hashtag#liveencountershashtag#poetryhashtag#10thanniversaryEamonn Lynskey – The Safety of Numbersliveencounters.net

I am indebted to Mark Ulysses and his wonderful website for the publication of these two poems.

The Safety of Numbers

How did they ever get around the world

with those old charts, our ancient mariners,

our bold explorers of the unknown vasts?

And did they think Herodotus had fixed

the boundaries with his two awkward lumps

depending south and east of Europe? Or

did Strabo ever lead a midshipman

to shout in loud excitement Land Ahoy?!

.

They’d heard reports of terra incognita

stretching from the horizon towards the rim

with monstrous creatures over-brimmed and men

with heads that grew out of their armpits,

humanoid fantasticals described

by those who’d ventured – but not ventured far,

in holy fear of falling off the edge

and into God’s great anger at impertinence.

.

Possessed by incoherent certainties,

unfazed by years of being disbelieved,

they sailed with little but their intuition

as their guide— as still it is with those

defy the safety of numbers, choose

to steer beyond the known with Erikson,

convinced that almost everything that leads

to anything worthwhile is wagered on a hunch.

.

Trackway

Keenagh, Co. Longford, c.148 BC.

.

Eamhain Mhacha’s fame was spreading,

Royal Cruachan Aí expanding  

when this timber corduroy track

was laid to bridge these ancient wetlands.

.

Here, the heavy work of those

who felled the several hundred trees

and those who strained to load the carts

and haul them creaking to Corr Liath.

.

Here, the skill of carpenters

that split with axe and shaped with adze,

and here the work of dextrous hands

that wove the beds of brushwood mats.

.

These mortised joints, with tenons tongued

to lock exactly one to one,

were honed before the Inca masons

paved the Andean trails with stone.

.

A muffled sound of wooden cartwheels

seems to echo from these logs,

and thud of shaft-hole tool to linger

on the silence of the bog.

I was the recipient recently of a bursary from the Irish Writers 20180912_121609.jpgUnion for a one-week visit to Rome (9th-17th September 2018), with a stay at the Hotel Diplomatic. This central location allowed me to make a number of visits on foot or by bus to noteworthy sites such as the Pantheon, Chiesa San Stefano Rotondo, Piazza Novana and the Spanish Steps (with a visit to the adjacent Keats-Shelley House). I also visited the non-catholic cemetery which contains the graves of many leading literary figures, including the aforementioned poets.

I was also able to take in places away from the usual tourist itineraries through the generosity of my counterpart in this year’s 20180915_115622.jpg2018 writers’ exchange project, Anna Maria Robustelli, who had been to Ireland some weeks earlier. I was fortunate to have with me a knowledgeable person prepared to go to considerable lengths to ensure a well-rounded Rome visit. I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to her.

My visit was also facilitated by Mr Simone di Conza of FUIS (Federazione Unitaria Italiana Scrittori), the Italian counterpart of our IWU who arranged an event at the FUIS centre, at which I was able to read some of my work in English and in my Italian translations, with which I was greatly assisted by Anna maria. The FUIS president Natale Antonio Rossi chaired our meeting and several Italian writers and a number of writers/translators attended and contributed to the discussions regarding my work and the Irish/Italian writing scene.

My visit to Rome was a rewarding experience and provided several new ideas for my writing, as well as reviving several older ones20180914_094218.jpg which I can now look at afresh. Inevitably, writing is a solitary activity and it helps greatly to be in touch with other writers, in my case especially with Italian writers, given my long-term interest in the literature and music of Italy. I have no doubt but that my contact with Anna Maria and the other writers will continue and once again I wish to express my gratitude her and to the IWU and FUIS for a fruitful and very enjoyable week in Rome.

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A review by Fred Johnston of Eamonn Lynskey’s third collection ‘It’s Time’ (Salmon Poetry, 2017)

The language of Eamonn Lynskey’s poetry is of a sort that invites one into the core of the poem as through an open door. Yet it is only when one has begun to read and contemplate what is behind the door that one sees incredible simple horrors; of violence, neglect, deep injustice, and a calm nobility under pressure.                                  

