ISSN 2053-6119 (Print) ISSN 2053-6127 (Online)
Featuring the works of Amy Barry, Dimitris P. Kraniotis, Peter O'Neill, Gordon Ferris, Dr Maria Miraglia, Stephen Byrne, Stephen Klepetar, Oonah V Joslin, Michael Enevoldsen, Harold Ohayon and MJ Logue. Hard copies can be purchased from our website.
Issue No 47 August 2016
A New Ulster On the Wall Website
Editor: Amos Greig Editor: Arizahn Editor: Adam Rudden Contents
1. My Buddha 2. The Angels of Pigalle Dimitris P. Kraniotis; 1. In a flash 2. Moving Peter Oâ€™Neill; 1. The Henry Grattan Gordon Ferris; 1. Journey Home 2. The Chang-ling Dr Maria Miraglia; 1. Gaza Stephen Byrne; 1. Chest 2. Throat 3. Stomach 4. Neurotransmitters 5. Lips Stephen Klepetar; 1. The Clairvoyant Sleeps 2. Stone Trees 3. Hatchlings 4. Six Crows 5. Woodpeckers
Oonah V Joslin; 1. My First Mass Michael Enevoldsen; 1. All I Know 2
2. Happy Flower 3. Once You Sang Lullabies Harold Ohayon 1. The Journey
On The Wall Message from the Alleycats Photography by Pezalloom
Round the Back Interview with M J Logue Embodying ‘Be-ing’ – Beckett and Heraclitus – Peter O’Neill
Manuscripts, art work and letters to be sent to: Submissions Editor A New Ulster 23 High Street, Ballyhalbert BT22 1BL Alternatively e-mail: email@example.com See page 50 for further details and guidelines regarding submissions. Hard copy distribution is available c/o Lapwing Publications, 1 Ballysillan Drive, Belfast BT14 8HQ Digital distribution is via links on our website: https://sites.google.com/site/anewulster/ Published in Baskerville Oldface & Times New Roman Produced in Belfast & Ballyhalbert, Northern Ireland. All rights reserved The artists have reserved their right under Section 77 Of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 To be identified as the authors of their work. ISSN 2053-6119 (Print) ISSN 2053-6127 (Online) Cover Image â€œParting the Cygnetsâ€? by Amy Barry
“Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia, and Afrca, have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! Receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind. ” Thomas Paine. Editorial Welcome to the August edition of A New Ulster we have poetry and prose from around the world provided by several new voices to our pages as well as returning voices. The weather appears to be one of the few things we can rely on at the moment it gets warmer and wetter at the same time. Thanks to Arizahn we have an interview with MJ Logue as well as an essay by Peter O’Neill. I like to think of this magazine as a multicultural magazine our door being open to every culture and creed for myself as an editor I find that it is important to leave my politics and my personal ethnic and religious baggage outside. ANU will always be a neutral venue granted that isn’t an easy thing to do but poetry and prose have no borders, no religious barriers or at least it shouldn’t. I draw the line at hate speech or violence towards a culture or individual. I understand that that might burn some bridges or make things awkward for us in the future I don’t care I will not provide a platform for that even if I feel the same way it goes against the very reason for why I made A New Ulster and I will not abandon those principles even if it costs friendships. In saying that I do have to comment on something namely the recent attacks in Syria, Iraq and Normandy. Hundreds of people are being bombed every day in Syria for them it has become normal, in Iraq car bombings are nearly an every day occurrance and again this has become normal. I’ve lived through the Troubles and have experienced riots, bombings, shootings and beatings these became normal. That’s messedup no society should have to experience that ever its no way of life I remember talking with a Bosnian and for them dodging sniper fire to go shopping was normal. Finally the situation in Normandy is horrific I’ve seen people calling the priest a martyr and I believe that that is a mistake ISIL wants a holy war they are a doomsday sect and want nothing more than to fan the flames. We have to deal with them yes but the language we use needs to be treated with caution. May all those who have suffered in the recent violence find peace.
Amos Greig Editor.
Biographical Note: Amy Barry
Amy Barry writes poems and short stories. She is inspired by simply everything. She takes her experiences and colourfully expresses universal themes that seamlessly cross the boundaries of borders and peoples. She explores current issues, love, family, nature, death, famous people and places of interest. She also writes poems on table tennis (being the first poet to have her work published on the Table Tennis Ireland web site which can be found at www.tabletennisireland.ie). She is published in anthologies, journals, and press and e-zines, in Ireland and abroad including: Southword Journal, Misty Mountain Review, First Cut, Galway Review, Poetry 24, Mad Swirl, A New Ulster, Knot Magazine. Amy and her work have featured on radio and television in Australia, Canada, Italy and Ireland. When not writing, or gathering inspiration, Amy loves to travel. Trips to India, Nepal, China, Japan, Bali, Paris, Berlin, Budapest and Falkenberg have all infused her work. Amy regularly organises poetry events in her hometown of Athlone in Ireland. These include an eclectic gathering of local and international poets. She is often invited to read at festivals and literary events both in Ireland and abroad.
My Buddha (Amy Barry) A vison in the storm, your smile lilts joy, uninhibited, where all dreams are fulfilled, and my heart is doing pirouettes.
A tribute to Ian T, a light to so many.
The Angels of Pigalle (Amy Barry)
Men exhaled their names, untamed urges flared, uninhibited spirits, fervent masks melted into heady excitement, promises made in the sweat of the roaring night.
Decayed dreams, a sniff of music and flesh. Fingers traced, inch by inch, hips, hands twirled. Curled images that went unsaid. The same bodies, ended in another.
I stood still, and listened to their voices, gentle, coaxing. Sometimes I heard them, like a childâ€™s laugh, teasing, triumphantcrowning some moment of glory.
Biographical Note: Dimitris P. Kraniotis
Dimitris P. Kraniotis is an award-winning Greek poet & medical doctor. He was born in 1966 in Stomio (Larissa) in central Greece. He studied at the Medical School of the Aristotle University in Thessaloniki. He lives and works as an Internal Medicine physician in Larissa, Greece. He has participated in several International Poetry Festivals around the World and he has won international awards for his poetry which has been translated in 25 languages. He is the author of 7 poetry books and Editor-in-Chief of the anthology in English "World Poetry 2011" (205 poets from 65 countries). His official website:http://www.dimitriskraniotis.com/
In a flash (Dimitris P. Kraniotis) You violated the borders which buried their know thyself, you destroyed prisons behind curtains turned ablaze by the spark of your anger, without cries, without whispers, in a flash, that simple it was, you gave birth to light when you embraced what isnâ€™t told (although written) in darkness.
(Translation from Greek: Manolis Aligizakis)
Moving (Dimitris P. Kraniotis) We â€™re naked now, we donned the colors, undressed words and voices, we â€™re blind now, we drank the light, swam in death, with alcohol and tobacco in our luggage we testified falsely, forgetting who we are we built our life on a bird and we flew again, simply we moved.
(Translation from Greek: Vassiliki Rapti and Vladimir Boskovic)
Biographical Note: Peter Oâ€™Neill
Peter O' Neill is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently Sker (Lapwing, 2016) and Divertimento The Muse is a Dominatrix ( mgv2>publishing, 2016). A translator of Dante and Baudelaire, he has also edited two publications with his publisher, Walter Ruhlman, in France for mgv2>publishing; An Agamemnon Dead, an anthology of early twenty first century Irish poetry and Transverser, issue 81 of mgv2>datura. The founder of Donkey Shots, a festival of avant garde poetry held in his home-town of Skerries in north county Dublin, and The Gladstone Readings. His background is in philosophy and comparative literature.
The Henry Grattan, Est. 1826, Waterford. For Cyril McDonnell, on the occasion of the publication of Heidegger's Way Through Phenomenology To the Question of the Meaning of Being, 2015. (Peter Oâ€™Neill)
Little thought experiment with death. I am, though I need not be so. Become a noun, let all the people know About you in the city and the town. And for all the right reasons. Assailed by the mood of Angstâ€Ś While eating chocolate on Hanover Street. Your final destination awaits you like a train. Charon, wearing a peaked cap, needs first To inspect your ticket. Then, and only then, May you finally board, sit back in the passenger Seat and let the great locomotive bear you off, Travelling far away from here.
Biographical Note: Gordon Ferris
Gordon Ferris is a Dublin writer and poet who has lived in Donegal for almost thirty year's. He has been published previously in a magazine based in Sligo
Journey Home. (Gordon Ferris)
Distant wailing sounds, like a whale in song, dreamlike, unsure of where I am. What’s that strange distant- far away, irritating, noisy racket, familiar, just can’t make it out. I turn over hoping it might just go away and leave me in peace. But it gets worse, a whale in distress, the harpoon in for the kill pops into my head, ah but now an even louder noise, a big stamp on the floor, a leap out of a bed, then the sudden realization, Dora my niece is awake, that’s the whale wailing, Mauve my older sister has jumped out of the bed, cursing under her breath, she’s out down the stairs now to feed her young beautiful daughter, silence resumes. Trying to get back off to sleep seemed impossible. To retain that dreamlike state is so frustrating, if you don’t get back off immediately, you can forget about it. Ah I just lay on my back and accepted that I’m not going back to sleep. My thoughts turning to my first day of freedom, no more school, exams over with, no more childhood things, no more being told what to do or go. Or what to think. I can be my own man now, make my own decisions. I always did think for myself, but couldn’t be seen to be doing it by my Dad, children should be seen and not heard and all that crap. Do as I say, not as I do. So I just stayed out of his radar as much as possible, which wasn’t hard to do because he worked most of the time. At home we were in bed when he went to work and were in bed when he got home. So we just saw him on his days off, in fairness he spent as much time with us as was possible. Heavenly scent creeping up the stairs now, along the landing, across my bedroom floor, finding its way to my nostrils, that succulent, unmistakable aroma of Rashers, if there’s one thing that’s going to get me out of bed in the morning it’s the scent of rashers. It’s a wonder nobody ever invented an alarm without sound, but instead gave off the glorious emissions of bacon, someone could make a fortune out of that, or maybe if you could send a scent down the phone line. Trousers on, shoes and socks etc, on like a light, in to the bathroom then, to throw water on my the face , just to get the sleep out of my eyes then down the stairs three
steps at a time. “I thought the smell would have ya out of bed, bet ya don’t be up at this hour at home”. “Of course I do, unless it’s raining outside, plenty to be done, when the rain stays off.” I sheepishly said. “Ye, I’m sure ye do, and the popes a Muslim.” Mauve replied sarcastically “Believe it or not, I have a very busy schedule in my spare time, major football matches to be played, against the surrounding streets, lands to be explored before there built over with more houses and factories to employ the occupants and offspring of the houses in Finglas.” I said as earnestly as I could, trying to serious. Mauve looked at me with a hesitant smile and said, “Ye, I believe ye, now do ye want an egg or what” “What’s WHAT, I said, being a smartarse, is it nicer than an egg, can ye make a sandwich out of it, or WHAT.” I said. Waiting for clip on the ear which came, lightly, immediately along with the title of Cheeky bastard. Funny that because I Always thought my name was , little bollix, that’s what my other sister always called me when she echoed up the street to get me in for me Dinner, get in here , Yer dinners poured ya little bollix, she would roar. Dora was sitting in her chair, one of those new-fangled ones a child can rock back and forth, bouncy chairs I think they call them. She was enjoying the banter, even though it was all double Dutch to her, she was roaring laughing at us, so I leaned down to her and asked what she was laughing at, playfully, don’t think it would be received to well if I said it and meant it, I could end up with a thick lip and get no bacon. I let her play with my finger and was reminded again that she was getting teeth. Breakfast was out, three plates placed at the sides of the table, with an egg on each, to be filled from dishes centrally placed on the table laden with sausage’s, bacon, black, white pudding and tomatoes. There was a plate of bread there too, for us to help ourselves with. Nicest part of the breakfast is always the tea, for some reason the tea tastes so much better with a fry. Second cups are always had, and sometimes third cups. Dave arrived in just as the breakie was being dished out, dressed in overalls, he had a nixer on. Like most Saturdays he had an extra bit of work outside, on a car, extra money always came in handy. When we had finished eating, Dave nodded at me silently to follow him, I was done eating so I did as I was instructed, trying not to 17
draw attention to myself, but Dora started to call for me and Mauve copped on to us, she slagged Dave for trying to get away without doing the dishes, it wouldn't have occurred to me do dishes, until recent times I assumed new replacement cups and plates were used every day, every time we ate. I was shocked when 0ne day I suddenly discovered my Mom was the one who did all the work in the kitchen. We got out to the car with Mauves' scorn ringing in our ears. Bonnet was up and, sleeves rolled up, brake pads were removed, brake fluid was then emptied. Time flew in and before we knew it the job was done and we were getting cleaned up. “Make sure you pair don’t make a mess,” Mauve yelled up the stairs as we cleaned up. Swarfiga first, breaking down all the oil and grease, then heavy scented fancy soap that strangely reminded me of the red bars of soap my mother used to scrub us with every Saturday night, to be purified for mass on Sunday morning. Dave brushed his reddish brown hair to the bottom of his neck and handed me the brush, I gave my almost black hair a quick brush without looking in the mirror. We came back down the stairs and Mauve put the kettle on, “Will ya be out with your Ma and Da tomorrow” she said, “should it not be our Mother, or is there a family secret I don’t know about” I replied. “Don’t let your Ma hear you talking like that, or you’ll have her popping Valium again and throwing one of her Hissy fits” She said flippantly. “I’m not that stupid,” I said. Knowing this was one of those unspoken truths about our Mom, for some reason that I didn’t understand.
