossy-poster stash, up in as prominent and relevant places as I could find.

There were two events, one was a Kavanagh manuscript exhibition at the National Library and the other was the Royal College of Surgeons launch of Peter Fallon's translation of Virgil's Georgics, published by his own imprint, The Gallery Press; with fellow Gallery Press poet Seamus Heaney introducing his publisher's translation of the Latin bard.

These, I thought, were two of the most perfect places to catch Dublin's poetry buffs. The Kavanagh manuscript launch was on Kildare Street at six-thirty and Fallon at seven pm, five minutes away in the College of Surgeons, Stephens Green.

I arrived at the library and asked if it was OK to put a poster up, and the security man said fine, no problem. After I had put one up I thought it would be an idea to ask whoever was doing the introductory spiel of the main speaker, if they could mention PJ's show. I ended up talking to the third in charge person, who came out with a classic reason, after being asked if she could ask the main honcho to mention the show -

"I don't think it would be appropriate in the circumstances."

I couldn't help but inwardly laugh, thinking "what circumstances are they? This is a Kavanagh event, Ireland's premier Kavanagh actor is having a limited run of a world-class Kavanagh show, performing his own prose and poems on stage; surely the circumstances couldn't be more apt and appropriate?"

However, being new to Dublin and still enthralled with the place, I moved on unbeaten by this, what I thought, petty refusal; to Peter Fallon's launch, and thought I would just play it by ear. Operate on poetic instinct.

When I got there I decided to forget asking for a mention and just put the poster up in the wine and cheese area of the ballroom where all the important faces and the great and good of Irish poetry (that I did not recognise) were to mingle post book launch - that happened in the main raked, six or seven tiered, college of surgeons lecture theatre .

The ballroom was an imposing high-vaulted space with an intricately decorated ceiling adorned with expensive oak and plaster friezes, and fading oil portraits of various Augustine personages hung staring out on the walls; but the sash windows had been faced with interior double glazing, making an excellent flat surface for the poster.

After the library vibe I thought it best to completely cover all bases, and so got permission from the security man to put it up. So, after the launch, as the crowd mingled, I went to put it up, but half way through a man who was clearly involved in the launch - I had watched him introduce Heaney at the start of the event in the main lecture hall - came over in a very agitated and disgruntled state, and we had the following exchange -

"You can't put that up here."

"It's OK, I got permission to put it up."

"What, from security?" (somewhat disbelievingly)


"Well, erm they probably think you're with us. You'll have to take it down."

By this time I was inwardly laughing more than I had been at the library, as he was obviously very highly charged, probably because of the high profile nature of the event, so I said "no problem" and started to slowly un-sellotape the two thirds affixed poster, which is when the funniest thing happened. He physically interjected and said:

"Here, let me help you."

And just at this point about to tear it away like an angry executive snatching a latte from a facetious office boy, he realised his behaviour was drawing attention away from the main focus and centre of poetic gravity in the space and onto us. And he blushed brightly before turning on his heels and then shuffled off to fulfill his role of chief smiler, hand-shaker and chit chatter of poetry related pleasantries with those present.

He had inadvertently given me more free publicity than I could have hoped for, as the eyes in the room noted from their corners the then Director of Poetry Ireland / Éigse Éireann (i later learned), the Louth poet, Joe Woods, had been having the frisson of socially combative exchange with.

As you will be aware, at the wine and cheese do's any news is big news, no matter how slight, so I felt somewhat pleased with my efforts. I had not gone out to create a fuss, but still the fuss came and could not have been better scripted.

I had been to my first Dublin literary establishment splashes, back to back, and all in all a good evening's voluntary work had come of it. I ended up spotting a mobile notice-board just outside the sumptuous ballroom and decided to put the poster on there.

When I had slowly and methodically done so I turned round and was immediately met, ten feet away, by the eyes of Fallon and Heaney; who were having a one on one time out from the bustle of the ballroom, alone sitting on two chairs to the side at the top of the sweeping marble staircase, saying nothing and staring directly at me.

