•August 31, 2012 • Leave a Comment

This moon poem is so seeming small but with such an open heart that to say too much might disturb it. All that should be noted then is that it was written by T.E.Hulme, friend of Ezra Pound and avatar of the imagist movement. The play it describes must have been I think all the same rather consequent and solemn.

Above the Dock

Above the quiet dock in mid night
Tangled in the tall mast’s corded height,
Hangs the moon. What seemed so far away
Is but a child’s balloon, forgotten after play.


A Lunar Baedeker

•July 1, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Mina Loy is a poet not quite like anyone else. She seems to have had at least four careers and nine lives. Still, her weirdly worded strange (and estranged) geographies penetrate places other poems don’t reach, and in this anticipate Elizabeth Bishop without sounding at all like her. Hardly surprising: she writes as if in a foreign language; from the far side of the moon. Where better then to look for poems about the moon than in The Lost Lunar Baedeker (Carcanet, 1996, ed. Roger Conover), which contains the best (and most openly, consistently edited) selection of her poems. The edition is like some of her poems, with the working on the outside.

I can’t make up my mind if the following moon poem is profound or mischievous. But then, it is perhaps as contradictory a poem as its contradictory parts, holding incompatibles in humorous tensions: ‘unendurable ease’, ‘thermal icicles’, and ‘inverse dawn’ (a dusk?).  Nor do I know what might lie beneath those three em dashes. Maybe they are naughty. Maybe not. This too makes them rather like the poem.

Moreover, the Moon –– –– ––

Face of the skies
over our wonder.

truant of heaven
draw us under.

Silver, circular corpse
your decease
infects us with unendurable ease,

touching nerve-terminals
to thermal icicles

Coercive as coma, frail as bloom
innuendoes of your inverse dawn
suffuse the self;
our every corpuscle become an elf.

Alla luna

•February 20, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Giacomo Leopardi was born three years after Keats in 1798, and died in the same year as Pushkin, in 1837. The feeling of his time made him a thoroughgoing Romantic, but he had a Classicist’s attention to the ancient past. The moon contained for him therefore manifold and venerable associations lurking in shadows; so landscapes flooded by moonlight feature in many of his poems. None does so however so simply and touchingly as in the following lyric ‘Alla Luna’. This seems to have begun life as a sonnet, but on reflection the last two lines were added. I couldn’t find a translation, quite, that I liked; I wanted to keep the last two lines intact. So I attempted one of my own, which appears below.

Alla luna

O graziosa luna, io mi rammento
Che, or volge l’anno, sovra questo colle
Io venia pien d’angoscia a rimirarti:
E tu pendevi allor su quella selva
Siccome or fai, che tutta la rischiari.
Ma nebuloso e tremulo dal pianto
Che mi sorgea sul ciglio, alle mie luci
Il tuo volto apparia, che travagliosa
Era mia vita: ed è, né cangia stile,
0 mia diletta luna. E pur mi giova
La ricordanza, e il noverar l’etate
Del mio dolore. Oh come grato occorre
Nel tempo giovanil, quando ancor lungo
La speme e breve ha la memoria il corso,
Il rimembrar delle passate cose,
Ancor che triste, e che l’affanno duri!

To the Moon

O moon of grace, I remember how,
One year gone, climbing this hilltop
I came to gaze on you in anguish:
And you hung silent over that wood,
Just as now, filling all with light.
But trembling and clouded by tears
That burst out from my eyelashes
Your face appeared, so troubled was my
Life; and still, so little changes,
O my sweet moon. And yet I’m ravished
By recollection, and reckoning up
The ages of my pain. How sweet to think
Of when we were young, when long on hope
And short on memory, time waited –
The remembrance of things past –
Though things were sad, and troubles last.

First Love

•November 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Yeats is really the master of moon poetry. There are so many moon poems to choose from it seems  just to pick one. Much of his philosophical systematizing was based on the moon’s cycle, which produced poems as different as the violent ‘Blood and the Moon’, and the quiet, insinuating ‘The Cat and the Moon’, which compares the crescent moon to a cat’s pupils. He had begun mooning much earlier, of course, and in successive versions of ‘The Sorrow of Love’ its moon changes from ‘curd-pale’ to ‘crumbling’ to ‘climbing’, as it is emptied of poeticisms the better to stand starkly symbolic. Perhaps these revisions inspired a bitter love poem that insisted itself on me and made me reread it again and again recently – with some of its language stripped astonishingly bare (it was written the same year as ‘Sailing to Byzantium’, in 1926) it reads almost like a brutal folk tale, and the coldness and frenzy and longing of it seems properly lunatic.

First Love

Though nutured like the sailing moon
In beauty’s murderous brood,
She walked awhile and blushed awhile
And on my pathway stood
Until I thought her body bore
A heart of flesh and blood.

But since I laid a hand thereon
And found a heart of stone
I have attempted many things
And not a thing is done,
For every hand is lunatic
That travels on the moon.