The Chang-ling. (Gordon Ferris)
Approaching the House I could see Mrs Dillon looking through the edge of her living room curtains to see whose footsteps where approaching, she was always there, morning, noon, or night. I’d love to have the nerve to do something outrageous I thought, like dropping me trousers and letting her see me arse but I know I’d be hammered with the wooden spoon by me Ma and later again be lectured by my Da, which was by far, much worse. I went on in closing the door after me, resisting the temptation to delight or shock Mrs Dillon, hard to know which, with her multi lined face what her reaction would be. Into the hallway I three my jacket on the post to my right on the banister at the end of the stairs, I could hear activity upstairs, someone coming out of the loo on the landing at the top of the stairs, and into the bathroom next door, hurried feet stomping, doors opening and closing loudly. Two similar doors at the top of the stairs, like sentry’s standing guard. All seen in less than a passing second, someone's in a hurry I thought as I went into the living room through the kitchen at the end of the hall, opposite the front door. Ma was in the kitchen pouring tea for herself from the old wet grass green Delph teapot that was in the house as long as I could remember, “There’s tea in the pot if you want some.” Ma said. I poured myself a cup of the stewed tea, probably the same pot of tea replenished from early morning. Ma is a great tea lover. An excuse to have a fag, she would say, or the fag an excuse to have a cuppa. The layout of the downstairs used to be, enter the front door, and you’re met by stairs to the right and just two doors, one to your left into what was called the parlour. This was the room where so called special people were ushered into, like the parish priest doing his rounds, or the insurance man-money lender my Ma used to borrow from to buy essential things, like communion clothes or Christmas clothes and toys. He used call every Friday to collect the insurance money and a few bob of the loans. Charley Brown was his name and he was a fixture in the house for many years until I eventually left home. The other door led into the kitchen-living room, which was originally one room, my dad built a small extension to the kitchen out into the yard, 19
and a partition and door separating the kitchen and living room. My Mom asked me how I got on at the exams on Friday, I told her I managed to get the work done, but it’s hard to tell how I got on. She said as long as I gave it my best shot, that all that matters. I could concentrate on getting a job now. “What if I want to stay on in school” I said, she dismissed this with remarks to the effect of, wait and see how you do. I took my tea at this and went into the living room, a little bit dismayed leaving my mother at the ironing, she used to iron everything in sight, all the clothes we wore, and all the bed clothes. Even the curtains were taken down every now and then and cleaned and ironed. It’s no wonder she was always exhausted and stressed out, but still she smiled. The living room for once was empty, I put the TV on to get the football results, I wasn’t much of a football fan, I actually preferred playing it then watching it, I halfheartedly was a Spurs supporter, tried to play like Glen Hoddle. My mind now turned to the night ahead, there was the usual dance in St Michel’s in Glasnevin, they always had good bands playing there, and there was a special night there this night with one of the most popular bands playing there called Reform. I was to meet my girlfriend there, who travelled all the way from Drimagh on the far side of the city. She went there every Saturday night and it’s there that we met, after I eventually got the nerve to ask her to dance. I was always shy with girls, always had to think of something to say, almost plan a conversation with members of the opposite sex, but it seemed to come easy talking to her, I thought she was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen, I was mesmerised the moment she smiled at me, amazed that she could gaze in my direction when there was so many far better looking fellas around than me, much better built then me, and yet, she looked in my direction, and as I walked towards her, I was caught in her gaze, stopped in my tracks, we looked at each other for what seemed like an age but was in fact only a second. I was just four feet from her, she stepped in my direction as if accepting my invitation to dance, I put my hand on her shoulder to let her go past me to the dance floor, her purple perfumed scent catching me as she glided past, it’s a scent that sticks with me to this day, I don’t know the name of the scent, I just call it my purple scent. It seems like a mix of lavender and
patchouli oil. We danced and it seemed to work, what we talked about I have no idea, probably all trivial stuff, but my shyness seemed to be gone, I could talk to this girl. At the end of that night, I left her down to the corner where the mini-bus taking her home was, we arranged to meet the following week. We then kissed passionately for several minutes, holding our bodies tightly together, and on her way she went, the beginning of my first real romance, I thought. Back down to earth now in my living room, I could hear Mr Fagan next door come in calling, “where’s that beautiful wife of mine, “I hear Nancy shushing him, telling him to, “keep it down will you, we don’t want, the whole road hearing you, going on, now do we?” To which he responded,” I don’t care who hears me, I want the world to know how I love my wife so.” After which he started to serenade her at the top of his voice with the aria from some Italian opera. To hear them you conjure up the picture of a gent in evening dress on bended knee and his lady in all her finery, but the mental image would have been way off the mark, Mr Fagan, Joe that is, was if fact a truck driver who worked morning noon and night, a devoted father and husband, who happened to enjoy the odd pint or ten on an occasion. He liked, on the way home every evening until eight, and then at night over the weekend, and occasionally Sunday morning, if there was a heavy session on Saturday, for the cure. Mrs Fagan on the other hand was a housewife who went to bingo on a Friday and to the pub with Joe every Saturday and the occasional Sunday, never on Sunday, “who’d get the dinner”, she would say. My Mother came in now laughing, “Do ye hear that racket next door.” She said. “What’s on the telly” she said picking up the paper and looking at the TV page. “There’s a good film on the other side there, I Want to Live, with Susan Hayward in it. It’s a true story.” She did this sort of thing all the time, trying to get us to watch what she likes, if she liked it, her logic dictates, then everyone else should too. She just came in now to put this film on for me to watch, she was going to go back out again. She means well. I got up and changed over to where she wanted, “never heard of her”, I said. “I Have to start getting ready soon. “She’s way before your time, far better looking than some of those egits you get parading their bits on telly nowadays. I thought she was 21
ignoring what I had uttered, but then” Dinner will be ready soon,” she said, meaning, don’t go anywhere until you eat. What’s with this obsession with eating I said to her in passing? “Ye know what they say, an empty sack never stands up” she said, telling me not to be answering back, that I was wasn’t too big to get a slap on the ear. Just then my Dad came in. He had been out in the back garden doing his bits and pieces, he had built a make shift greenhouse with sheets of plastic he had acquired from god knows where. “That was some performance in there, there gone all quite in there now, that’s her up the spout having more babies in nine-month time now.” He said sitting down with a thud, like a dropped bag of coal. My Mom gave him a quick, corner of the eye, dirty look, disapproving of him speaking of anything of a sexual nature in public, and in particular in front of the kids. Still only a kid I thought to myself. My dad changed the subject now, “Ah that’s a great film, that’s Susan Haywards a cross looking bitch, fine looking woman, though, that’s a true story he finished with.” My mom praised the film again on her way out, saying she wasn’t that good looking”.
