Gratitude & All the Small Things.

It’s the end of summer and summer, for me in my day to day job, is intensely busy and somewhat stressful but I tend to find this kind of deadline-based stress a motivator, so it hasn’t been all that bad.

Running the magazine takes up an enormous amount of my free time, enjoyable as it is plus then there’s evaluating manuscripts (which I do privately) which also takes up time but is still fun. Over-all I’m pretty busy a lot of the time, but I think I’m happiest like this. Honestly, I think I’d go stark raving mad sitting around watching movies every evening (although there is a decent amount of time dedicated to that too, I have to admit).

My first collection, Rituals, is in the final stages of editing and publication. My editors Robyn and Lance have been amazing to work with, I haven’t seen the finalised cover yet (which I’m a little nervous about) but I trust their eye and their choices. The artist, Tim Durham, is pretty cool. I don’t, as of yet, have a definitive publication date but at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if they turned around and said “Two weeks!”, which in itself is nerve-racking.

I’m very honoured though to have blurbs by amazing poets like Maggie Smith, Chen Chen and Blas Falconer- one of which I have seen (Chen Chen’s very beautiful and generous blurb)-

Pale stars wink jealousies at my feet and I walk godly.” Lorcán Black’s Rituals is the restless, roaming lovechild of Neruda and Trakl, with some fiery genetic material borrowed from Plath, as well. These poems walk toward and through wreckage at once ordinary and surreal—a family, an asylum, a body learning fraught desires, the “eerie / whiteness” of Antarctica, and a “window suck[ing] its slice of moon / in the mirror of its mouth.” Piercing in its vulnerability, this book often achieves a magical authority at the same time. Black dares to speak in the voice of a sorcerer, an oracle, a god: “Watch: I shall the call the elements, / I shall cast sacrilegious circles in sand.” This is a collection of dark yet gleaming marvels.

It’s such a beautiful, kind thing to say about a book I put so much work into and man, coming from Chen Chen, it’s a definite confidence booster but I, typically, never allow myself to get too excited about these things but even still, it’s nice to have the backing of your peers.

It’s a strange concept, to know that something you’ve spent years working on will soon be out there, in the world. It will no longer be this private thing I worked on, alone, it will soon have other eyes on it. Other minds interpreting into it ideas and themes I did not have when I wrote it. That’s really the thrilling part, that on publication it can sort of take on its own life after me, away from me, in the hands of other people.

There is so much change happening right now. The book is being released soon, my job is going well and my role progressing in small but important ways, I’m single again after almost six years (nothing acrimonious, in fact just the opposite, which is lovely) and even the podcast is improving and moving on, expanding. It’s exciting and I’m nervous about all of these separate things but I’m also grateful.

More than anything, I think gratitude is what I’m feeling on most days. Even on the not so great days- and that’s really saying something.

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Changes/insecurities/the stumbling block of stubbornness/a manuscript

It has been almost exactly a year since I’ve updated this. Progress has been slow (writing wise). Okay, well not exactly– in a year I’ve had 19 poems published, written about 76 (give or take, not all publishable just yet but the vast majority I’m happy with, some need work, others are done as far as I’m concerned), I had a job I loved until that company fell apart at the seams (almost literally) and I’m still writing and trying to put together a chapbook.

Well, I basically already have, its title is now ‘What the Light Does to Us‘–  because I realised that light plays a part in a lot of these poems and it makes more sense as a title– and that is still subject to change, unless one of the competitions I’ve sent it to accepts it. Long shot. I’m still of the opinion, rightly or wrongly, that my work is a bit strange or a bit dark in theme. Then again, The Stinging Fly took one of my darker poems, ‘A Lesson in Needlework‘, for publication in their newly released Summer 2017 issue so what the hell do I know? It’s not the writer’s job to assess their own work, that’s what readers and editors are for. It was such a bumper issue with so many incredible writers, I’m still reading and re–reading it, so it was amazing to be a part of it. I might blog about it later.

