Another Crannog Magazine full of good things and with the added bonus of a cover designed by our own internationally acclaimed artist Robert Ballagh (‘Bloom on the Diamond Stone’).
My best pick of the poems is entitled ‘Amuse Bouch, the Ortolan’ by Anne Harding Woodworth (p.7) which describes how a type of small song bird – an ortolan – is trapped, cooked and then eaten whole and entire in a particularly gruesome way (an ‘amuse bouch’ is a single, bite-sized hors d’oeuvre). I saw this meal enacted on TV some time ago, and the images have stayed seared on my consciousness ever since.
‘The plucked and footless morsel roasts for eight minutes // in a ramekin*, goes whole into the mouth / but not without the amusing ritual of the napkin held / so that delicious vapours steam into the gourmand’s nostrils …’
(*a ramekin is a small dish)
The event is summed up by the poet in the last line as being equivalent to ‘eating song’ which I found exactly right. Like the poet, I think it an horrific way of eating the unfortunate bird. This is, of course, a kind of squeamishness on my part, but I’m heartened to see that someone else shares my feelings. The language of the poem – coldly and descriptively relentless – is well-suited to its subject. I thought it a top-class poem. I must mention also that there is another classy poem by Ann Howells – ‘Sage of St George’ – on the page opposite (p.6).
Many times when I read a poem by Geraldine Mills I feel like throwing in the thesaurus as a poet myself because she is so good. ‘Poem as Haw Chutney’ (p.26) is a marvellous creation:
‘Dump all you’ve plucked into the pot of possibility / with tart of vinegar, the wages of salt / raisins dried down to size.’
I’m not saying one could produce a poem using her recipe but the comparison of the skills of preservative-making and poetry making is strangely apposite. The last stanza is particularly applicable to both ‘disciplines’:
‘… and pour into a clean jar of page / before hiding it in the dark larder of promise, / to mellow, settle, become its own name.’
Michael Farry’s ‘Passage Grave and Shopping Centre’ (p.61) I liked very much because it’s like a poem I’d write myself (only not nearly as well as Michael’s poem, of course), so near is it to my own concerns about unfettered commercial development and its effect on ancient sites (and small towns). ‘Fatal Distraction’ by Pete Mullineaux (p.75) is a poem that gets to the heart of the way we are all wrapped in our mundane distractions to the point of being blind to what’s going on around us. I loved the snappy language. I liked ‘Bog Cotton Rhythm’ too, by Vincent Steed (p. 44). With its strong visual impact is one of those poems that brings to mind one of those beloved old master painting such as Jean Francois Millet’s ‘The Gleaners’ because it is so earthy and grounded in the real.
My own poem ‘Gun Control’ (p.16) is a slighter offering than any of the above, but treats of a very serious subject. It’s not really about the ‘gun control’ that is so much in the news these days, i.e., the limiting of gun ownership, particularly in America. But of course it IS about gun control and has something to say about the mishandling of deadly weapons and the unfortunate consequences that can ensue therefrom. I have a problem with those who think that it is the gun that is the cause of the problems.
This showcase of old firearms
recalls the Lee-Enfield 303
I learned to handle years ago
my left hand cupped below the barrel
right hand firm around the neck
both twisting in against each other
cheek aligned along the stock
the butt-plate hard into the shoulder
eye squared to the sight and then
and only then the finger easing
back into the slack and paused
before the gentle (gentle) squeeze
or else she jumps into the recoil
and fires wide and leaves a bruise
and worse: he now knows where I am.
There are lots of other great poems by great poets too numerous to mention. And Crannog is of course a platform for short stories too and one which had great impact
when read by its author at the well-attended launch night in The Crane Bar was ‘The Perception Illusion’. Rebecca Kennedy invested her story with great energy and managed to get the dialogue exactly right for all her characters. It’s a comic narrative with something of a serious undertow and with just the right mix of both. A very amusing, entertaining piece of writing.
Crannog is edited by Sandra Bunting, Ger Burke, Jarlath Fahy and Tony O’Dwyer. They are to be congratulated on reaching the 40th issue of this fine magazine, helped along the way by The Arts Council, Galway City Council, Galway Language Centre and The Galway Study Centre. Crannog accepts poems and stories three times a year. See http://www.crannogmagazine.com