The human condition in the twenty-first century is not a pleasant one and it is precarious. Lynskey is to be congratulated for reminding us that, in some instances, our own small personal injustices and injuries are often microcosms of big ones and our moral impotence in the face of them. The title poem introduces us, through a door pushed open into a shed full of garden implements, to the underlying tone of those that follow:           

 … When I creak the shed door open, 

shears and spade blink in the corner:

come, the world must be newmade. It’s time.

 In ‘Down to Africa’, Lynskey suggests that, ‘Earth will clothe herself afresh, the way / she greened the terraces of Angkor Wat’; and when this process is complete, it’s back to the possibility of new human beginnings in a natural circle back in the cradle of Africa. There’s an odd comfort in that. But murder and destruction is not a new thing: ‘Warrior’ conjures up Ötzi, the mummified remains found in the Dolomite Alps some years ago, which bear indications of death by a fired arrow; the narrator in the poem, with professional detachment, proclaims that …

We have that unfortunate

and not infrequent military

occurrence: death from friendly fire .

The camouflage phrases ‘friendly fire’, along with collateral damage’, must be two of the most obscene creations of the military mind. If one were Catholic in Ireland, one was at war from childhood, in constant danger of attack from a vague but savage foe, and the enemy was always at the gates:

I try explaining to a grandchild

how we were conscripted in the war

against an enemy determined

to destroy us.                         – (from ‘Speaking of the Past’)

Our banners were ‘pictures of the Sacred Heart’, and our propaganda press comprised  ‘…The Messenger / brought home from school each month’. How many of us, one might ask, were victims of ‘friendly fire’ or merely ‘collateral damage’ in this invisible struggle?

 A quite beautiful poem, entitled ‘Metsu’s Women’, is a reflection of the paintings and short life of Dutch painter, Gabriel Metsu, a Baroque painter whose father was a painter and tapestry worker, and who died aged 38. His works, depicting mainly individuals at work or playing instruments, hunting, or writing, can be seen at Dublin’s National Gallery, one of which is Man Writing a Letter:

Young blades write letters, cavaliers

press their attentions on young maidens,

huntsmen rest long-barrelled guns

at doorways, trade their fresh-skilled spoil

of birds and hares with servant girls,

More than a contemplation of the painter’s work, it has the quiet quality of a lament in which Metsu’s early demise is a poignant reminder of the lasting virtue of art over uncertain life itself. Fine poems throughout this collection ought to reinforce Lynskey’s reputation. As a stylist, he could teach our younger catch of poets a thing or two. And he is never dull.

 Paperback ISBN: 978 1 910669 86 0 

Poetry Ireland Review #125 is on sale in bookshops or order from Salmon website or Amazon.

Fred Johnston (born 1951) is an Irish poet, novelist, literary critic and musician. He is the founder and current director of the Western Writers’ Centre in Galway. He co-founded the Irish Writers’ Co-operative in 1974, and founded Galway’s annual Cúirt International Festival of Literature in 1986.

 

 

 

 

20160921_120501_NEW.jpgA great time was had by all at the pre-launch of issue 7 of Skylight47 at the public library in Clifden on Thursday 15 September as part of the Arts week. The magazine is the result of some very hard work from the Clifden Writers Group and the accomplished poet Robyn Rowland was at hand to officiate. A number of the contributors attended and read out their pieces. I was very taken with Anne Irwin’s ‘Omey Island Races 2015’ with its vivid description of the event; and ‘Elegy to Some Mysterious Form’ by Ria Collins was quite a moving and unsettling poem on a very personal and traumatic decision that had to be made. Indeed all the contributors must be congratulated on a very fine selection of poems. There are prose articles too in the magazine on topics ranging from poem-writing itself (Kim Moore’s ‘Poetry Masterclass’) to reviews of recent books published.