Trying to figure out the line–up and placement of poems in a chapbook or collection is seriously daunting. At times I’m questioning my own judgement and opinion of several poems– do they serve a purpose in the over–all succession of poems? Is this one relevant? Does that one need a re–write? Of course, I’ve asked other poets I trust to look over them with a critical eye because though I do think I have a decent grasp of the work I’m handling, it’s so difficult to be objective. I have a disconnect between my being the poet and the poetry I write, as if in some schizo-affective way, I detach almost immediately after writing it. I’m not sure that’s the norm, in fact, from editing Anomaly, I find the opposite to be true: most poets are inherently attached to the work they write, often too much so. I feel like the mother who gives birth and sends it young out into the world, unworried, detached and with a shrug of the shoulder. That’s not to say I’m not passionate (read: utterly obessed) with being a poet, I am, I am driven by it, slave to it but at the same time, I feel the work on its own comes from me but emotionally, I detach quite easily. Surprising, seeing as most of it is heavily reliant on emotions but perhaps it burns out upon the page in the process of writing

The problem with asking for advice from these poets I know and trust is that the manuscripts I’ve handed them are all different, they’ve all changed over and over again. They continue to do so. The same poems, when re–arranged, almost tell a different story and then consider the fact I’ve written over 70 poems this year, not all of them good but the ones that I felt positive about have also gone in. Further changing the course and texture of the manuscript itself. There are five different chapbooks comprising what I feel are the most successful poems. Each one reads differently and sometimes I favour one, only to change my mind and favour another. It’s a headspinning business, poetry.

For a writer who constantly feels insecure of my grasp of my own work, sometimes that objectivity is badly needed. As a poet I’m good but I’ll never be great and I don’t aim for it because frankly, I don’t think I have great poetry in me. I have the best of the gift I’ve got and I can change and grow as a writer but genius is not in my make–up and I think as a writer, it’s good to admit that– I can be black and white, I can be stubborn and sometimes those traits stop me seeing paths to improvement. Occasionally they incur moments of enlightenment that surprise me but often they provide a stumbling block for which I must practice awareness.

I am stuck to writing because I can’t live and not write. It is as essential as breathing. Although sometimes I wish I’d been gifted with an ability with maths instead. Who knows, maybe in another life I’d have been an accountant.

Tapestry & Other Problems

I’ve been busy. With Anomaly Issue 3 slowly coming together (though there is a long way to go yet, and lots more to put in), actual bill-paying work and general life stuff, I’ve been writing quite a bit.

Pretty much whenever I find the spare time, really. Which is good, and clearly this year I’ve been productive so far. In four months I’ve written 23 poems. Not all of them wonderful, three or four pretty unusable but I never throw anything away. I have six poems coming out in five literary journals so far this year- and aiming for more.

As well as this, I’m starting to put together, tweak and arrange a poetry pamphlet, titled ‘Tapestry‘. It’s odd how, though each poem inhabits its own world, placed in the right order, they arrange a collective world unto themselves. I can see the voices of certain poems which I’m moving away from and the developing voice I’m currently writing under blooming in others. I’m not sure what to think of it. In fact, I get the general sense I’m a little dazed and addled on days when I spend the majority of it writing.

I go outside for a cigarette and feel like a prisoner suddenly released and set upon the world. Or the backyard. The woodpigeons don’t look enthralled to see me but maybe it’s just that the bench I like sitting on in the garden is too close to their giant Cherry Blossom for comfort. Who knows.

I go back and forth thinking the emerging pamphlet (God knows if it will even get seen by anyone) is decent, or just that it has some decent poems. I get to a point where I can’t tell.

I would give anything for the kind of money that meant I could take a month off and lock myself in a cabin and just write. I can dream.

A long-winded rant about… well, the kind of poetry I write. Basically.

Someone- well, most people once they find out I write poetry (I don’t run about telling everyone, because it makes me feel salacious)- once asked me what kind of poetry I write. I genuinely had no idea how to answer. Mainly because, if pressed, I had no idea how to answer. I had never really thought about it. Yes, gasp that gasp in horror but it’s true.

When submitting poetry to literary journals, 90% of the time they want a professional submission. Like, say, for example…

Dear [editor]

My name is Blah Blah, I am blah-age/have lived/am from BLAH. I have previously had poems published in Blah Magazine, BLAHBLAH!, and Blahdeblah: issue 5 etc…
I have included four poems attached below and I would very much appreciate your time in considering my work.
All poems included are as of yet unpublished…

Well, you get the general jist.

You can see a slice of it on my home page. It wasn’t until recently when I read a magazine I really thought was interesting in their approach that I realised they wanted their writers to submit and pitch their writing to them- I began sweating immediately and though I am clearly (ever-so-slightly) under thirty and have testicles, I believe I may have experienced a hot flush. And by ‘pitch’ I mean really try and sell it to them- that I came up against that question yet again.