And with no sign of acknowledgement from them of me beyond the stare, caught unawares, not realising they were there, I sheepishly raised my eyes and walked off with a fixed lip-clamped facial feature of one spotted by the ollúna at their most authentic and natural in their own golden circle of imaginative and playful child-like artistic concentration.

I was filled with emotional and intellectual positivity at the success of my creative mission, smiling in joyful surprise as I vacated the building, welling with imbhas and feeling I had made a perfect first impression in the golden poetry circle at the height of this collective delusional spell of Celtic Tiger madness; that I believe (tho it's very unpopular and unpatriotic to utter any disagreement with the magical doctrine that the bubble is going to expand and last forever) - will spectacularly crash. I am certain of it."

contd@ Jan Manzwotz Blog, created four years after starting to write, at the start of one person's journey thru the thickets of the English language in Dublin. Created as an unconscious and instinctual part of the Finn McCool find ye name process taught to forty generations of Irish rhymers.
A metaphorical bardic poetry lesson from one that learned to love letters a long route - from the curriculum's core reading material found hitting ye head over and over again with it, until the contents of what a fíli poet had to learn, sunk in. From the pages of the unimprovable original druidic poet-training manual ye still have at the educational centre of ye poetic practice in contemporary Ireland: Auraicept na n-Éces.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Dince the Dentable Dork Called

A moan poet whose work no-one
will riddle

until the global brain
has brought to its chamber of gas
poetry's cold bloodied carcass
attended by a top-weight team
of sermon-faced sophists
deep in language conversing

beyond non-understanding

in a swamp of post modern thought
addressing webs of hypotheses
resting on the basis of what lies
beyond in the moment unknown
or reached,but connected to now
by a bridge of wisdom, conceived
erect with solid reflexive ideas
and the full support of conjecture
believed to be facts
waiting to be found

once XY and Z
turns to
AB and C

and some ustoppable force of truth
turns reason out on its ear and wel-
comes in Derrida, Baudrillard
Krestiva, Barthes and a symphonic

usurping 1, 2 & 3 into a possible 6
that may be a 4 or nine, depending
on how the colour of tomorrow's
noon strikes the sound of yesterdays


where onlookers standing
in swamps of complexity
ponder on unbelief and why
the human condition cannot bend
time to its will

with the knowledge philosophers
make up in time spent farming
and fishing the mind for proof
of being essentially moved
to reason the faith of beauty.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Up on the Tide

Upon the tide flowing from the summer
night comes love empty of promise
offering no choice
or means to utter a prayer

but swelling the muse shed empty and turned
inside out by a rational process of time

returning its skin

less the bones of battered misgivings
the broken truth fully conceived
swallowed, consumed, spat out alone

and searching the mind for a soulmate
when unguarded moments abandon
the impulse of sense.

Untroubled by the pale defeat of ghost light
dawning on past fields lost
seize the gift of faith
confide in belief
keep counsel with the tree of life
rooted in the heart
and pray for hope.

Emerge from the melting absence of a passionate
self yawning awake
and confer change
in the deportment-conscious act of deploying
decorum at all time.

Until the final departure is logged, recorded,
and halts the call of eternal love

surrender a mystery a day, to what clear light
switches on god from within.


The run of history in a thick soup of rain


The brown coloured condiment in a clear bottle


The inexpensive aftershave and give away shampoo


Two pairs of runners on a canvas chair


An empty tin
unironed shirts
and traffic sounds
rattling in the moist breeze on a historic evening
of words surrendering in the mouths of politicians
in sombre dress
grey hair dyed dark
tasteful ties with moderate knots

the co-ordinates of sincerity
in the eradication of war


Telly-dressed leaders

- consigned by history
to a passionate cause
lining pockets of co-operation in
the equality of flags and parades -
a jumble of yesterday's news
holding the chips for tomorrow's game;
cold coiled reality, a level of trust constantly
tied, tested and untethered by events
departure and return - and the simplistic
consistency of two tribes, vying in wait for a sign
of belief in each others rights, in conflicting songs
of a patriot dead, who died for truth and lies
put into their heads, through centuries of silent
wrongs, and bloodthirsty rights.

