Friday, October 07, 2005

ADM 105 Photography and text project

Here are the texts for the ADM105 Photography Narrative project. They're available here for a week or so and then the post will be taken down.

Charles Simic won the Griffin Poetry Prize for Poetry in 2005. Of his work the judges said

“Simic is something of a magician, a conjuror. Out of nothing it seems, out of thin air, the poems appear before our eyes. One apparently casual observation leads to another, and suddenly, exponentially, we are spellbound. It is a trick many have tried to imitate but few have achieved. At the centre of Simic’s art is a disarming, deadpan precision, which should never be mistaken for simplicity. Everything appears pared back to the solid and the essential, and it is this economy of vocabulary and clarity of diction which have made his poetry so portable and so influential wherever it is published. Simic is one of the few poets of our time to achieve both critical and popular acclaim; he is genuinely quotable, and it is entirely possible that some of his phrases and lines will lodge in the common memory. Without any hint of loftiness, then, and from a position which is entirely his own, Simic manages to speak to the many and not just the few.”

Charles Simic

The White Room

The obvious is difficult
To prove. Many prefer
The hidden. I did, too.
I listened to the trees.

They had a secret
Which they were about to
Make known to me--
And then didn’t.

Summer came. Each tree
On my street had its own
Scheherazade. My nights
Were a part of their wild

Storytelling. We were
Entering dark houses,
Always more dark houses,
Hushed and abandoned.

There was someone with eyes closed
On the upper floors.
The fear of it, and the wonder,
Kept me sleepless.

The truth is bald and cold,
Said the woman
Who always wore white.
She didn’t leave her room.

The sun pointed to one or two
Things that had survived
The long night intact.
The simplest things,

Difficult in their obviousness.
They made no noise.
It was the kind of day
People described as "perfect."

Gods disguising themselves
As black hairpins, a hand-mirror,
A comb with a tooth missing?
No! That wasn’t it.

Just things as they are,
Unblinking, lying mute
In that bright light--
And the trees waiting for the night.

Peter Sirr

Peter Street

I’d grown almost to love this street,
each time I passed looking up
to pin my father’s face to a window, feel myself

held in his gaze. Today there’s a building site
where the hospital stood and I stop and stare
stupidly at the empty air, looking for him.

I’d almost pray some ache remain
like a flaw in the structure, something unappeasable
waiting in the fabric, between floors, in some

obstinate, secret room. A crane moves
delicately in the sky, in its own language.
Forget all that, I think as I pass, make it

a marvellous house; music should roam the corridors,
joy readily occur, St Valentine’s
stubborn heart come floating from Whitefriar street

to prevail, to undo injury, to lift my father from his bed,
let himclimb down the dull red brick, effortlessly,
and run off with his life in his hands.

Miroslav Holub
The Door

Go and open the door.
Maybe outside there’s
a tree, or a wood,
a garden,
or a magic city.

Go and open the door.
Maybe a dog’s rummaging.
Maybe you’ll see a face,
or an eye,
or the picture
of a picture.

Go and open the door.
If there’s a fog
it will clear.

Go and open the door.
Even if there’s only
the darkness ticking,
even if there’s only
the hollow wind,
even if
is there,
go and open the door.

At least
there’ll be
a draught.

The Old Dream

(after Brecht)

The old dream again: the market’s collapsed,
I can’t shift a thing, the wolf
is lunging though the door.
Outside, the fishmonger is speaking in tongues

and my friends and relations look through me
as if they’d never seen me before.
The woman I slept with for seven years
nods politely on the landing, and passes me by.

I know all the rooms are empty, I know
the furniture has vanished, the mattress is slashed
and the curtains have been ripped from the windows.
No effort has been spared: I walk into the yard and see

my washing fluttering on the line, I know it well
though closer inspection reveals
a new patch here, an extra button there – it seems
I’ve moved. Someone else is living here now,

buttoning my shirt in the gloom, reaching
for my shoes. . .

(translated by Peter Sirr)

Bob Dylan

Man in the Long Black Coat

Crickets are chirpin’, the water is high,
There’s a soft cotton dress on the line hangin’ dry,
Window wide open, African trees
Bent over backwards from a hurricane breeze.
Not a word of goodbye, not even a note,
She gone with the man
In the long black coat.

Somebody seem him hanging around
At the old dance hall on the outskirts of town.
He looked into her eyes when she stopped him to ask
If he wanted to dance, he had a face like a mask.
Somebody said from the Bible he’d quote
There was dust on the man
In the long black coat.

Preacher was a talkin’, there’s a sermon he gave,
He said every man’s conscience is vile and depraved,
You cannot depend on it to be your guide
When it’s you who must keep it satisfied.
It ain’t easy to swallow, it sticks in the throat,
She gave her heart to the man
In the long black coat.

There are no mistakes in life some people say
It is true sometimes you can see it that way.
But people don’t live or die, people just float.
She went with the man
In the long black coat.

There’s smoke on the water, it’s been there since June,
Tree trunks uprooted, ‘neath the high crescent moon
Feel the pulse and vibration and the rumbling force
Somebody is out there beating a dead horse.
She never said nothing, there was nothing she wrote,
She gone with the man
In the long black coat.

Peter Sirr



Right here, right now
on the lavender sack
by the olive trays

a scoop of olives
for your mouth
and goat’s cheese for your thighs

let me
lie down with you
in the havoc of the market. . .