There was silence for a moment or two after my mother exited the room and went back into the kitchen. “Well, how did ya get on.” He paused for a second, then added. “In school yesterday” I sensed a nervousness in his chat, but maybe it was my imagination. Perhaps this was his way of talking to adults, and now he thought of me as an adult, not a child to be told what to do and learn from the elders in the family. This is what was in my head, maybe it was just my low self-esteem showing its ugly head, or the uncertainty of on unknown future. What had I got ahead of me? Where do I go from here? I hadn’t given any of these things much thought really. I was sure before this year that there was to be no further education for me, I wasn’t academically inclined and that was that, but now there was an inkling of doubt creeping into the back of my mind. Certain teachers this past year had instilled a love of books and dare I say it, learning. Again I stress, this was just something that was in the deepest recesses of my mind. Although I had got through all the questions in the exams this past week, there was still little chance of me getting good results. Or this is what was drilled into me. 22
I told him the same thing I told my Mother, that I did better than I expected, managed to get through all the work, just have to wait until August to know for sure. "That's grand then, so do you plan on looking for work now or what? “He said, looking over his specs, which he used for reading. I replied that I intended going out on Monday, hopefully to get some kind of work, then when I get the results of the inter cert I can see what I will do then, stay on or get a permanent job. He put the paper down, removed his glasses, rubbed his bald head like he was brushing his imaginary hair and said. “I’ll tell you what, I know Paddy and Mick Kavanagh well, tell ya what we can do, I can have a word in their ear about your serving your time as an apprentice barman for them in town, you can say nothing to them about the school situation and if you want to go back in August, just leave and back to school you go, no harm done, and if not, you have a well-paid job." How does that sound? He added. I thought for a second, and agreed it was a good idea, and for now, it made sense. “That’s grand then, I’ll see them on Monday and let you know Monday night when I get home, ok. That's grand then". He said, putting the glasses on and going back into his paper. At this I got up and went out to see if the dinner was ready yet. Get your priorities' right, I thought. Getting ready for the night, and that's not going to happen if I don't get food into me, Ma's feeding obsession had to be overcome before I go anywhere. In the kitchen Ma was knitting now, when I came in she was ironing, always seems to be doing something, sometimes several things at a time. In fact, she was cooking the dinner as she knitted during the spare minutes between stages. She said it relaxed her, but I don't imagine it could possibly, maybe at the end of the day when your wired up and need to unwind, but when you’re up to your eyes, in the middle of the day, multitasking with all the demands of family domesticity, especially when you’re getting my dinner, knitting seems unusual, and out of place. " did ya have a chat with your Father" she said looking me straight in the eye, turning her head when our gaze met. Starting a new line in the jumper she was knitting. I told her we had a little chat, she nodded knowingly. I'll say one thing, we never went cold in winter, or never had hunger creep over our bodies draining away at our strength. Always plenty of woollen clothing to keep the demons of Dublin's frosty winds, and snowing winters out. Always home baked bread. My Mother after all was a country woman, reared on a 23
small farm on the borders of Carlow-Kilkenny. I remember one time as a child, at a time when we used to get a fresh chicken delivered by post from my grandparents in the country every other week. During this time, there happened to be a postal strike and there was no chicken for ages. We all more or less put it to the back of our minds and went back to the local butcher for Sunday sustenance. Eventually when the strike was over, the unfortunate postman came up the path, one hand outstretched with parcel in hand, the other hands fingers pinching the nose to keep out the fowl decaying stench. He handed the parcel to my mother, scowled, and went on his way saying he would have to be disinfected from head to foot after that. I ate my dinner wishing I had a dog I could slyly feed the food too, no such luck so I had to persevere and get it un to me, strange how long it takes to eat when you’re in a hurry, it’s like being force fed. That was the serious stuff sorted, now down to the important business of trying to get into the bathroom before anyone else decides they want to use it, because, apparently I’m way down the listing of priority for grooming activities. Luckily I was in the clear, for a change, no one was about. Into the shower, which in fact was just a rubber attachment for rinsing hair my brother got from a Peter Marks shop attached to the taps. How he got it God knows, if he robbed it, Why, not exactly worth anything. Not that any of us would do anything illegal like that. Shower over, with the sisters Timatei shampoo retrieved from its hiding place, more preferable then that Lozene that our Mother bought, scent like hospital I thought. Out now looking for sister’s blow-dryer, thank goodness she’s not here, there Would be war over this. We argued over far less.
Biographical Note: Maria Miraglia
Dr: Maria Miraglia Lierary responsible of Pablo Neruda Cultural Association
GAZA (Maria Miraglia) My heart bleeding for the pain that would explode like fireworks to light up the skies of towns and countries to show they have no boundaries Make visible to the blinded by cruelty and greed that the clouds and stars don't wave flags all men living under the same sky And then cry out my joy for life but all my anger too and shout against the powerful to awaken their conscience If only i could stretch out my hands to caress the children in Gaza and of all the countries at war dry their mothers' tears share the sorrows of men outraged in their souls and bodies say I am on their side and sing with them hymns of peace
Biographical Note: Stephen Byrne Stephen Byrne is a chef, poet and editor living in Galway. He has been published worldwide in places such as Rats Arse Review, Spontaneity, Skylight 47, Poetry Bus, Warscapes, RædLeafPoetry-India and The Original Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology. His work has also been translated into Russian for the Nasha Gazeta journal, Dublin edition.
Chest (Stephen Byrne) After Charles Simic
Sweet Jaysus youâ€™re all invited the mouth is now open and the cave of the chest awaiting the line of night-visiting bastards. The Swordsman with crooked teeth continuously stabbing the thin air. The fire jugular, the knife thrower the swarm of flaming bees you are all invited the mouth is now open even you mother of madness with your trembling lips of dynamite even you child two doors down in love with the techno beat you are all invited to strike the match ignite my chest so that my eyes explode to trawl through the darkness in search of something cold something to extinguish this fire-breathing giant of sleeplessness.
Throat (Stephen Byrne) Do not ask me to speak. Do not ask questions that require even but a grunt. Let the room close its wings of silence and the flame burn away at the bottom of my throat. Hereâ€™s how it is. A boxer raging against the bag, a bull eyeballing a matador. Two hundred pissed off wasps disturbed on a Summers day. The blue flame of a Bunsen burner combusting between a tongue and heart and you, the love of my life lying to my left on your side like a floating chunk of ice asking childish questions unaware of my tonsil-explosive ready and begging to detonate.
Stomach (Stephen Byrne) Itâ€™s impossible to see them, multiplying like a raging war party. Cleavers, ropes, acid, a thousand horses hooves rampaging, impossible, yet they are there, hacking at your breathing, twisting ropes around organs while you sleep, your eyes half open, the room pulsating, stuffing your throat with flowers and cards and you sleep, the way you slept when I was born, cradling my hand beneath amber light, tolerating the war inside and the battle yet to unfold. Yes itâ€™s impossible to see them, yet, they are there.
Neurotransmitters (Stephen Byrne) You know, the mind tends to overthink, when one sits alone on a quiet street, sculling gin & tonics on a Sunday afternoon. Yet, itâ€™s within these flutter of thoughts, that the mind tends to listen, to the reasonable voice of repetitiveness, circulating in echoes, wait wait wait wait. Itâ€™s these moments in the soft breath of quietness, you discover that being alone like a shadow against a wall has a beauty to it, an unshakeable warmth proclaiming your existence, flooding your mind with clusters of images, begging you to stay.
Lips (Stephen Byrne) Little bird, tiny ladybird small love turned to dust in the cup of my hand. In the brown of your hair I lost my fingertips. On the slope of your brow my lips camped overnight. From the slender slope of your neck to your two perfect breasts, from the cave of your belly to the snowfields of your thighs, gently holding your knees kissing your feet, my lips & eyes sculpted with precision, you, and yet little sparrow, tiny ladybird when I opened my hand you spread your wings and burst into dust, gone.
Biographical Note: Steve Klepetar Steve Klepetarâ€™s work has appeared worldwide, in such journals as Boston Literary Magazine, Chiron, Deep Water, Expound, Phenomenal Literature, Red River Review, Snakeskin, Voices Israel, Ygdrasil, and many others. Several of his poems have been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize (including three in 2015). Recent collections include My Son Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto and The Li Bo Poems, both from Flutter Press. His full-length collection Family Reunion is forthcoming from Big Table Publishing.
The Clairvoyant Sleeps (Steve Klepetar) Let her sleep. By the time the ice melts in your glass
she will wake and read our fortunes in rivulets and stain.
No one will like what they hear from her dark, musky voice.
The future reels out past a dying sun. Still, you could build
something that might last a day in this failing light. Remember, those
are only dreams you hear, wisps of time stretching beyond cold stars. 34
Stone Trees (Steve Klepetar)
Sometimes stones tumble into Grave Lake as if rain had hardened and gone to sleep. Then roots might grow, and in the morning
a thousand stone trees stretching up into the sky. They resemble teeth crammed in a giant mouth, incisors and canines
pointed at clouds. What a hungry world, so full of seeds. Hear its belly rumble deep underground, where aquifers flow slowly
through formations of sand and rock and soil. Now you have a long journey around the shoreline to circle back to from where
you came, your eyes burnt black and rolled into your head, blasted into vision like a ragged witness to a new world being born.
Hatchlings (Steve Klepetar)
The birds were so small, the whole brood fit in my hand. Broken shells were everywhere, scattered in the nest and dotting the redwood mulch around my house.
Together, they swam in a river of light, which seemed to call them home, lost and shattered as they were. All night, the hatchlings wander among stars. They feed
on darkness and grow until their wings stretch like thin, white clouds across the northern sky. Their cries drown the wind. They fly into our dreams, golden beaks
choking down smoke that rises from our fires as their feathers ignite in incandescent waves of light. Behind our bunkers we gaze up and watch them burn..
Six Crows (Steve Klepetar)
I stare at the day, and it stares back with cloudy eyes. Six crows hop across my yard.
Their slick, black feathers are spears pointed inward, hard injections of bad news. My mother gestures
from the window: â€œThe sun keeps going up and down,â€? she says, as if it were dangling on a string
and pulled into the few blue patches, then dropped again behind some gray, porous veil. When the sky goes dark,
she is well satisfied, and her lined face opens like another little sun, filled with power to contradict the world.
Woodpeckers (Steve Klepetar)
All that weeping, I don’t know, even the wind leans in to hear:
great throaty sobs and tear globes splashing into pails, as if the Flood
had come again. Would all the trees drown in salt pools and disappear?
We might see white boats bob in the harbor of our yard, their sails
flaming crimson in the morning sun. When we wake, you could whisper
the German word for turtle – Shildkröte – which literally means “shield toad,”
a lovely accretive poem, a spell, a flash. Or maybe that’s only starlight burning
the bed, or perhaps the other side of night with its frozen breath. Woodpeckers 38
leap from oaks to thrum on my neighborâ€™s house. They have bored a hole big as a fist,
and now they flit in and out of the siding, proud, unwelcome guests from a crumbling world.
Biographical Note: Oonah V Joslin
Oonah V'yonne Joslin (nee Kyle) was born in Ballymena, Co Antrim in 1954. Her first love was poetry and telling stories. Early poems were published in Ballymena Academy's magazine. In 2006 she resigned from teaching, joined writewords.org.uk and became addicted to flash. To her astonishment she won three Microhorror prizes. Oonah's stories and poems have been published in various print anthologies. The first part of her novella A Genie in a Jam, is serialised at Bewildering Stories. She was managing editor at Every Day Poets for 5 years after which she became poetry editor at The Linnet's Wings. Her book â€œThree Pounds of Cellsâ€? is available in Autumn 2016. ISBN: 13: 9781535486491 You can follow Oonah on Facebook or at her blog Parallel Oonahverse.
My First Mass (Notre Dame de Laval Roquecézière 1976) (Oonah V Joslin)
I was twenty-two still green and on my green dress Toulouse Lautrec ladies danced. Knowing little about dancing or anything I didn’t fully recognise the honour of being asked but accepted anyway. It was outdoors in the round. I, the sole ecumenical element, an Irish Baptist à la messe nervously pronounced the familiar and yet unfamiliar words: Notre Père qui est au ciel… It must have sounded strange to them too but they dutifully said Amen then sang Ave Ave Ave Maria. Awkwardly I joined the procession to their Lady of the Aveyron, the rock itself a stimulus to praise, a high point, a sacred place, among nature’s cathedrals. 41
Only after this space of time am I taken up, as in the blink of an eye, to that moment when so unaware I stood somewhere close to the roof of heaven.