Lóg n-Enech / Face Price

Knowing that time for truth
comes through talk when all
is said and done

come to the trinity
of instinct and two figures
rooted in a single mind.

One an Irish poet
one a homeless migrant
dwelling in the ear
of any who will listen
for beauty in a song.

Separate yet together
remembered and recorded
in a corpus of the work
imprinted in the hollows of the heart

shining from the watch-points of the soul
and lighting landscapes of expression
buried deep as Cuchulain
fighting waves of human forces
warring over cattle in Connacht.

Let us uncover ancient rites
in the migrant's Irish heart
which the poet has composed
on benches at the canal bank
weaving make believe with fact.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Late May Day

A fluttering
in the kid skin
soft slither thin
leaves of a
beech tree

alerts her to
a bird in the
hanging over
the oak bench.

A grey
feathered fledgling
awkwardly flaps
to the pitted
tarmac and nestles

its downy breast
against a coping
stone border of
the oval green. A
cricket match
has just ended

and the birds first
flight from its nest
into the unknown
traffic of a new
world view

begun. The creature
taking its bearings
from earth level

looking into
the depths and
complexity of

anchors her
eye line securely
on the confusion
life's nexus of
glimpses distills

across the freshly
stretched backdrop
of a silent dumb sky

offering no
foothold of slender
wood poles with
which she can measure
her ascent through

up to God's hand

Monday, March 14, 2005


For Leanne O'Sullivan

What O'Watts imagines is
she may fly as Fiontan
flew, if she attempts to launch
like the old Irish poet flock
who thought themselves as birds
and made her realise how wings
are crucial to suceed in flight as a shapeshifter.
So now she nows all her slim options
she decides to try out her wings
with no cutting quips
or wry observations
by flying in the form of an elegy
to the dark one who caught her imagination's ember alight.


Western star gathers with the druid spawn
in full blather wear,
making well worn anecdotes of one another,
and lies before their surity in tongue
to find, hanging from the mythical branch
where pure milk fruits of poets toil are torn
Abharach's raiment in ancient straight cry

You've now found your soul so sing all
your song, as fear or doubt cannot haunt
where you belong. Your flesh fits and my
measure is yours; go, weave the thread of life's
ageless truth twining timeless within your
spirit and tell of what is to all
those who are yet to cross your ever wide
path from this moment onward

And in tall dreams
with future high hopes
for all those sorts of people
who urge their love not to hide
O’Watts imagines


One standard geometric chariot
has stopped, paused in transit, immobile
in angular repose, nestling atop
a row of poplar trees in thick foliage
three fifths exposed to view, whilst the bottom
unseen, seemingly weightless, rests its ridges
in a cloak of viridescent cotton
wool soft leaves, just forty short yards distant
from her silver form waddling onward,
nose stuck in the grass and oblivious
in the still humid silence to the whorl
above her, swirling low light in rhythmic
crystal perfect colour which trips
across their path.

He sees the seldom lifted
veil slipped revealing the unknowable and stops,
his mind frozen, momentarily awed limpid
by the weird sight, but strangely unshocked
or struck agape in real wonder with
the thing her eyes have not chanced upon; what
his mind has only ever dared to think
exists unknown in fantastical thought.
Ambling headlong straight into the drift
of light, seeking scents to follow and lost
in search of imagined quarry, she sinks
his chance of heading back to the unlocked
gate they entered through several long minutes
ago in night’s last dark breath when his watch
sounded at four, and he motions her by swift
action running down the track, keeping soft
footfalls, heading straight towards the cut-through.