The venue of Clifden Public Library contributed enormously to the cordial atmosphere of the proceedings, especially the three skylights overhead which, Tony Curtis assured us, were put in specially for the occasion and at great expense! Congratulations to all the Skylight Team on such a fine magazine and compliments to the library staff on the wonderful venue.

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‘This Intimate War: Gallipoli/Canakkale 1915’,  5 Islands Press 2015

As mentioned, Australian poet Robyn Rowland did the honours and I was pleased to meet up with her again. I remember well her reading from her collection ‘This Intimate War’ recently in Dublin at The Sunflower Sessions in Jack Nealon’s (Capel Street, every last Wednesday, 07.30pm. Come along!). It is a most impressive book dealing with the terrible Gallipoli engagement in WWI and is a hard read since it eschews any self-serving attempts at ‘glorification’, and conveys much senselessness and absurdity of war. Robyn gets down into the dirt and blood with the soldiers and the sense of verisimilitude is stunning. Extra-fine poetry, then. And what a great writer she is and what a great thing to meet her … twice within a very few months!

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Robyn Rowland and self at the Skylight47 launch

My poem, Day of Judgement, was the last to be read out, and just as well too since it is a poem about ‘last things’. Not the kind of poem one would like to hear at a Christmas party (or any party!) but poems like this do have their place in the Great Order of Things to Come (but not to come too soon we hope!)

 

 

Day of Judgement

 

They who come to clear this room

will show a ruthlessness unknown

to me. The histories of my books

and how they came to claim a space

along these shelves will be unknown

to them. The brush and vacuum cleaner

will probe every corner, frames

will leave rectangles on the walls

and files of half-formed poems will bulk

black plastic sacks. This desk and chair

and radio/cd/clock will find

our long companionship concluded.

 

Half an hour will be enough

to sweep away a life, to feed

the hungry skip, allow the skirting

run around the room again

unhidden; there will be no mercy

for old pencil stubs, news clippings

yellowing in trays. Each spring

I tried, but never could be heartless,

emulate that day of judgement

when my loves must face the flames

or crowd the local charity shop,

forlorn— hoping for salvation.

 

Single issues of Skylight 47 are available at €5.00 plus postage, from skylight47.wordpress.com or come to the launch in Galway City Library at 6.00pm on Thursday, September 29 and pick up a copy.

Submissions for Skylight 47 issue 8 (Spring 2017) will be accepted between 1 Nov 2016 and 1 Jan 2017. See skylight47poets.wordpress.com for details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stony Thursday Book No.14

It doesn’t seem like a year has passed since the last ‘Stony Thursday Book’ appeared! Nevertheless, it’s that time of year  again and this annual collection of contemporary poetry has arrived in the post. This anthology  has been very kind to me over the years and I am very gratified to be included once again in this 40th anniversary edition, edited by Mary O’Donnell.

There are 138 poems here, and many illustrious names, including Eilean Ni Chuilleanain, Macdara Woods, Kevin Higgins and Fred Johnson, to mention just a few. So it is that, with such a welter of talent on display, I must confine myself in this brief review to those poems which appealed strongly to me personally.

I liked Graham Allen’s ‘Divorce’ (p.5), with its searing sense of despair. I would be surprised to find that this poem was not based on actual experience: ‘Somewhere in a trail of grey dust / lie all the stories you thought you had secured.’

‘The Request’  (p.17) by Geraldine Mitchell is a short poem with great impact. A disadvantaged student asks the poet to allow him (her?) a pass in a final exam. But the request is fraught with difficulty because although it is really ‘A small request’ , the poet is caught in a dilemma. ‘I have a home, / a job, firm ground beneath my feet./Surely not too much to ask?’ A decision has to be made. Crucially (for the poem), we are not told of the decision. It is a tribute to the poem that it is impossible to give an adequate idea of it in prose.