Biographical Note: Michael Enevoldsen Michael Enevoldsen is a poet and photographer, who lives in Denmark, just outside the capital of Copenhagen. He has education as both a gardener and preschool teacher. The latter he finished at the University College of the city of Roskilde in 2015. His interests include literature, metaphysics, philosophy, meditation and nature â€“ particularly bird watching and hiking. His poems have appeared in some international magazines, includingLummox Poetry Anthology 4 (USA), Calliope: Literary and Visual Arts Magazine (USA) Yellow Chair Review (USA), The Commonline Journal (USA), Time of Singing, (USA), Aquillrelle Anthology (Belgium), Section 8 Magazine (one micropoem combined with two of his photos) (USA), Indiana Voice Journal (USA), Writing Raw (USA), Under the Fable (UK), A Divine Madness: an Anthology of Modern Love Poetry - Volume 1 and 4(CANADA),, Dead Snake(CANADA), A New Ulster (UK) , Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine (UK), Metaphor Magazine (Republic of the Philippines), Harbinger Asylum (USA), The Write Angle (UK), The Blue Mountain Review (USA), VerbalArt (INDIA), Reflections Magazine (UK) Current Accounts (UK) and 1947 Literary Journal (USA).
ALL I KNOW for A (Michael Enevoldsen)
Life is too short to be in such sorrows my sweetheart
All I know is that I don't know for how long we are in the shelter of this light
Watch watch as the clouds with their dark wet curtains from showers of spring are passing over the bay meeting the shores watch watch the clouds my sunrise
All I know is that I don't know for how long we are in the shelter of this light 44
HAPPY FLOWER (Michael Enevoldsen)
A sunflower for my love To brighten her day with a happy flower The glow of this sun will flourish in her heart
A sunflower for my blossom Frozen seas from the past will thaw Flowing with life like streams in spring swelled with rain.
A sunflower for my love Always a sunflowerâ€Ś
ONCE YOU SANG LULLABIES for my mother (Michael Enevoldsen)
Lullabies you once sang for me Left no room for songs to dream Now my lily, you sing no more And the dreams you have had Are no longer there to look for Let me sing lullabies for your heart without a hope Like you once did On evenings of bright dusks Let's sing together for our lost landscapes Let's sing together lullabies, sweet light!
Biographical Note: Harold Ohayon Harold Ohayon is currently undertaking a PhD in Anthropology at Queen's University Belfast. Originally from New York, Harold has lived abroad for several years in places such as Finland, Malta and Israel. He enjoys learning about Greco-Roman philosophy. Asian mythologies and mountain climbing. He hopes to work in the field of peace and reconciliation after graduation.'
The Journey (Harold Ohayon) In the kaleidoscope of dreams, where ideals stitch between the cracks of reality, a fatal flaw is revealed. Like a bird flying in circles, trapped in a cage of melancholy. The heart may will it, but tomorrow never comes. Day in and day out, effervescent light reveals boundless potential. Yet the Will of Man is but a shadow of a shadow on a caveâ€™s wall. Hollow, how hollow, is this firmament called life. Yet man can dream. Love, the most innocent of virtues, stumbles continuously, unable to stand, cracking and weeping, trapped in a destiny crafted by another. Tell me, Pandora, what have you left in that box? Hope, wise men once muttered. But Hope died long ago. Tell me, oh tell me, what has filled Hopeâ€™s vacuum now? Ceaselessly wandering, searching out the soul mate long promised, Man loses himself in dreams of ages long gone. In the gilded cage of modernity, where jagged, cold mountains of steel and glass blot out the sun, To whom can he offer prayer to?
Gods above, where are you? And so I continue to walk. Aimlessly. Hopelessly. A living vessel with hope no more. A kaleidoscope of broken dreams, Whose colours bled out into a canvass of black and white. Gods above, where are you?
If you fancy submitting something but haven’t done so yet, or if you would like to send us some further examples of your work, here are our submission guidelines:
SUBMISSIONS NB – All artwork must be in either BMP or JPEG format. Indecent and/or offensive images will not be published, and anyone found to be in breach of this will be reported to the police. Images must be in either BMP or JPEG format. Please include your name, contact details, and a short biography. You are welcome to include a photograph of yourself – this may be in colour or black and white. We cannot be responsible for the loss of or damage to any material that is sent to us, so please send copies as opposed to originals. Images may be resized in order to fit “On the Wall”. This is purely for practicality. E-mail all submissions to: firstname.lastname@example.org and title your message as follows: (Type of work here) submitted to “A New Ulster” (name of writer/artist here); or for younger contributors: “Letters to the Alley Cats” (name of contributor/parent or guardian here). Letters, reviews and other communications such as Tweets will be published in “Round the Back”. Please note that submissions may be edited. All copyright remains with the original author/artist, and no infringement is intended. These guidelines make sorting through all of our submissions a much simpler task, allowing us to spend more of our time working on getting each new edition out!
August’s 2016’s MESSAGE FROM THE ALLEYCATS:
The cats would like to give Arizahn a happy birthday. Well, that’s just about it from us for this edition everyone. Thanks again to all of the artists who submitted their work to be presented “On the Wall”. As ever, if you didn’t make it into this edition, don’t despair! Chances are that your submission arrived just too late to be included this time. Check out future editions of “A New Ulster” to see your work showcased “On the Wall”.
Biographical Note: Pezalloom Pezalloom is a photographer from Australia. â€œThe contrariety of beauty and ugliness, tenderness and fear, desire and anxiety runs through all of my work, challenging ideas of the body in art, cognitive functionality, notions of the erotic, and systems of control. The Latrobe Valley in Gippsland Australia in which I have spent much of my life, the center of the brown coal power industry in Victoria, and the strangely menacing aesthetic of this environment provide an apt metaphor for the dissonance occurring within my own body with the progression of my disease (early on-set Parkinson's disease). Within and without, the horror and beauty exist in a symbiotic relationship, intermingled with fear and a deep love and acceptance of the place as an essential part of my identity.â€?
Photography by Pezalloom
This month on round the back we have an interview with David Baird as well as an Embodying Be-ing by Peter Oâ€™Neill
A Broom At The Masthead (M.J. Logue) “He’s a scarred Puritan ex-Leveller gone over to the Dark Side at the Restoration. She’s a plain Essex goodwife half his age. They come as a team. It works.” Synopsis: London, 1665 – A murder, and a fire, and a rumour - would a man whose principles led him to once take up arms against his King, turn his coat again and work against His Majesty for the Dutch Republic? Possessed of a most unfeminine strength of purpose, Roundhead’s daughter Thomazine Babbitt has finally wed marred and enigmatic retired Admiralty intelligencer Major Thankful Russell, a man who has been drifting in and out of her life in various states of idealistic disrepair since she was two and he was twenty-one. He’s twice her age, disfigured, shy, a long-term bachelor - hopelessly unpromising romantic material, surely! Not quite pretty, bright, not that feminine, and not particularly bothered by what the neighbours think; Thomazine isn’t in the least bit intimidated by how Thankful looks. He is, and he always has been, and he always will be, her rebel angel: she is his strength, and he is her stability. However, someone at court wants the Major to have a traitor’s ending. As war with the Dutch looms and tensions run high in the streets of London, the darkness of his past is all too suddenly exposed. Funny, sexy, and brutal, this is a story of a man tortured by the demons of his past, eaten up by jealousy and hatred. It’s also a story of an unlikely but happy marriage, the Earl of Rochester's monkey, and amor vincit omnia... https://www.amazon.co.uk/Broom-Masthead-Drowned-Books-Bookebook/dp/B01GZXYNK8/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1466361847&sr= 1-1&keywords=a+broom+at+the+masthead Biography: M.J. Logue Writer, mad cake lady, re-enactor, historian. When not purveying historically accurate cake to various re-enactment groups across the country, M.J. Logue can usually be discovered practising in her garden with a cavalry backsword. Often found loitering, in an ill-tempered manner, at http://uncivilwars.blogspot.co.uk – do pop along and pass unhelpful remarks! 56
ANU Author Interview: M.J. Logue ANU: What got you started, and where do you see yourself going next as an author? MJL: Heh! Now there’s a question. I’ve always been a storyteller, I remember making up little playlets with my best friend when I was all of about five, and making paper characters and scenery and writing little scripts. (Aphra Behn in the making, naturally.) I think I just like making stories, making sense of things that way. I studied English Literature at university - specialised in Jacobean revenge tragedy, which is much funnier than people assume it is and you can see where that led... Where next? Well, I have quite a lot of the English Civil War series still to write, and there are at least three more of the Russell books either being written piecemeal or planned. And a factual biography of the Earl of Essex - not Elizabeth I’s Essex, but his much less interesting son, who commanded the Army of Parliament during the Civil Wars, and who no one ever remembers - and possibly one of the Leveller leader Thomas Rainsborough, and...busy times! ANU: There seems to be a lot of talk amongst authors about “plotting versus pantsing” – do you favour either one of these approaches, or do you walk a middle line? MJL: I’m very fortunate with the Civil War series in that what I’ve done is taken a timeline of the period and inserted a group of fictional people into a historical timeline, so a good deal of my plotting is done for me by history! The Russell books have been harder, because rather than straight “actionadventure” they’re romantic mysteries, so I’m obliged to do some of my own thinking. Unfortunately, my characters are such that I can’t plot too far; they just won't do as they’re told. The development of the characters very much influences the plot, and the wretches have a tendency to evolve in ways that the author did not originally intend! So, plotting or pantsing? No idea. I know what’s going to happen, and that is plotted: first in draft form, and then in more detail chapter by chapter as the book progresses. The “how” of it develops rather more organically. ANU: Looking back at your writing journey, are there any things that you would do differently now? MJL: I wouldn’t bother submitting work to an agent. The Civil Wars series is entirely self-published, and it’s stocked in libraries and bookshops as well as pretty successful on Kindle. The Russell books have a publisher, Climbing Tree Books, and I approached them with the series proposal direct. We have 57