What kind of poetry do you write?

I had no idea. I’d never successfully descibed the poetry I write before. It took me two strong coffees and twice as many cigarettes to get my way through that one and even then, what I wrote was only passable. I think I recall my partner asking me to give him an answer to this question once and to my detriment, I think I gave him the better, far more eloquent version. However, for the sake of some kind of explaination to the weird poetic landscape you might find here, I have included beneath what I said to that magazine- and yes, they did want a very casual response, this is not at all how I would respond to a journal whose tone was more generally formal. Also, keep in mind, some of the poems featured here are from years ago- look at the dates below them. I did actually improve! Though I do have some more which are far better that will not be seen here until they are published, for reasons that will be explained.

…what I attempt to do with my poetry is to try to take real experiences and feelings and incorporate the confessional parts of them into a kind of dream state through imagery- to build a world that each poem inhabits, but taken together, form a recognisable world to the poems before them.

Everyone has their own way of seeing the world, just as every writer has their own way of writing about it. I attempt, as much as I can, to try to steer clear of bland, transparent writing or imagery. I enjoy reading poems, as most people do, that incorporate a world into the length of the poem. A poem you can get lost in is the only kind of poem that matters. Imagery is the foundation stone of poetry, without it, the reader is unabsorbed and the poem fails. In a way, I think a good poem should be a weapon- it should hit you.

I find it difficult to describe my own work because to me it makes sense, or it’s how I make sense of my world- somewhere bordering on fantasy, a little darkness along the edges and maybe a little more unconventional than most poets my age. It’s half-confessional, dressed up in fantasy, with a tint of darkness…”

I’m not certain for sure yet (because I haven’t gotten the death knell of a response so far), but personally I don’t think I did what my country men would refer to as ‘a decent job’ of it. I’ve never had to write about it before. No one asks you to describe your work when you submit poems for publication, the work ought to speak for itself. Although, the reason I submitted was precisely because I loved the idea that you ought to talk about it, you should try and pitch it because if you can’t classify it and make it sound decent, how do you know as a writer exactly what you’re trying to do with it?

I wasn’t entirely comfortable with it- because I’d never had to do it before- but I did enjoy it. If I could rewrite that now, I would agree with most of it but I wish I’d spoken more about how imagery is the key thing for me. A poem should feel, on reading it, like a film reel turning in your mind’s eye, you should not only read but see it. It should hit you, it should go off like a verbal and visual bomb and what’s killing me about this blog post is that the two poems I most feel do this have not yet been published and I cannot publish them here. To do so would mean no other publication- like a literary journal or magazine- would publish them. To publish something even on your own blog means it has technically been published and so will not be accepted for publication elsewhere. Not always the case but if you do it and you submit to say, The New Yorker (and believe me, even smaller, very professional journals you might not have heard of), well you better hope your blog is untraceable because that poem is not getting in. You’ve already published it and that counts.

Which is somewhat annoying as I feel those two poems I mentioned llustrate quite well what I’m trying to talk about. At least I think they do, I mean maybe if at some point I’m delighted that they do get published then you can be the judge of that- poetry’s all subjective. But that’s neither here nor there, so now I’m rambling. I do that (clearly).

For me- and it’s only because it’s how I write, obviously different writers feel differently and have differing techniques- imagery is the most important thing. It is what personally grips me every time. Poetry should be the utmost use of language, the highest use of the art using the least amount of words possible. Without impact, without imagery that strikes and assaults you, the poet is nothing more than a ‘poet’ and has failed.

I’m not outside of that, I fail on a daily basis most of the time but then, that’s what makes it so much fun. It’s when you feel like you haven’t failed and you realise you’ve actually created something sort of worthwhile that makes you appreciate the task it is to make it in the first place.

Even if no-one ever sees it… But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep doing it, if that’s what you feel compelled to do.

So until next time, when likely I will post some random cat videos or something. Maybe even a Vlog post (Sweet Jesus!). Slán!

Poems

Asylum

Definition: (Oxford English Dictionary)
…1.1: Shelter or protection from danger.
2. dated An institution for the care of people who are mentally ill.

In the courtyard
the manic woman isscreaming.

Her walking stick at war
with the blood-red heads
of the roses.

A nurse stands idly by.
She takes notes.

I was in one piece once
until my mind bent and broke
like a river.

My last oar nothing
more than a bottle of pills
and a penance.

God is a deaf woman half gone,
knitting her gaudy silks,
each stitch a vicious mistake.