Patrick Deeley’s ‘Cleft in Metal’ (p.56) displays his ever-present gift for a keen observation of nature’s  little-r people, Kingfishers, otters and vixens have populated some recent poems. Here we have the wren, worried about her nest being too near a chainsaw’s blade: ‘The wren’s headache is to get her little brood / out alive. Out of a cleft in the band-saw’s metal jaw, / away beyond the saw-teeth’s seething spin.’ I have written elsewhere about ‘bird-poems’ (see my review of the recent Boyne Berries 18) and how they can often be annoyingly ‘cutesy’ but this one does not fall into that category. It puts me in mind of the many ’empiricist’ nature poems of Eamon Grennan.

Several other poems caught my attention. For instance: ‘Ouija’ by Brian Kirk (p.99), a poem which has much to do with the loss of innocence; and Michael Farry’s  ‘Swordswoman’ (p.152),  a poem that keeps the reader on edge (no pun intended!) and at the same time has a dash of humour – a strange combination that works very well.

Opposite a fine poem by Mary Melvin Geoghegan on p.66 (‘Ten Years to

 The River Griffeen, Lucan
The River Griffeen, Lucan

Pluto’) you will find my ‘River after Rains’, a poem written after my many years of trying to pluck out the heart of the mystery of the River Griffeen which flows through a park near me. Sometimes I’ve come close, but most times…

River after Rains

  “…there is nothing with which it compares.

Tell me, how can I explain?” (Hanshan, trans. Robert Henricks)

 

So many water-words diluted

in the daily flow: how we are

inundated by our work,

how guarantees are water-tight,

 –

election pledges watered-down,

how one exception can throw open

floodgates, how in retrospect

our quarrels become storms in tea cups

 –

and our grand designs, when tested,

often don’t hold water. Like

my early certainty this morning

I could turn your torrents into words.

 

 

Very pleased to see my poem ‘Rachael’ in Boyne Berries magazine (no. 14) August 2013 which wasBBerries sideways left launched at the Castle Arch Hotel, Trim, last Thursday 26 Sept. I found this a difficult poem to write (aren’t they all?) because the experience of losing someone from your school classroom so suddenly is a chastening event and one that puts things in perspective. So do all deaths but the loss of someone young with such a lot to expect from life is particularly sad.

Well done to all at BB for the good work they put into the issue and particularly to Michael Farry who oversaw things, and to Kate Dempsey for a very professional editing. And congrats to all the other contributors. Follow the activities of this writers’ group at http://www.boynewriters.com

Rachael

For days it seemed you might walk in

at any moment, late for class

 

but happy to be back again

from one more hospital appointment.

 

Rolls and registers are caught out

by mortality. Each time

 

I skip your name I feel I’m part

of a conspiracy to forget.

 

You should be here with us in class

this morning. English, Period 1:

 

examples of the Unseen Poem

and how to reach behind the words

 

to understand what happened, why

it couldn’t be allowed to pass

 

unnoticed. Handing out the books,

I find the notes you made last week.

Phil Lynch and Kerrie O'Brien
Phil Lynch and Kerrie O’Brien

As part of the Seven Towers ‘Tuesday Lunchtime Readings’, Philip Lynch and Kerrie O’Brien read from their works on Tuesday 5 February at The Twisted Pepper Cafe in Dublin. Phil covered some ‘old ground’ works, including his evocative poem ‘Guernica’. Reminds me of the story of how a German officer once asked Picasso about his painting: ‘Did you do this?’, Picasso replied: ‘No. You did.’ Philip also read some of his new stuff. Glad he did. We  … ahem … senior poets need to show we still have it.

Kerrie O’Brien read from her book ‘out of the blueness’, including a very impressive poem (for me, anyway) called ‘Ashes’. Kerrie is in the running for a Hennessy Award this year so good luck to her from all at Seven Towers! To read more about Kerrie see http://www.kerrieobrien.com

The next 7T lunchtime session will be on Tuesday 5 March at the White Lady Art Gallery at 14 Wellington Quay at 1.15pm. I will be will be quizzing Oran Ryan on the secrets of writing novels and poetry. Never too late to learn!