My thanks to the editors of Crannog for again including a poem of mine. As always, the magazine is full of interesting and arresting material and I make bold to mention a very few, out of the many that appealed to me.
I remember that George Bernard Shaw, one time when he was writing to a friend, is said to have excused himself for writing a long letter because he didn’t have time to write a short one. The apparent simplicity of a short poem is entirely deceptive (think of Emily Dickinson!). So it is with Snapdragon, from Olivia Kenny McCarthy (just 11 short lines):
‘A late bee hovers / over the antirrhinum. / His wing beats angle him / to the puff of her / lemon lip …’ The economy of language and the poet’s keen observation is truly marvellous.
But let’s not do down the longer poem. There is The Principles of Fatherhood, for instance, where Kevin Graham explores a difficult space for many parents. I think I am right in interpreting it as a poem about disability, but it could apply equally to any time in that period of life which many people confront rather awkwardly, fathers especially perhaps. It is a very moving poem and if there was a Crannog Readers Award (as in the UK Orbis magazine) it would get my vote. There are far too many twee, saccharine poems written about childhood (though never in Crannog!). This isn’t one of them.
Poems about the coming of spring are as old as the hills but in Clive Donovan’s The Return of Her, spring comes striding across those hills sweeping all winter’s destruction before her. What a great stirring clarion-call of a poem it is! ‘The bomb shelled birds stir to sound again singing / And scarred trees weeping with raw new sap …’ I am not surprised to read in the biographical notes that Clive has been published ‘in a wide variety of magazines’. This poem is really high quality, inspiring stuff.
Orla Fay’s Earworm is a poem to reckon with. I confess I had never heard of the singer Hozier (on whose song this poem is based) until I read Orla’s poem and this is a good example of the power of a good piece of writing to send us hurrying to look up allusions we don’t understand. This only happens if we find the piece impressive in the first place, and this is a really impressive poem. I had not heard the phrase ‘stuck song syndrome’ before, but I know exactly what it means. Unfortunately it often happens that the song that gets stuck in one’s head is some obnoxious ditty picked up in the supermarket. Fortunately for Orla, it is a song she likes: ‘Yahweh do angels walk among us / whispering such lyrics / as catalyst’. Now you must excuse me while I look up the words ‘teal’ and ‘calque’ …
As in Orla’s case, my poem derives from another artwork, this time a painting, the Canaletto masterpiece in London’s National Gallery. After many visits to Galleries, we all tend to look up our favourites, and the danger is that pass by the many other wonders. But the danger is always worth it with a marvellous work like his.
The Stonemasons’ Yard Revisited
Because I cannot pass where work is doing
these stonemasons busy at their craft
detain me, bell tower rising up behind them,
canal waters flowing silkily past.
I’d half-expected they’d have given way
to office-block and supermarket landscape,
but they labour still as first I saw them,
hammers poised to chip and split and shape.
Here’s one who leans into his task, his eye
fixed on the point will take the chisel’s edge.
Another decorates a pediment,
another finishes off a polished ledge.
And so much happening else outside their yard –
small cameos of ordinary lives:
a cockerel struts along a window sill,
a woman turns to help a fallen child,
while others set their lines of wash to dance
so whitely, merrily in the morning breeze –
their men will home this evening, tired and dusty,
must have shirts tomorrow fresh and clean.
No devil’s workshops here, no idle hands
in this tableau of life and daily living:
his a world of stern allotted duties
where all become what they are making, doing.
Of the stories, I liked best Perfection by the intriguingly-named Hanahazukashi. (of Galway Writers’ Workshop). I find too many stories strive to describe ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ experience. This one is full of the ‘ordinary’, but from a child’s point of view. Really well-handled. I used to do those magazine quizzes myself but gave up because I always came out badly (like Bala, in the story). Not good for the old self-image
So many other wonderful pieces there are in this issue of Crannog that one could discuss at length. Congratulations to the editors on another fine publication.
All details regarding purchase, subscription and submission are available on the Crannog website: http://www.crannog magazine.com
Artwork: ‘Tempus frangit tempus ducit’ by Marie-Jeanne Jacob, who studied in Ireland, New Zealand and Montreal. More information at http:// mariejeannejacob.blogspot.ie and Facebook