quite close dialogue about the series and marketing and so on. No intermediary; just me and them arguing about my social media presence... I spent far too long in the early days hoping to be snapped up by a mainstream agent, and if I had it all to do again I’d spend much longer on planning for myself. I’d also plan my marketing much more effectively and stick to it. Oh, and I’d save things more often, and with sensible filenames. ANU: Do you have a favourite character – if so, is it easier to write about them, or do you find it difficult to remain objective? MJL: It changes as they evolve. I find Russell a pain in the bum at times but I’m very fond of him, and the dry sense of humour that most people don’t realise he has, and his own journey of self-discovery. Thomazine is growing up, and into her womanhood, all the time: from being a little girl with a bad case of hero-worship to a woman with responsibilities. Having written this interview, I am actually going to go off and write the Christmas story. I make a point of writing a free story every Christmas set in the world of my novels, and I think Russell’s guilty secret of a taste for very un-Puritanical popular fiction needs to be exposed this year... ANU: What draws you to this particular era in history? MJL: Everything! The world was turned upside down with the civil wars: women found a voice, briefly, petitioning Parliament in their own right, and “..the poorest he that is in England has a life to live as the greatest he; and therefore truly, sir, I think it's clear that every man that is to live under a government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that government; and I do think that the poorest man in England is not at all bound in a strict sense to that government that he has not had a voice to put himself under...” (Thomas Rainsborough, Putney Debates, 1647) And then it was all taken away again, and the people who had fought for those liberties were executed, or suppressed, or exiled, and the government under the Commonwealth as cruel and tyrannical as any the Parliament had protested under the monarchy. And then all about-face again, and the King is back on the throne in 1660, and the pendulum swings the other way into a gaiety that's almost feverish. Something like the Roaring Twenties, with that same sense of grabbing life with both hands because it might all end tomorrow, but with added bosom and silk and old-school adventure, of Wicked Ladies and pirates and mistresses and theatres. The world in the 1660s was a much more exciting place, I think, if you were of a moderate intellect and moderately well-placed in the world. Suddenly all the old myths were popping like balloons, and everything you thought you knew about anything was open to debate - the shape of the world, the way human beings were made, the role of women - painting, poetry, politics, religion, literature, sex, science, geography, it was all suddenly out 58
there. Everything was to play for, and you could go anywhere, do anything, be anything. Like the days of the Tudor merchant-venturers, but without the obligation of Royal patronage. In the 1660s the middle classes (many of whom had supported Parliament during the Civil Wars) had also developed their own identity, and although they were very fond of Old Rowley and his profligate personal habits, they weren’t in the business of meekly submitting to any regal whims. They’d got rid of one King and they could do it again - and His Majesty was quite well aware of that, thank you. There were riots about one of his mistresses, whose religion did not meet with popular approval. Fortunately, he was also knocking off Nelly Gwynne at the time, and she knew how to work an audience. And some of the politicians - dear God! George Downing: turncoat, regicide, notorious skinflint. Sam Pepys, diarist and chest pest. Wilmot and the Merry Gang, who were all incredibly able, educated, sophisticated young men - well, Johnny Depp’s film The Libertine says it all. Witty and wasted. ANU: What aspects of the Romantic Fiction genre do you find the most rewarding to address and what (if any) would you like to see consigned to the Tower? MJL: Unromance! The theme, such as there is, of both series, is the romance of the everyday: that people who are not beautiful, and not remarkable save to each other, are as much heroes and heroines as the glamorous. Ordinary people have extraordinary loves. One reviewer of Si Tu Dois Partir - the novella where Thomazine and her man finally get it together - liked it because two physically less fortunate people find a touching and meaningful love. And I’m glad she liked that, that she didn't find it weird or repulsive that they get together, but...why shouldn't they? Why shouldn’t an otherwise-handsome, slightly-broken, decent man, and a young woman with a big nose and a good deal of untidy red hair, care for each other? Her father, the hero of the Civil Wars series, spends a lot of time throughout that series wanting to be at home with his wife, getting to know his children. Part of the point about those books is that he can’t: it’s his duty to be where he is, and so he’s torn between loyalty to his men, and loyalty to his wife. And in those books, it’s the Army that wins. Romantic? Nope. Decent? Yes. For me, I prefer a romantic hero who’s a decent man, a reliable one, a man who wants to do what’s best, and not one who has to be “caught” or “tamed”. No matter how hot he is. I like playing with some of the stereotypes of romantic fiction. (It makes it horribly hard to categorise the damn things, though.) Thomazine’s not going to blossom into a raving beauty, she will always be a tall, rangy girl with a big nose and untidy hair. That’s what she looks like, not what she is. Does Russell see that? You bet he doesn’t, any more than my husband sees my scars and grey hairs. Like the rest of us in the real world, loving in their world is based on more than sparkling blue eyes and 59
tumbling curls: it’s based on knowing where the ticklish bits are and where the bodies are buried, and a mutual care and respect and kindness. The thing I would consign to the dustbin of history is that historical people weren’t real people, or as moved by irrational prejudices as we are. They had a sense of humour, they laughed, they went to the toilet, they eyed up women (and men), they played stupid jokes on each other. They weren’t all thees and thous, perpetually moved by noble impulse, but nor were they modern people dressed up in funny clothes: and the main difference between us and them was that you know what? Sex wasn’t that big a deal. It was pretty nice, when you got it right, but it wasn’t the be-all and end-all. Men have died, and worms have eaten them, but not for love. The point of Romeo and Juliet was not how sweet, how romantic, but - what a pair of idiots. You married for friendship, affection, and companionship - and I think, I hope, I reflect that in my books: Thomazine and Russell are great pals, as one of my friends puts it, as well as ardent lovers. (Oh yes. And I’ve worn a 1660s period bodice. That bad boy’s not in the business of being ripped, not by anyone, not ever. Three layers of whalebone, linen, and silk. It’s going nowhere.) ANU: If you had to write within any other genre, which would you choose, and why? MJL: I do straight military adventure (better than Sharpe, allegedly?) with the Civil Wars series. In addition, I used to write and edit a small-press magazine specialising in horror and dark fantasy. I think I might do poetry, actually, just for funsies. I do write the odd bit of spoof 1640s poetry in character, and there are people who believe that the purveyor of it is a real, little-known, poet of the period. That makes me howl with laughter! ANU: What are your personal five all-time favourite books to read? MJL: Elizabeth Goudge The Dean’s Watch; Mary Brown Playing The Jack; Rosemary Sutcliff The Rider On The White Horse (the end of which makes me weep buckets: “Love me, Nan. I should be very lonely without your love.”); Edmund Crispin The Moving Toyshop; Georgette Heyer These Old Shades. As an aside, were you to see shades of Avon, that mordant, middle-aged lover who thinks himself most unromantic material - and is entirely and absolutely wrong - in Russell...I’d not argue with that. ANU Character Interview Questions (Thomazine): ANU: What makes Major Russell the one and only man for you – was there a defining moment that you recall?
T: Oh, that’s silly. He always was. He just didn’t know it. When I was very little, he always seemed to be fetching up at our house to be mended - he didn’t have anywhere else to go, poor darling, and he was always - well, he was rather mysterious and romantic, you know? My Uncle Luce - who has time to fill his head with such foolishness - says there’s a book about a most ingenious gentleman of La Mancha called Don Quixote, who has the habit of fighting lost causes, and he read some of it to us and I did wonder if they were thinking of my Russell when they wrote that fiction. Master Quixote is very like him, I think. It’s a funny thing, even though I am twenty years younger than he I am the more sensible. He would always put his heart into lost causes and then be hurt and sad, and even when I was a tiny girl I wanted to look after him, so he could at least be hurt and sad in clean linen, or with cake. (No one can be uncheered with cherry preserve, you know. It is not possible.) I must have been all of, what, fifteen or sixteen, and he had just taken up his post at Whitehall, and he came to see us one Christmas. This would be just after the King was restored, you see, and we had just started to celebrate Christmas again properly, the way we hadn’t been allowed to, really, under the Commonwealth. And he had meant to go off and skulk - yes you did, Russell, you were going to skulk, I am not so daft that I don't know that - in some fleabitten inn and not eat for about a month and read novels. He didn’t know how to celebrate Christmas, being brought up Puritan, and they laughed at him at Court for how he looked anyway, and being old-fashioned and all, and they were just horrible to him. (I didn’t mind, you know. -R.) T: That’s not the point, dear! You would have had a perfectly miserable time. Anyway, he planned to go off and hole up somewhere and catch up on his scurrilous reading matter and live on apples till it was all over, but that was miserable, too. Then he was ill - it's a tertian fever he picked up in Scotland, he always gets ill when he's tired, or unhappy - and he ended up coming to us, being as he was nearby. He looked awful. Well, not awful, though he had a habit of trying to make himself as plain as possible in those days. Which he is not: he has good bones, you see, though I could see most of them through his skin at the time, the foolish man. The waste of it vexed me mightily, he being remarkably handsome when he chooses to be. There – that’s your defining moment, right there: the realisation that my darling had remarkably fine eyes. (And you made me your especial care, and I did you the disservice of tumbling into love with you, being unaccustomed to such kindness. Which was wrong of me - R.) T: You see? This is how he is, all the time. And he went away, thinking me too young to know my mind, and himself no bargain at all as a husband, and that it would be a kindness to me to if he were to go away and be forgotten. And if I know my darling, meaning to get himself killed in the first stupid battle he could volunteer himself for. He came back, though. 61
(I left it a decent period. I wanted to give you the chance to love elsewhere, if you willed it -R) T: Of course, dear. Disappearing like a thief in the night and not a word for four years as to if you were alive or dead is always the best way to endear yourself to your future wife. He came back. Honestly, did you really think I was going to change my mind, after loving you since I was old enough to know what it meant? Stupid man. So, yes. I had known that he was a keeper then, but I didn’t know it would come to anything till he came back, and my sister was rude to him, and I kissed him in the stables. The story-lady wrote that history down, and it's called Si Tu Dois Partir and it's in a collection called Steel and Lace which was written in support of the Great Ormond Street Hospital. I believe she means to write the Christmas story at some point, too. Don’t look like that, dear. It’s a perfectly respectable story. ANU: Does he have any habits that you reckon he ought to change? T: He sulks. He says he doesn't (I don’t! -R.) but he does. I think the worst habit, though I have almost broken him of it, is that he gets very stiff and chilly when he’s cross. Now I don’t mind, because I know him - although it’s vexing - but people can form a deeply misguided opinion of him through it, that he is most forbidding and zealous. Oh - and he makes a great fuss about silly things, and little about great things. Being accused of murder, of treason, and he shrugs his shoulders and says it is of no importance. Almost dead, and he’s still passing smart remarks - and yet he will take offence at a silly poem that no-one believed anyway, and fly into a pet that he is too old for me, and ought not to have married me. Though he is very easy to tempt out of his sullens. And he has to have the last word. (I wish - R.) T: See? ANU: The synopsis mentions a monkey. So, do we dare ask about that? T: Oh, it’s a horrible little beast. It’s called Strephon and it belongs to the Earl of Rochester. Nasty little creature, always widdling on the curtains. I think he only takes it to people's houses to show how shocking he is, and how little he cares for what people think of him. Mind you, it’s a handy little brute to have around, because where it is, he is, so if the little ape isn't in a place, neither is the Earl of Rochester. Which is quite a useful thing to know, sometimes. I do not think it is at all a fit and proper pet for a gentleman to have, myself, and I think John Wilmot is a much nicer person to know than the Earl of Rochester. (They're the same person, my tibber - R.) T: See? As I said. My husband thinks he’s always right, and he isn’t. John Wilmot is a perfectly nice young man, until he remembers that he’s the Earl of Rochester as well, and then he’s horrible, and not my friend at all. Master