The LUAS stop at Tallaght on a raw
November afternoon is a chill sprawl
of hospitals and shopping malls; a mid term
pregnant concrete project in construction
sired by the celtic tiger, giving birth
to troops of high viz jackeroos conducting
the business of corporate ordered paradise.
Trams slip out smooth from wombs of blue and white
hoardings, housing five cranes here, eight cranes there,
pull up the dip and sharply swing a right
through the swathe of hospital and houses
snaking round the winding perimeter
walls and rails of low rise commercial outlets
along Belgards dollop of urban countryside
then down the slope to Kingswood's black cambered
cobblestones and a hamlet of Alpine
style picture postcard abodes in stout set
perfect lines which meander to a standard
stop beside the bare black faery bush at the
Red Cow depot's toy town like tram park.
This commuter bus interchange complex
awaits a final lay for the sod fed
turf green service landscape to shine complete,
and as the low slung tram passes over
the M50, past a lumpy scrapheap,
business centres stretch as far as the eye
can see. Harris Hina, an Esso
garage, Electrolux, Woodies DIY
and McDonalds all merge to a wrapped neat
blur of consumer central logo
flags blowing in the breeze at Kylemore
shopper heaven, where a wind whipped sapling
bends like a fishing rod reeling in the bargains.
Houses start at Bluebell, and a bright horse
and Mother Theresa relief pass in
a slow moment of double take, startling
the eye to other incongruous sights;
sleek swans and gulls at paddle side by side
along the Grand Canal as a child flings
bread loaf from a buggy at Goldenbridge
whilst dad sparks up then leans against a wall.
An assortment of corporation housing
glides past in a variety of form
from three storey strip block flats at Realto
to one small box of red brick cottages
at Fatima, where town begins to show
in the barbed razor wire strung on top of
high walls hugging round St James Hospital
and drunks in garish tracksuits and bubble
jackets dirt burnished to a lard like sheen
sup their gargle and stagger befuddled
as the city centre's pulse begins to beat
in earnest. At the gatehouse of St Patrick's
scruffy pigeons perch on leafless branches,
a poncho princess alights at Heuston
and the grey stone walls and bricked up windows
around Smithfield and Four Courts juxtapose
the dilapidation of the Cobblestones
pub with a billowing new commuter
friendly layout running ribbon straight
across O'Connells heart, through to the
bargain district of the bus station
before lipping round left to terminate
at Connolly, where doors swhoosh open and
we exit and melt into the cold strolling
crowds of Dublin heading homeward.


You will always live
buried in a deep beyond
and beckoning to me
from lambent thought's eternal path
through conduits of melancholy.
Your spirit flames alive there
fused within our heart
of sorrow's weathered love
and threads the soul within
the shadow where your spirit
speaks the poem of us all.

Mark's Valentine

Curled red hair like sun-flame
streaming through the ether
of a February day
has captured every moment
of the time it took for love
to ripen, and the suddenness
with which I fell for you;
sensuous butterfly
who makes my spirit quicken
to the music of the thorn-bush
and the cherry blossom
sung in spring to the lilting
beat of love song singing


Remember when we laughed at life square on,
in days existing now as only memories held inside,
distanced from this moment
by rotation measure time
we'll never halt
or with any words define?

Words will conjure images
and spark all sorts of trains of thought
careering through the mind,
like kaleidoscopic pictures,
but these we only glimpse upon in passing
with internal eyes
that swiftly frame in wordless abstract
any meaning they divine.

Some things lay beyond
where conscious grasp can't reach,
for time, like truth, is each our own,
unfolds unique to one and all
and lives are lived as days have gone,
no two the same
beyond the passing of horizons by the sun.

And should the echoes of our laughter then return,
when suns now set
outweigh the suns for rising,
will they live with those we leave behind,
when our stream of time no longer flows
and lips of life cease smiling?