Sunday, October 23, 2005

BUSKING IN THE RAIN

Irish Poetry had an outing on the evening of Thursday 13 October in the Dublin writers centre, where the main event of a five day Irish language arts bash occurred. The IMRAM festival of native literature decamped for the night to witness the gifts of Welsh poets Menna Elfyn, Ifor ap Glyn and Irish/German poet Gabriel Rosenstock, read poems. Elfyn read her work in Welsh and English, ap Glyn read his in Welsh alone, and Rosenstock read translations of both of their poems in Irish.

I have an absence of both languages, but this made no difference to my full appreciation of these three poets. And although Rosenstock was on duty wearing a two hatted stance of festival organiser and reciter, he was on great form all round and exuded a sense of the wider positive affirmation poetry brings to its initiates and submittants. The Welsh visitors were greatly moved by the warmth of welcome from their fellow celts; and just before the book buy and sign atmosphere began at the termination of the reading several poets came all over a bit goo goo’ish about the shared culture and genes. "We are of one blood" was the wrap up line; and with that the business of cracking open the gargle began in earnest.

ap Glyn has some seriously good word think ups which fulfill the Amergin attributed "binding principle" of "good poetic construction", and he also has a unique bardic register of suburban concerns which amply demonstrate his competency to fill the hot seat throne at Cymru's poetry flame HQ. Being reared in London to speak Welsh makes him a pretty rare breed, and he quoted a Welsh historian whose name I omitted to write, as I sat there nicking what sounds struck me as they moved through the air of that Augustan room, where the colour brown has been newly rolled upon the walls once aqua green, and where many a phoney and artist have made their stand and wowed or bored whatever audience was there.

And whilst I am unaware if the paint job was commissioned especially for this night, I would not be in the slightest surprised where it the case; for another interior development had also occurred, the stationing of tables with, as I recall, tasteful tablecloths upon which the audience could lay there glasses. Usually you have to use the floor, or abstain until the readings end and then join the rest of the throng or thin crowd supping vertical.

The Welsh historian ap Glyn mentioned, famously said of his homeland -

"Wales is an artefact we have to make and remake every generation, if we want"

And ap Glyn is certainly committed to doing this and his beatiful poems show that he is doing it in a vital and vibrant way, the true voice obvious and "there", as Paula Meehan would say. Also true to his poetical heritage, he was completely off the page; all his work being delivered by memory, which demostrates his complete commitment to the poet's craft, which I suspect is more than just a job to pay the rent, certainly his life's passion. We had a brief chat after the do and I told him that he must be a pretty unique bird and have the London-Welsh poet market stitched up. Born to Welsh parents in London until 20 years of age and then Wales till now, over 20 years later. He was chatty enough but not really a full throttle social butterfly, unlike Rosenstock, who took my hand and chaunted an ancient bit of verse by way of sussing my credentials. After I spun him a faith poem he declared that fate had decreed our paths would cross; that our lives were intersecting at that point not only because we were both having a few snifters. I told him he was correct and picked his brain about my "Cauldron of Poesie" ideas, and we both agreed that everyone had it wrong but us.

Unfortunately I have no ap Glyn work at hand at this moment, as I sit in the office here at Indisub Internet cafe on the Quays, although I do at home, and I may return to this later, but at the moment I need to tell you of a more recent event, which took place this evening.

Four members of the Irish Poetry team have been performing their work in Temple Bar, at the weekly, Sunday "Speakers Corner", drawing a fair sized crowd and aiding those less fortunate than themselves find their voice. After we all randomly bumped into each other in Temple Bar Square and did our bit for the public, several marginalized voices were inspired by our performance and found their confidence and had their say; as they supped their gargle and staggered befuddled up onto the staging. Yes, the homeless drink gang whose native spot is Temple Bar, where they live the simple life of sitting with a cup, day in, day out, wind rain or shine, waiting for the off-licence to open so they can get their ale in and begin the day in true dosser style knocking it back without much of a break.

These voices where the perfect foil with which to ply our peal, and the loudness of register and overall audience reaction was very positive. Bemused English people on their weekend pissups stopped and gawped unable to take it in. Spanish/Italians/German/French/Dutch/Polish and a veritable United Nations of gawkers, found the true bardic vibe was alive and well here in the heart of that place they know from…erm the telly and that, where everyone’s begorra begod, but a right laugh on the ale. Yes, they found the Ireland of their dreams was real; bards on street corners knocking it out full belt, causing them and their European fellows to make a wish that they could take the week off work in Holborn, the Hauge Huddersfield or East Ham and stay longer to wallow in the vibe. After the show at speakers corner Noel Sweeney had to make tracks to the Auld Dub pub, but Mr Incredible (Ciaron Philpots) myself, and God (Mike from Meath) executed the busking. This is the first time I’ve worked with God on the streets, but Mr Incredible and I have been occassional colleagues on a number of occasions. During the early part of the summer myself, he and Theolophis, an LA poet here for a few months, worked the magic together and kicked started the Irish Poetry commitment to bringing quality work to the audience direct.

Theolophis’s leaving party was the first time the gang got evangelical, an atmosphere I imagine would have been the norm for Jack and Allen Ginsberg when they had their beat school bashes, ram jammed with a poetry loving set of misfits reality could not invent. This was a night no one who was there will ever forget. Raven, Theo, Mr Incredible, Sweeney, God, Jerry, Fintan, Birch and too many others to fill a list. This July night marked the arrival of something special, much in the mould of what Menna Elfyn said, just before being informed that Welsh and Irish Language poets were "of one blood".

She said that poetry is "affirmation"; much the same as Heaney and all the poets who had, and have; what Brendan Behan believed was essential for a poet to possess, "a loving heart."

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John O'Donoghue said...

A great site!

I'm a second generation Irish writer living in Brighton.

I knew Brian Behan well and had the honour of working with him.

I've just reviewd Nessa o'Mahony's second collection, 'Trapping A Ghost' for Acumen, a v good literary magazine based in the SW of England.

Check out what I'm up to at:

www.inishraam.blogspot.com

Keep up the good work!