Wilmot is a nice person to know, and the Earl is a nasty little toad who writes horrible dirty poems and brings his incontinent ape to parties. ANU: You live in a somewhat turbulent era. What are the worst things and the best things about it? T: Ah, well, now, you see, we live in Buckinghamshire for the most part. My husband does not like London very much, and I think it smells bad, and it’s very noisy and horribly expensive to buy decent food, and people don't like it if you wish to run your own household. (And the bakehouse round the corner from our lodgings burned down this summer, and took most of Aldgate with it. Nearest decent pie is Leadenhall market, and that's a fair walk, of a cold morning. - R.) T: So we lead a quiet life. I don't find it turbulent, you know. It’s rather fun having a place at court when we want it, and a nice little farm in the Chilterns to live in. The worst thing - dear, would you mind terribly fetching my embroidery from the parlour? - there, he's gone. I'd rather he didn't hear this, for it would distress him. I am terrified of birthing our children. I appreciate that it’s my punishment for the sin of Eve and that not as many women die of it, or of childbed fever, as I fear, but I am still scared quite beyond reason. I am terrified of losing my babies. I know too many people whose babies have died of such little things - of a cough, or a little fever - it must be the worst thing in the world to see your children die so soon after they have come into this world and to be powerless to stop it, or to ease their pain. (I had a little brother, for a few hours. He was born child-of-God after the siege at Colchester when I was a child, and mama never mentions him. Our Nathaniel is named after him. But in every family...it happens. Our little sorrows, that are so small in the world yet so great to us. The story-lady weeps for the first Nathaniel, you know, when she writes of him.) And the best? Well! Have you seen some of the dresses I get to wear in London? I have a lovely bronze silk gown - assuming that I might still lace it closed after Nathaniel - I am considered tall and somewhat light in the bosom department and it makes me look voluptuous. I thank God for whalebone and cunning padding, I say. But truly, these are days of wonders and miracles. My Uncle Luce, who is a surgeon, corresponds with men of science - men like Doctor Willis, who explores men's brains, and the Royal Society, who investigate all kinds of marvellous and revolting things. Rare bugs and beasts, and the insides of men’s bodies. They say we are on the edge of discovering the keys to the universe, and the logic that moves the world. How exciting! We are truly on the edge of enlightenment, and perhaps one day soon all men will be free from pain and sickness, if such is God’s will. ANU: Where do you see the author taking your story from here? T: Aphra Behn. Sadly. 63
(Tibber, I did not have, I have never had, and unless I change my gender I never will have, an affaire with Aphra Behn - R.) T: Dear, that woman is a howling menace, and she is intent on using you to cover her nefarious activities with that - cork-brained young man who is son to the late Master Cromwell's spymaster. And because you are an honourable blithering idiot, you will feel obliged to dig her out of the particular pit that her lack-of-intelligencing has landed her in. Knew her in Antwerp before the recent war, my left foot. I did not come down with the last shower, sir. And I am not leaving you alone with her, not for a minute, though I must travel to the Low Countries with you, and me in an interesting condition again. (Did I mention that of the habits that I might wish Thomazine would change, an unreasoning jealousy is the most wearing? - R.) ANU: If you could meet up with any other fictional character, who would you pick, and why? T: Iâ€™d quite like to meet Aphraâ€™s Oroonoko, just to ask him how much horsefeathers that woman made up about him, and if he had ever set eyes on her in his life or if his whole history was a figment of her overheated imagination. Other than that, I should like to meet Jane Eyre, who also lives with a gentleman afflicted with such scarring to the face as my darling, or so I believe. I understand that this Mr Rochester is somewhat malcontent, and since my husband is assuredly not, I might be able to offer her some guidance. I think perhaps were she a little more cheerful herself, his temper would be considerably sweetened...
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Embodying ‘Be-ING’ – Beckett and Heraclitus1
‘L’artiste qui joue de son être est de nulle part. Et il n’a pas des frères.’ ‘The artist who stakes his being is from nowhere, has no kith.’2
This quote is taken from Beckett’s homage to Jack Yeats which was written in 1954, but which expresses ideas he had already formulated about the role of the Artist over twenty years previous, while contemplating the life and work of Marcel Proust. For the artist, who does not deal in surfaces, the rejection of friendship is not only reasonable, but a necessity. Because the only possible spiritual development is in the sense of depth. The artistic tendency is not expansive, but a contraction. And art is the apotheosis of solitude.3 Already, the theme of exile is introduced and its correspondence with the artist, be it voluntary or imposed. Joyce and of course Dante spring to mind, but also a much older predecessor, who is the subject of this presentation – namely Heraclitus of Ephesus. Also known as, ‘the Obscure’.
This text was first presented on the 3RD of August 2013, at University College Dublin, as part of the Beckett and the ‘State’ of Ireland Conference. http://beckettucd.wordpress.com/confirmed-speakers-and-paper-titles/ 2 Beckett, Samuel: Disjecta – Miscellaneous Writings and a Dramatic Fragment, Edited by Ruby Cohn, Grove Press, New York, 1984, pp. 148/149. (Hommage à Jack B Yeats, April 1954) 3 Beckett, Samuel: Proust and Three Dialogues with Georges Duthuit, John Calder, London, 1987, p.64.
Friedrich Nietzsche, in his series of lectures on the Pre-Platonic philosophers4, wishes to remind us of the historical events which inform the writings of Heraclitus. Fragment 121 is singled out to illustrate his point, underlining the political events which underlined the philosopher’s life.
The Ephesians would do well to end their lives, every grown man of them, and leave the city to beardless boys, for that they have driven out Hermodorus, the worthiest among them, saying, “We will have none who is worthiest among us; or if there be any such, let him go elsewhere and consort with others.5
Heraclitus was to famously exile himself to the Temple of Artemis, where he was to appear outside playing dice with children. Heraclitus makes his first appearance in the writing of Samuel Beckett’s in 1934, with the publication of his first printed work in prose More Pricks than Kicks, appearing in the chapter Yellow6. But today, I wish to focus on his appearance in Beckett’s last epic take on the novel in French, Comment C’est/How It Is, which was published in 1961, and so a period of almost thirty years separate the two works. A fact showing how important Heraclitus is in the writings of Samuel Beckett. Three fragments from the first part of the book, avant Pim/before Pim, will be examined. Firstly, the invocation which is contained in the first two
Nietzsche, Friedrich: The Pre-Platonic Philosophers, Translated from the German and Edited, with an Introduction and Commentary, by Greg Whitlock, University of Illinois Press, Urbana & Chicago, ( First Paperback Edition) 2006. 5 Ibid, p.53. 6 While awaiting the surgeon’s knife, Beckett’s alter ego Belacqua meditates on Heraclitus: At this crucial point the good God came to his assistance with a phrase from the paradox of Donne: Among our wise men, I doubt not many would be found, who would laugh at Heraclitus weeping, none which would weep at Democritus laughing.’ And again: For Belacqua could not resist a lachrymose philosopher and still less when, as was the case with Heraclitus, he was obscene at the same time. He was in his element in dingy tears and luxuriously so when these were furnished by a pre-Socratic man of acknowledged distinction. How often had he not exclaimed, skies being grey: ‘Another minute of this and I consecrate the remnant of my life to Heraclitus of Ephesus, I shall be that Delian diver who, after the third or fourth submersion, returns no more to the surface!’ Beckett, Samuel: More Pricks than Kicks, Picador Books, London, 1974, pp. 148, 149.
fragments on the opening page, and in which the Muse makes a faded appearance. Secondly, fragment two in which she appears in all her glory as Autoritas and the Viconian structure which underlines the whole work is revealed through the three themes le voyage, le couple and l’abandon 7. Finally, the fragment where Heraclitus appears himself will be examined, before concluding the presentation with a cursory nod to two contemporary philosophers and their correspondence with Beckett ; namely Roberto Esposito and Alan Badiou. But, before we go straight to the three fragments in question, we must first pass by the Muse.
1. The Motif of the Muse
The Sibyl with raving mouth utters solemn, unadorned, unlovely words, but she reaches out over a thousand years with her voice because of the god within her.8 (Heraclitus- Fragment 92)
In studies of the appearance of the Muse in Homer, Classical scholars, such as Elizabeth Minchin, speak of both ‘faded’ appearances and ‘full’9 . In the fragment below, taken from Book 2 of The Illiad, the Muse makes a full appearance, clearly being named in the text, while in the second extract, taken from Book VIII, she appears unnamed yet clearly she is being alluded to in the context of the setting, appearing as she does before a list of names and events, which will be narrated acting as she does serving in what Minchin describes as a ‘meta-narrational function’10 appearing at ‘critical moments in the story’11.
Beckett, Samuel: Comment C’est, Les Éditions de Minuit, Paris, 1992, p. 30. Bobbs & Merrill: The Pre-Socratics, Translation by Philip Wheeler, Indianopolis, 1966, p.75. 9 Minchin, Elizabeth: The Poet Appeals To His Muse: Homeric Invocations In The Context Of Epic Performance, The Classical Journal, Vol. 91, No. 1 (Oct-Nov, 1995) p.31. 10 Ibid, p.33. 11 Ibid, p.29. 8
Example of a ‘full’ appearance of the muse. •
‘These were the captains of Achaea and the Kings. Now tell me, Muse, who were the bravest of them all, of the men and chariot-teams that came with Atreus’ sons?’ (Book II, lines 759/761) 12
Example of a ‘faded’ appearance. •
‘Who was the first Trojan the marksman Teucer hit?’ (Book VIII, line 313.)13
The invocation appearing in Comment C’est/ How It Is is interesting in this respect, as following on from Minchin it would appear to be a ‘faded’ invocation as the Muse is not actually named, but is alluded to in the act of the invocation itself. In Frescoes of the Skull14 , James Knowlson categorically refutes that it is the Muse in the traditional sense whom Beckett invokes, but rather posits that it is Beckett invoking himself. For Simon Perris15 however, the appearance of an invocation is ‘a highly charged literary manouver’, particularly in the area of Homeric reception. Invocations are part and parcel of the epic tradition, epic poems by definition being of tri-partite structure, as defined by Aristotle in his Poetics, and according to Mikhail Bakhtin ‘occasionally so deeply embedded as to be almost invisible’16.
