A small attendance yesterday for this reading of the works of two poets, Doug Wood and Ray Pospisil. And no wonder, considering it must have been one of the wettest days I have ever seen in Dublin. I include a photo showing just how bad it was, and showing a lamp-post advert for ‘Dublin in Summer’ events. (!) And just WHO would take that red open-topped tourist bus around the city on a day like this!!!
But to get back to the poetry: Oran Ryan read a selection from the late Ray Pospisil’s posthumous collection ‘The Bell’ (published by Seven Towers). He chose from the last section of the book and commenced with the title poem ‘The Bell’, which has the curious thought “… I wondered … if bells have just a finite life of rings, a certain / number with a steady dissipation of / their brightness…”. Another poem he read was ‘No Closure Please’, one I find particularly honest and courageous in the face of all these advices we hear again and again about ‘the need for closure’. Ray says “… Give me more / internal conflict. That’s / my engine…” I believe that he shares my view that comfortable feelings about oneself usually does not produce good poetry. He ends his poem with ” …I let my demons thrive / and tangle up the pretty threads / to make me feel alive”. I have a very high opinion of this book and was delighted to hear some of it in a reading. Oran also read an excerpt from one of his own novels ‘Ten Short Novels by Arthur Kruger’.
Doug Wood is at the moment somewhere in the U.S.A (I think). Ross Hathaway read some of Doug’s work from the collection ‘Old Men Forget’ (published by Seven Towers) and gave something of a new slant on things because of the fact that we were hearing the poems read in a New Zealand, not a North Carolina, accent! In a strange way, this rather increased the earthiness and directness of the poems. In ‘Hensley’s Branch’, for instance, the slaughtering of the animal is depicted graphically and in situ. It’s a ‘there and then’ poem: “And once he’s got her, between th’cast-iron / ripping her links, kidneys, bladder-sacks / and all he empties in his bucket…”. In this reading the slaughtering seemed just that more brutal. I think it has something to do with the fact that, when Doug reads, these basic acts of farm-life are presented as normal, everyday events which as simply part of the life of a farm. The poem reminds me of John Montague’s powerful poem ‘Killing the Pig’ where there is also no room available for anyone inclined to be squeamish. Ross also read ‘Dr Maglure’ with its rather black perspective on how our attention can be distracted in even the most mournful of occasions. All in all, a very good reading, and a difficult one, given Doug’s very original way of presenting his poetry. (I’m just glad it was Ross up there, not me!). Ross also read some of his own work and one from a fellow New Zealander, Charles Brasch (1909-1973).