Because you gust through the room
making things occur,

the fruit to fly from the fruit-bowl
and the furniture to quail,

because the olives are all over
and the meal

may never recover,
tonight’s outpost

of the empire of laughter
invents a ceremony:

the orange touch, the olive kiss,
the lying down, it seemed forever,

in juiced rain and lavender storm


Cry Hunger, Hunger
silencing the vendors, causing

the buyers to stare. Such
havocs of tenderness

wreak there
spices will fly, lavender rain

on the city,
the sky grey with November,

the heart with old anger.
With tang, with colour

baffle them, bless them,
and the sound of laughter.

Gyorgi Petri

Morning Coffee

I like the cold rooms of autumn, sitting
early in the morning at an open window,
or on the roof, dressing-gown drawn close,
the valley and the morning coffee glowing –
this cooling, that warming.

Red and yellow multiply, but the green
wanes, and into the mud the leaves
fall – fall in heaps,
the devalued currency of summer:
so much of it! so worthless !

Gradually the sky’s
downy grey turns blue, the slight
chill dies down. The tide
of day comes rolling in –
in waves, gigantic, patient, barrelling.

I can start to carry on. I give myself up
to an impersonal imperative.

Translated from the Hungarian by Clive Wilmer and George Gömöri

Poet in Residence

This blog is by way of introduction to me and is also intended as a channel of communication during my term of residency in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown/IADT. Think of it as the virtual office of the residency, feel free to drop in, post an idea, a response, or conduct relevant business. Check this blog first to find out what’s going on, when the next workshop is, or join in the discussion and/or the other literary excitements that may blossom on this little patch of the cyber planet.

Some information about me: I’ve published seven collections of poems with The Gallery Press. These are: Marginal Zones (1984); Talk, Talk (1987); Ways of Falling (1991); The Ledger of Fruitful Exchange (1995); Bring Everything (2000); Selected Poems (2004); Nonetheless (2004). I've lived most of my life in Dublin, with longish spells in Holland and Italy. Am married to another poet (!), Enda Wyley, and we live in the city centre with daughter Freya (born May 2005) and a mad West Highland terrier who is barking outside as I write this, looking for his breakfast. I'm also the current editor of Poetry Ireland Review, the quarterly poetry journal of the national poetry organisation. You'll find a link to Poetry Ireland, in the links column on the right. Until 2003 I was director of the Irish Writers' Centre in Parnell Square, but have now opted for the fruitful wilderness of freelance-dom. Help!

As resident writer for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown/IADT I'll be running workshops, presenting a series of readings, and performing various other writing-related tasks which will be detailed here. The first workshop will be for IADT students and will take place between September and Christmas, most likely on Thursday evenings at 5 pm. Full details to be posted later. The workshop will draw on poetry, since that's what I do, but we'll venture into all kinds of other territories since the skills and excitements and surprises of all forms of writing are connected. What you learn from a poem can be applied to a filmscript, what you learn from a story can likewise be brought to bear on the next poem. Sample texts and participants' work will also feature in the blog.

Since the residency is partly based in an institution with a variety of artistic flavours I'm particularly interested in a collaborative project that mixes up poetry with one or more of the audio/visual arts. I have a couple of ideas but would love to hear from anyone who might be interested in coming aboard for preliminary discussions. Again, if something does come out of it, details will be posted here.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Readings in IADT

One of my residency tasks is to run a series of readings in IADT. This will kick off on Wednesday 16 November with my own inaugural reading, and this will be followed by four subsequent readings, each of which will involve a poet and a prose writer.The readings are presented by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Council, IADT and Poetry Ireland. The full schedule will be posted here in due course. In the meantime, here are a couple of pre-Christmas dates:

Wednesday, 16 November: Inaugural Reading with Writer in Residence Peter Sirr.

Wednesday, 7 December: Readings with Hugo Hamilton and Julie O'Callaghan.

Hugo Hamilton was born in Dublin of Irish-German parentage. He has brought elements of his dual identity to his novels Surrogate City (London, Faber & Faber,1990); The Last Shot (Faber & Faber, 1991); and The Love Test (Faber & Faber, 1995) His stories were collected as Dublin Where the Palm Trees Grow (Faber & Faber, 1996. His later novels are Headbanger (London, Secker & Warburg, 1996); and Sad Bastard (Secker & Warburg, 1998). He has also published a memoir of his Irish-German childhood, The Speckled People (London, Fourth Estate, 2003). In 1992, he was awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. He lives in Dublin.

Julie O'Callaghan was born in Chicago in 1954 and has lived in Ireland since 1974. Her collections of poetry for adults include Edible Anecdotes (Dublin, Dolmen, 1983), which was a London Poetry Society Recommendation; What's What (Newcastle Upon Tyne, Bloodaxe Books, 1991); and No Can Do (Bloodaxe Books, 2000), which was a London Poetry Book Society Choice. Her poems for older children have appeared in numerous anthologies in the UK, including the New Oxford Book of Children's Verse, and in school texts in Ireland, England, and Canada. Her children's poems are collected in Bright Lights Blaze Out (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1986); Cambridge Contemporary Poets 2 (Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press, 1992), and in two full-length collections, Taking My Pen for a Walk (London, Orchard, 1988); and Two Banks (Bloodaxe Books, 1988). Her new collection for children will be published by Faber in 2006. She has received the Michael Hartnett Prize for poetry and is a member of the Irish academy of arts, Aosdána.

Featured post

Eastword Ho!

This is the latest from the Dublin essays I've been working on. This time I'm prowling the tangled history and contemporary rea...