Homer: The Illiad, Translation by Robert Fagles with and Introduction and Notes by Bernard Knox, Penguin Classics, London, 1991, p. 124. 13 Ibid, p. 240. 14 Knowlson, J & Pilling, J: Frescoes of the Skull, The Late Prose and Drama of Samuel Beckett, John Calder, London, 1979. 15 Perris, Simon: Proems, Codas, and Formalism in Homeric Reception, Classical Receptions Journal, Vol 3, Issue (2011), p189. 16 Bakhtin, Mikhail: The Dialogic Imagination, Edited by Michael Holquist and Translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holyquist, University of Texas Press, Austin, 2002,p.8 Bakhtin was referring to genres and how the novel, a modern phenomenon, has assumed structures, particularly plotlines, from the ancient Greek & Roman Classical tradition, and made them its own. Beckett’s use of the invocation at the beginning of Comment c’est is a classic example of such borrowings, but also how he continues to use her in further appearances in the narrative, as this paper seeks to show.
comment c’était je cite avant Pim avec Pim après Pim comment c’est trois parties je le dis comme je l’entends voix d’abord dehors quaqua de toutes parts puis en moi quand ça cesse de haleter raconte-moi encore finis de me raconter invocation 17
how it was I quote before Pim with Pim after Pim how it is three parts I say it as I hear it voice once without quaqua on all sides then in me when the panting stops tell me again finish telling me invocation 18
2. Introduction of the Muse Autoritas and the Viconian Superstructure which underlines Comment C’est/ How It Is
We have to wait a further 22 pages before the Muse is introduced to us in the guise of Autoritas and in which she (elle) appears within the Viconian context she is situated. Anthony Cordingley19 posits that ‘l’ordre natural’, or natural order, is referring to the natural order of French Grammar, which was conceived at Port Royal during the time of the Enlightenment. He makes reference to the appearance of Malebranche20 and other ‘Occassionalist’ philosophers such as Arnold Guelincx, who was a life-long concern of
Beckett, Samuel: Comment C’est, Les Éditions de Minuit, Paris, 1992, p.9. All further references to this work will be denoted in this essay by the abbreviation CC. 18 Beckett, Samuel: How It Is, Faber and Faber, London, 2009, p.3. Further extracts from this text will be denoted by the abbreviation HII, followed by the page number. 19
Cordingley, Anthony: Beckett and “l’ordre natural”: The Universal Grammar of Comment c’est/How It Is, All Sturm and No Drang, Beckett and Romanticism at Reading 2006, Rodolpi, Today/Aujourd’ hui, Edited by Dirk Van Hulle and Mark Nixon, Amsterdam & New York, 2007, pp.185-200. 20 Cc, p.46.
Beckett’s21 to further substantiate his claims. This presentation offers an alternative philosophical perspective, in which the linguistics of Saussure is replaced by Giambattista Vico, and the metaphysics of Malebranche by Heraclitus. Vico’s three ages, as expounded in his New Science, correspond exactly to the three themes inserted in the Autoritas fragment in Comment C’est/How It Is. Le voyage, or wandering corresponding to Vico’s first, or ‘divine’ age, peopled by giants, the Muse and divinari, or diviners whose role was to interpret the language of the Muse, who spoke to them in the place of God, through signs. Le couple, or the couple, signifying the heroic, or second age when violence rules, and finally L’abandon, or the abandon, corresponding to the third age which is ruled by human reason and which finally implodes, so the ‘natural order’, l’ordre naturel, can start all over again, thereby revealing the cyclical order of civilisations. In Book IV of La scienza nouva, Vico uses this same language: ‘diritti naturali’22,‘l’ordre natural’, or ‘natural law’ in English23.
je le dis comme elle vient dans l’ordre mes lèvres remuent je les sens elle sort dans la boue ma vie ce qu’il en reste mal dite mal entendu mal retrouvée quand ça cesse de
In a note to Sighle Kennedy, who was writing her dissertation on Murphy at the time, Beckett indicated ‘Naught is more real...’ and the ‘Ubi nihil vales...’.( Disjecta, p.113), the former being a nod to the pre-Socratic Philosopher Democritus, and the latter a reference to Arnold Guelincx. That was in 1967. As an indicator of just how far research has yet to go in Beckett studies, the first full-length study of Beckett’s obsession with Guelincx was only published in 2012. See- Tucker, David: Samuel Beckett and Arnold Guelincx, ‘Tracing a literary fantasy’, Historicising Modernism Series, Continuum, London, 2012. 22 http://www.letteraturaitaliana.net/pdf/Volume_7/t204.pdf - p. 445/550 23
haleter mal murmurée à la boue au présent tout ça des choses si anciennes l’ordre naturel le voyage le couple l’abandon tout ça au présent tout bas des bribes24 I say it my life as it comes natural order my lips move I can feel them it comes out in the mud my life what remains ill-said ill recaptured when the panting stops illmurmured to the mud in the present all that things so ancient natural order the journey the couple the abandon all that in the present barely audible bits and scraps 25
As has been mentioned before, the idea of invoking the muses goes right back to ancient Greece. Hesiod the author of the Theogony, a primitive creation myth, introduces them ‘Within Olympus, telling of things that are,/ That will be, and that were’26. This backs up the earlier comment on Aristotle about the construction of epic poetry, but more importantly helps to further illuminate the genesis of the dividing tri-partite structure of Comment C’est, it is a novel which promises to tell the story of ‘comment c’etait je cite avant Pim avec Pim après Pim’/‘how it was I quote before Pim with Pim after Pim’. So, already we have the motif of the invocation, and the whole structural scaffolding of the novel, all borrowed and conforming to the epic. In The Dialogic Imagination, Mikhail Bakhtin refers to this kind of novel as the ‘adventure novel of everyday life’, using The Golden Ass by Apuleius as a model. The theme of metamorphosis is key in such a work, giving the form its particular chronotope, shifting as it does from the everyday to that of ‘adventure’. In The Golden Ass, for example we see ‘Lucius before his transformation into an ass, Lucius as the ass and Lucius mysteriously purified or renewed’27. Likewise, in Comment C’est we see the metamorphosis of the narrator before Pim, with Pim, and after Pim. There are, however, other links to Hesiod and his Theogony. Surprisingly, 24
Beckett, Samuel: CC. p.30. Beckett, Samuel: HII. p.15. 26 Wender, Dorothy: Hesiod and Theognis, Penguin Classics, London, 1973, p. 24. 27 Bakhtin, Mickail: The Dialogic Imagination- four essays, Edited by Michael Holquist and Translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1981, p. 115. 25
despite a comprehensive two page analysis of the possible significations of the ‘sac’/ ‘sack’, the late Ruby Cohen in her review of the novel28 does not mention the association of coal with fire, which the author would appear to be deliberately signalling to us; ‘premier signe de vie’29, ‘first sign very first of life’30. The association with Prometheus, who stole fire from Zeus to give to men and was so cruelly punished, would appear to be quite clear, particularly as the phrase ‘du sac et du corde’ has ancient associations with theft and punishment31. Prometheus is one of the giants who inhabits Vico’s first age, dwelling solitary in the caves32 . Also, Pandora would appear to be hinted at in the ‘ la boîte’, ‘the tin’; ‘Boîte de merde’, being a typical popular expression in French to describe a ‘shitty’ place which would be apt considering all of the scatological references made in the text to the ‘boue’, or ‘mud’. In Book 2, Chapter 3, there is a remarkable passage in Vico’s New Science in which he describes the origins of the first giants who ‘wandered’ the earth, descendants of Ham, Japeth and Shem, and who ‘Wallowing in their own faeces (whose nitrous salts wondrously enriched the soil), these children struggled to make their way through the great forest, now grown dense after the recent flood’33. Vico’s pre-diluvian vision of the world must have had a considerable effect on Beckett, as his interest in the Bible was a life- long one and there has been some fascinating studies on his reception of the Bible in his own work34. 28
Cohn, Ruby: Comment c’est: de quoi rire, The French Review, Vol 35, No.6, May, 1962, pp.565-567. Cc, p.11. 30 HIS, p.4. 31 Ruby Cohn highlights the associations of the two object, the sack and chord, with theft and punishment. In ancient Rome it was the practice to place thieves in a sack which was then closed with a chord, before depositing them in the Tiber. http://www.expressio.fr/expressions/homme-individu-gens-de-sac-et-de-corde.php 32 ‘je suis un monster des solitudes’ Ccp.18 –‘I am a monster of solitudes’ HIS, p.8. Again, this way Beckett has of blending the apparently autobiographic with the mythological – Knowlson notes that around the time of Cc’s composition Beckett sometimes struggled with the amount of socialising that his newfound fame as a highly successful and critically acclaimed author brought him. DTF, p.463. 33 NS, p140. 29
3. Heraclitus Appearing as Divinari
‘ Lightening steers all things.’35 (Heraclitus- fragment 64) When asked to comment on the above fragment by Heraclitus, Martin Heidegger says the following:
I remember an afternoon during my journey in Aegina. Suddenly I saw a single bolt of lightning, after which no more followed. My thought was: zeus.36 In his New Science, Giambattista Vico notes: Jupiter’s lightning bolts were the origin of the first Muse, which Homer calls the knowledge of good and evil.37
Although taking a considerable amount of flak for her Biography of Beckett, the first of its kind, Deirdre Bair very perceptively acknowledged Beckett’s debt to French Symbolists and the prose poem regarding the very particular composition of Comment C’est.38 Here in the Heraclitus passage, which indeed is exemplary of the whole text, Aristotelian notions of grammar and logic do not push, or motivate, the grapheme39, but rather, as in Rimbaud’s 34
His English publisher, and friend, John Calder gave a series of lectures in 2012 entitled Beckett and God in which he underlined the importance of the Bible, and particularly the Old Testament, in Beckett’s work. Calder was at pains to emphasise Beckett’s ‘deep immersion in Calvinistic theology’* which the author received particularly at his time spent in Portora Royal School. • Taken from notes while attending John Calder’s lecture given at Dublin City University, 11/10/2012. 35 http://www.heraclitusfragments.com/files/ge.html Date accessed 07/02/2013. 36 Heidegger & Fink: Heraclitus Seminar, Translated by Charles H. Seibert, North Western University, Elvanston, Illinois, 1979, p.5. 37 Vico, Giambattista: New Science, Translated by David Marsh, Penguin Classics, London, 2001, p.153. 38 Bair, Deirdre: Samuel Beckett – A Biography, Vintage, London, 1990, pp.554-555. 39 Anthony Cordingley posits that l’ordre naturel which Beckett repeatedly refers to in the text is in fact a reference to Aristotelian notions of grammar which were carried on by the logicians and linguists at Port Royale, a claim which he admittedly acknowledges is slightly lacking as the text is hardly driven completely by
Illuminations, sense precedes meaning to the extant, rather like in the paintings of Francis Bacon, we are being exposed to the full shock of the nervous system of the artist, in this case Beckett, who conjures in this fragment of tightly packed prose, once again, a nineteenth century motif borrowed from Baudelaire, in the guise of the Albatross. We must not search for a logical coherence but rather a poetic correspondence, and one which we can quite easily find returning to the context of Vico and the first age. For, do not the ‘unholy’ trinity of Beckett, Rimbaud and Baudelaire not strongly evoke the idea of the ‘theological poet’ of whom Vico speaks of ? The ‘divine’ ones through whom the Muse speaks, and of whom Heraclitus himself is so representative of, he the ‘diviner’ par excellence, exiled in ‘in the seclusion of the Temple of Artemis?’40 Beckett’s mud bound narrator is evocative of the poet in the poem by Baudelaire, ‘Exilé sur le sol au milieu des huées, Ses ailes de géant l’empêchent de marcher’41. And, who is indeed so reminiscent of so many of Beckett’s creations who precede him. Molloy, though, most particularly, belly down too on the earth of the forest floor, a son of Abel,
such notions. And so, I postulate, as an alternative source, Vico’s three ages of man which would perhaps encase more fully, alongside Thorlingley’s idea of French grammar, the ‘complete’ picture: in dichotomy always becoming the whole. It is never a question, in Beckett, of coming don on any one particular side or the other, but rather always looking out for the two parts which make up the whole, whence the eternal continuum of pseudo couples: Pim & Pam, Bim & Bom, Krim & Krim etc. Cordingley, Anthony: Beckett and” l’ordre naturel”, The Universal Grammar of Comment c’est/How It Is, All Sturm and No Drang, Beckett and Romanticism: Beckett and Reading, 2006, Vol. 18, of Samuel Beckett Today/aujourdui: Rodolpi, 2007, pp. 185-200. 40 NietZsche, Friedrich: The Pre-Platonic Philosophers, Translated from the German and Edited, with an new Introduction and Commentary, by Greg Whitlock, Illinois University Press, Illinois, 2006, p.53. 41 Baudelaire, Charles: Les Fleurs Du Mal, Garnier Flammarion, Paris, 2006, p.61. ‘Exiled on earth amid the jeers of crowds, His movement impeded by his giant wings.’ O’ Connor, Ulick: The Kiss, New and Selected Poems and Translations, Salmon Poetry, Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, 2006, p.71.
