Cover image: ‘Bardic Shield’, by Miles Lowry, B C Canada
Another autumn, another Crannog, Galway’s (and the world’s) long-established quality poetry and prose magazine that insists on setting high standards in the writing world three times a year. Of this crop of 32 poems I liked best Bernie Crawford’s She Walks and not just because it is on a subject which determines much of my own output … well, yes, this. But also because of its control of the inevitable emotions raised by the subject. Every couplet is a text-book example of the restraint requisite in dealing with the horror of war, if the horror is to be conveyed fully. And the economy in the use of words is really excellent. Look at those last lines:
She walks to forget the piece that flew from her heart
that day the air strikes started.
And I liked the light, but effective, tone of Ask a Tattoist by D C Geis, a poem which which deals with a problem people must have with tattoos chosen at a particular time when, say, one is madly in love. And then, when the love – recalling Hank Williams – ‘grows cold’ – what happens? The tattooist, says the poet, can do a lot to block out former passions,
… Michaels devoured
the Karens lasered off
with no more considerationt
han bacon friyng in a pan …
But there is a limit to what he can do. As regards birthmarks,
… he informs you,
nothing can be done.
It’s very hard to limit oneself to just one more pick, but here goes: Anne Tannam is a good friend of mine but that won’t stop me choosing her terrific poem ‘By Decree’. It is a poem that brings to mind the age-old desire to create an ideal world devoid of suffering,
There will be no blame in my kingdom.
In my kingdom no one will point the finger, no one will lay fault.
Though the poem is short, or perhaps because it is short, it seems to have a very ‘absolute’ kind of power. I think it is because of the unflinching certainty built into every line.
Of the stories, I liked best ‘Flutter’ by Niall Keegan with its wonderful descriptions:
The air is thick with dust. fat enough to scribble on with a wet finger.
It might be I like this story – apart from the story – because the language approaches the ‘poetic’ at times.
My own contribution is a poem ‘Next of Kin’ written when the George W Bush American invasion of Iraq was in full swing but I hope, as in the Bernie Crawford poem I mentioned above, it is relevant to the wars presently raging and the ones that, unfortunately, will rage in the future. The poem is constructed out of the actual words said by people trying to express their feelings and which I read or heard on TV over the while. They are necessarily reconfigured to fit into a stanza/rhythm/rhyme format but I think they still convey their original sense of bewilderment and heartbreak. We have to remember that the death of any one soldier will be devastating for the many relatives and friends who loved him, or her.
Next of Kin
… see, David was the kind when things got rough
he’d always help… … He leaves a wife and son.
She took it bad … For all of us it’s tough.
We miss him awful … … Can’t believe he’s gone.
Matthew was … … the best you’d ever find.
The army man spoke of the legacy
courageous men and women leave behind…
But losing Matthew … It’s a tragedy.
Our Carl was killed while clearing IEDs.
His tour was nearly up … He was that close
to coming home … … and then the news he’d died.
It’s hard on them out there … and hard on us.
… our Kay. Our girl … So good at everything.
There wasn’t any challenge she wouldn’t meet,
no matter what … … So when they came recruiting
she enlisted. Only there a week …
Crannog is published three times a year in Spring, Summer and Autumn. Submission times: November, March andJuly. To learn more or purchase copies log on to the website http://www.crannogmagazine.