Now this: four walls
and a rubber mattress, some lunatics
and a mind twisting and untwisting
a vivid tapestry of breaks.

Elegantly they click one
to the other, like squalid dominoes.

The doctor is an idiot;
plying me with pills that do nothing
but make me quiet and fat-

dull-eyed
and dumb as a zoo animal.

None of us know what to say.
We blink at each other as we pass,
flaming satellites in some fucked vacuum.

Let us be done with it:
let us speak of it no more
and let it off,

never again to be spoken of-
like a bad relative.

On comes the night
wielding its train of atrocities.
The stars align in perpetual bliss.

A schizophrenic has taken to calling me
Eleanor.

I am shimmering.

One white, three yellow, one blue:
one for mania, three for depression,
one for everything in succession.

Outside my parents have parked the car.

Over the linoleum
and the stench of bleach,
their two sweet

heads loom toward me
determined,
loving and empty-

two balloons.

Published in Octavius Magazine, July 2015. Eunoia Review, September 2015.

The Snare

There are four walls, a window, an exit.
And that thing trapped inside
could be an animal.

You would swear it were being skinned alive
it is making such a racket.

And a banging,
like a hammer on a wall-
relentless.

The trapper arrives,
dragging his Christ wine.

Now I am a statue-
if I am silent, maybe, and perfectly still
I will be set free.

Mere mouthfuls and my blood
is a tonic of opiates-

a sea of poppies bloom in me, flush
sweet tinctures blending a terror of images

and a voice whose face I cannot see
as my own flushed lungs
gasp at atrocities.

Unrelenting jolts of light
and a stench of salt
engulf me.

The mirror is a screen
throwing his own image back at him:
ludicrous in its parade of extravagance;

a glitter of fetishes lavished
over a parcel of meat

decorous in its straps,
unfurling its humility.

The world slides back-
stripped down finally, to a singularity:
a finale that slams in, hard as an anvil.

Daylight is dyeing the walls
the colour of blood.

Sound has become a physical thing-
an object like a table or chair;
the knife that skirts
the jugular.

This is night then, draped in its vacuous black.

The window is a void in the wall
I cannot get to.

Outside the moon admonishes the stars
in their cold multitudes.

I am not important-
empty vessel of shrieks
the walls muffle and eat.

The moon sees nothing.

When at last the snare rips open
and parts like the sea,
I feel sure I am walking on water.

I have snapped shut,
so tight now even the pain is sweet.

I have nine more lives,
and I juggle them like knives.

A real Jesus feat.

Published in Octavius Magazine, July 2015. Included in The Great British Write Off Anothology 2015.

For O.

All I remember: late evening
and the sun honing itself
diligently above leaves
of the tamarisks in the distance-

and from the ground the sound of crickets;
a chorus in the grasses,
that- and a small well of anguish
ripping itself up from my root.

The sun has no memory- burning
and extinguishing itself,
night after night
like an amnesiac.

Back then, I didn’t know you existed.
Now the well has dried up-
it is silenced, the crickets are singing.

Here are the bees,
their war cries a concord of humming.
The convoys have arrived, demanding their honey.

The leaves of the tamarisks
whisper distantly: Love, love-
I have told them your name.

For O.‘ was first published in Boyne Berries: Issue 14, September 2013.

The Return

I have been silent
since you left- and shall remain so as though all sound
swept from the room with your absence.
I wait and count the hours,
still, voiceless
and patient as a stone.
All I have- your cigarettes,
a half-drunk coffee,
your scent on the sheets
and the echo of your lips on mine.
I have been silent
since you left-
and shall remain so
’til your absence meets its return
when my whole being leans toward you
once again craving and thirsting,
patient as a stone.

The Return‘ was published in Breath & Shadow, 2011.

Jilted

The mushroom cloud billows to the cup rim.
Eyes watch the black
slip back from the windows.

Cobalt spreads over firmaments
frisked by frost.

The glass panes are scratched
with ice-streaks.

I think first of shards I could shape,
jagged and bitten with rime.
Fingers tap the cup’s waist.

Mouth slides
open releasing a shaky sigh,
leaving breath on the pane.

He leaves today, and you,
you count the hours and seconds.

Try not to think of splinters,
or heartstrings of pain.

When the cup is abandoned, like Medea,
it will grow cold in the absence,
in disdain.

Jilted‘ was published in Eratio Post-modern Poetry Issue: 6, 2005.