dreaming of the sound of ewes, completely oblivious to the death blows of the sons of Cain, which will soon rain down upon him once again. Beckett’s relationship with Arthur Rimbaud is also well established, appearing as he does in countless letters42, particularly in the thirties. There also exists his translation of Le Bateau Ivre ,which he did in 1937.43 The correspondence between Rimbaud and Vico, in regards to the Heraclitus fragment in part 1 of Comment C’est , is deeply resonant, considering particularly its topographical placement, situated as it is contextually in Vico’s corresponding first age, the age of ‘divine’ seers. As Beckett notes, ‘Here form is content, content is form.’44 Or, as Vico puts it, ‘the poets were in Greek called mystae, initiates, a term which Horace translates as ‘interpreters of the Gods’, for they explained the divine mysteries of the auspices and oracles.’45 Which in Rimbaud’s terms translates, ‘Therefore the poet is truly the thief of fire. He is responsible for Humanity, even for the animals; he will have to have his inventions smelt, felt, and heard:’46Not interpreted by logic! Nietzsche, and later Heidegger after him, would continuously remind us that Heraclitus was a Pre-Platonic philosopher, in other words one who still very much relied on other faculties of intelligence, outside of the strictly rational. Beckett’s whole life’s
‘I’ve been reading nothing but Rimbaud.’ Beckett writes in a letter to his friend and fellow poet Thomas McGreavy, during his time lecturing at Trinity in 1931. Beckett, Samuel: The Letters of Samuel Beckett 1929-1940, Edited by Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2009, p. 73. 43 Beckett, Samuel : Collected Poems in English and French, Grove Press, New York, 1977, pp.92-105. 44 Beckett, Samuel: Disjecta, Grove Press, New York, 1984, p.27. 45 Vico, Giambattista: New Science, Penguin Books, London, 2001, p.148. 46 Rimbaud, Arthur: Complete Works Selected Letters, Translation and Notes by Wallace Fowlie, Phoenix Books, University of Chicago, Chicago & London, 1966, p.309.
work, in this respect, runs in a parallel trajectory to the German duo.
sure le bas-ventre boueux j’ai vu un jour faste pace Héraclite l’Obscur au plus haut de l’aZur entre les grandes ailes noires étendus immobiles vu suspendu le corps de neige de je ne sais quel oiseaux voilier l’abatros hurler des mers australes l’histoire que j’avais mon Dieu la naturelle les bons moments que j’avais47 on the muddy belly I saw one blessed day saving the grace of Heraclitus the Obscure at the pitch of heaven’s azure towering between its black still spreading wings the snowy body of I know not what frigate-bird the screaming albatross of the southern seas the history I knew my God the natural the good moments I had48
The fragmentary nature in which the isolated pieces of text appear upon the page, given the thematic context which they would physically contain, would further envelop, or embody, the whole enterprise with a calligrammatic element, suggestive of archaeological and scriptural remains further supporting the Viconian treatment of form, creating of the topography of the book itself a very physical manifestation, or attempt at, a possibly newer take on the genre that is itself, such is the subversion of it, being subverted; namely that of the Epic account or journey in the tradition of Gilgamesh, the very first of its kind, (which was a three dimensional text in the sense that it was sculpted in clay) continuing up to Finnegan’s Wake , Joyce being Beckett’s, as always, fellow partner in crime. Indeed, the reference to Joyce is all important, at this stage, considering the fact that we are now concerned with the deep structural elements which underlie Comment C’est. In his essay The Joyce that Beckett 47 48
Beckett, Samuel: CC.p.53. Beckett, Samuel: HII.p.28.
Built, Kevin J.H. Dettmar explores the degree to which Beckett attempted to distance himself from Joyce after the fifties, in other words just before the composition of the present work in investigation. He builds an extremely interesting case of ‘Oedipal’49 assassination on Beckett’s side, claiming that the Joyce we know, as readers and critics, is largely a fabricated creation of Beckett’s penned by Richard Ellman and Isreal Shenker’s hands. It is a very interesting theory, particularly as seen in the light of the Viconian context which is being pursued here, as Joyce was famously to have used Vico as a structural support on which to tie Finnegan’s Wake. Yet, there is no mention of Vico, by Beckett, in regards to Comment C’est ? Which would add a peculiar emphasis to Dittmar’s claim that ‘James Joyce may turn out to be not just Beckett’s literary master but also his greatest literary masterpiece.’50
Chronologically incompatible yet connected through inter-textual cross referencing – Heraclitus via Vico – these ‘discursive formations’51 , like all architectural tropes, bear out the multi-layered lineage of their author’s individual point of intercession. Samuel Beckett brings with him a plurality of voices, speaking together as one, like Georgian architects such as James Gandon, before him52.
Dettmar, Kevin: The Joyce that Beckett Built, James Joyce Quarterly, Vol. 35/38,University of Tulsa, summer/fall, 1998, p.616. 50 Ibid, p. 608. 51 Foucault, Michel: The Archaeology of Knowledge, Routledge Classics, London, 2006, p. 174. 52 Dublin is an architectural jewel as regards Georgian architecture, James Gandon’s Custom House and The Courthouse being but two such magnificent examples of the style which Beckett, as a Dubliner, would have been well familiar with, as indeed was Joyce. The point being that growing up in a city which had already such a natural blending of Classical, Palladian and 18th century styles could not but have some kind of deeply subliminal impact on both writers. (note to support)
Beckett’s first contact with Giambattista Vico was in Paris, when Joyce suggested to him the direction into the Wake via, also, Bruno and Dante. The essay Dante...Bruno.Vico..Joyce was eventually published in book form by Sylvia Beach (Our Examination Round his Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress: Paris, Shakespeare and Company), and by Eugene Jolas in transistion 16-17.53 Ruby Cohn, notes in her introduction to Disjecta, ‘Beckett read Vico’s Scienza Nuova, which he then analyzed so acutely that, decades later, he is cited in Vico bibliographies’.54 It is quite clear, when reading this text, how Beckett was impressed by Vico and his ideas on language, myth and poetry.‘He may still appear as a mystic to some: if so, a mystic that rejects the transcendental in every shape and form as a factor in human development, and whose Providence is not divine enough to do without the cooperation of humanity.’55
‘War- conflict- is father of all,56’ (Heraclitus – Fragment 53.)
The Italian Philosopher Roberto Esposito, known particularly for his theories on Biopolitics, in his book Pensiero vivente 57makes reference to the Italian Philosopher Ernesto Grassi in connection with Vico’s La scienza nuova and 53
Beckett, Samuel: Disjecta, Edited by Ruby Cohen, Grove Press, New York, 1984, p.169. Ibid, p.8. 55 Ibid, p. 26. 56 Barnes, Julian: Early Greek Philosophy, Penguin Classics, London, 1987, p.50. 57 Esposito, Roberto: Pensiero vivento, Piccola Biblioteca Einaudi, Torino, 2010, p.41. 54
Heidegger’s notion of Lichtung, or unconcealment. The former’s ‘deforestation of the primeval forest’ being akin, he says, to Heidegger’s influential notions on poetic truth being concealed in language. But it is Esposito’s notions of the fundamental difference, as he sees it, between an ‘Italian school’ of thought, being inclusive of Dante, Machiavelli, Leonardo Da Vinci, Giordano Bruno, Giambattista Vico and the poet Leopardi, among others, and the idea that what is fundamentally different to ‘Italian’ thinking is the notion of corporality, or how the body embodies thinking, an idea which is so central to all the thinkers mentioned above. As Francesco De Sanctis puts it ‘la forza vince il diritto’58 an idea which is all too prevalent in Beckett’s Comment C’est/How It Is. With Democritus and Heraclitus, as first introduced in More Pricks than Kicks the figure of the two theatrical masks is evoked, the faces of the tragic and comic muses, that is, which hang above every stage. How appropriate it is to find the twentieth centuries’ greatest playwright obsessing about these two figures, to the extent that he revisits them in the form of a satyr play in part 2, ‘avec Pim’ of Comment C’est. They being the paradigm encompassing all of human nature, through their dichotomy unity is found. What Alan Badiou defines as Beckett’s ‘generic humanity’59 in the context of his creations. The Viconian framework of the three ages, once again, this time by placing the satyr play with the narrator and Pim in part 2, corresponding as it does with Vico’s second age, that of the heroic advocating force, and the stage is literally set for the eternal ‘comedy’ to begin again. The grotesque inscription in Roman 58
Ibid, p.135. (Force paves the way.) Badiou, Alan: Dissymetries – On Beckett, Edited by Nina Power and Alberto Toscano, Clinamen Press, Manchester, 2003.
capitals on the buttocks, or armpits, of Pim with the nails parodying ownershipproperty and possession being the underlying themes, after the initial wanderings of the dispossessed in part 1, a familiar trope in Beckett’s oeuvre. But it is only when we come to part 3, as readers, that we appreciate to what extent Beckett wishes to elevate the whole nightmarish vision, part 3 corresponding with Vico’s third age and human reason. For this, Beckett employs the Hegelian dialectic to such an excess, multiplying and further spawning his dynamic duos, or couplets, by the thousand so that the unity of the closely observed, perfectly imperfect particular, become blown up to represent the species, floating horrifically in some Stalinesque parody. ‘M’AIMES -TU CON’60 , ‘God on God’61the two protagonists lie, be they: Zeus and Gandymede, Polyphemus and Silenius, Alcibiades and Socrates, or Bim & Bom – the result, according to Beckett, is one and the same. It is the rule which governs all comedy- here inserted into the copula- for one to laugh another must cry. Lightening steers all!
Cc. p.151 – HIS.p.83 ‘DO YOU LOVE ME CUNT’ HIS.p.63
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