She smiled and that transfigured me
And left me but a lout,
Maundering here, and maundering there,
Emptier of thought
Than the heavenly circuit of its stars
When the moon sails out.

(from ‘A Man Young and Old’, The Tower 1928)

Just say no

•October 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

We interrupt these whimsical literary musings with a non-party political broadcast..

 Come on Ireland, just say NO! Presidential candidate Sean Gallagher is a man who

a) in 2009 gave himself an illegal tax-evading interest-free loan of €82, 829 from his public speaking company to his personal account. His accountants noticed and informed him he was breaking the law. He now claims this was an accidental clerical error. This is either corrupt or a matter of the most enormous incompetence (the loan was worth 70% of the company).

b) claimed that he with his cable expertise company, subcontractors of big property developers, to have created 100 jobs. He admitted yesterday that in the downturn he had to get rid of 80 people. That’s 20 jobs then Sean. Hardly Microsoft. And having been sacked twice yourself you’ll know tough it is. Let’s bring this entrepreneurial spirit to the Aras.

c) boasted in January 2009 of ‘a long record of involvement and commitment to Fianna Fail over the past 30 years’. Nothing wrong with this, except then to serve on the National Executive of Fianna Fail for two years, resigning in January 2011, and then to run as an ‘independent’ presidential candidate 5 months later following the March election meltdown is hardly credible. The same January 2009 letter remembers ‘I first served on the National Executive with Charlie Haughey in 1985-1987’, and notes his work as Political Secretary to Rory O’Hanlon as Fianna Fail Minister for Health and Minister for the Environment, and as a ‘full time’ fundraiser for the party ‘in Fianna Fail headquarters’. These are not the actions of a ‘grass-roots’ member, which he claims to be.

d) lied yesterday on live television.  He claimed he did not organise and personally collect donations for a 2008 Fianna Fail fundraiser. He did. Under closer questioning he then panicked, and eventually backtracked. He was forced to admit driving to a house to drop off photographs of the event. He still denied accepting there a €5000 donation. Under further pressure he admitted he might have taken a brown envelope. Ye Gods. It seems the businessman involved was also a convicted criminal.

It doesn’t matter who people vote for but surely, surely no voting  preferences should go to this man. From his own testimony he is a liar, a crook, and an ‘independent’ candidate who is fact an influential executive and fundraiser for a corrupt political party whose decisions condemned Ireland to economic armageddon.

Here are reputable printed sources for a) the illegal loan

c) the Fianna Fail connection

d) the €5000 donation

For b) visit here

and for all of these stories here’s a link to the RTE Frontline Presidential debate

Remember Zammo, Ireland. Just say no. Don’t listen don’t listen to anyone else. All you gotta do is be yourself.

Cats are not to be depinded on

•October 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment

W.B.Yeats spent much of the late 1880s writing to the poet Kathleen Tynan, praising her work, offering her advice, correcting the rhythms of her poems. Part of this was justifying (to himself as to her) his living with his family in ‘hateful London’ with its miserable poor, offensively rich, and literary men without convictions. His letters though describe his own precocious convictions beautifully, and an increasing attraction towards the whirl. Occasionally he was able to leave and consider his tenacious imaginative hold on the Irish west, and what it meant to him and to his writing, as in this lively letter. There is some of the strain of self-presentation here, but I see nothing of the cynicism he has latterly been accused of. He was also, as it happens, the most vibrant and unexpected of letter writers, always a pleasure to go back to:

to Katherine Tynan [13 Aug 1887]

Rosses Point, Sligo

You will see by the top of this letter that I am down at Sligo. I reached here Thursday morning about 2 oc having come by Liverpool but will return by Dublin perhaps.

Have been making a search for people to tell me fairy stories and found one or two. […] It is a wonderfully beautiful day the air is full of trembling light. The very feel of the familiar Sligo earth puts me in good spirits. I should like to live here always not out of liking for the people so much as for the earth and the sky here, though I like the people too. I went to see yesterday a certain cobler of my acquaintance and he discoursed over his cat as though he had walked out of one of Kickhams novels “Cats are not to be depinded upon” he said and told me how a neighbours cat had gone up the evening before to the top of a tree where a blackbird used to sing every night “and pulled him down” and then he finished sadly with “cats are not to be depinded upon”. [ here follows some found verses and other stories…]

Your Friend

W B Yeats

PS […] How does your article go on? I wish it were an Irish article, though at the comencement one I supose cannot chose ones own subjects always; but remember by being as Irish as you can you will be the more origonal and true to your self and in the long run more interesting even to English readers.

I am going now to a farm house where they have promised me fairy tales so I can write no more.

W.B.Yeats and the Arts

•August 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment
W.B.Yeats and the Arts begins on Friday 26th August at 12 noon.
See http://echoforum.wordpress.comfor more details.  
%d bloggers like this: