Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Avant-garde Apologia

This piece was sparked into being by the reply of an Irish poet, Mary O'Donnell, responding to a long comment on avant-garde poetics, that I had published on a Facebook Poetry page, who wrote:  

This is probably worth writing an article about if you—who are you?—care about what you say. There’s no reason not to.


The article is already written, published, and available for all to read here.

Once a piece of spontaneous speculative experimental writing is written and in the purest meaning 'published', and after i have read the copy, tinkered with it, followed an instinctive editorial process I have always worked by, then arrived at the end of it; any residual desire to read the piece printed elsewhere, to send it out and see it approved of and published by another, evaporates.

I know many will find this perhaps a very perplexing attitude, someone with an experimental writing practice wholly online, that is not engaged in the business of submitting, accruing publishing credits, and constructing a public persona and literary reputation in the usual traditional and transparently orthodox way.

But this is due to a variety of factors. Not least the accident of birth, various personal experiences, and deliberate educational choices made in life. That combined add up to being spiritually blessed by the Tuatha De Danann people of the goddess art with a gift that brought me a uniquely bardic path, instinctive grasp and acquired understanding of what poetry is, where it comes from, and how it works in a person, body and mind, soul and spirit.

I do not worry about my poetic worth, lóg enech, and 'face price' that all Irish poets and bardic luvvies once measured one another's worldly reputations by. 

I have learned how to write and earn a rhyme on a wholly different and ancient literary path and route that leads to learning of and acquiring the keys and codes with which to unlock what others whose journeys in letters do not arrive at the same source of literary inspiration and attainment, perceive as an impenetrable mystery, and consider it a waste of time spending twenty years learning. But to oneself it is merely the Auraicept na n-Éces, Precepts of Poetry.

I am content to be following as coherently as I can in the footsteps of those that came before us. Who lived in letters for 1200 years before all trace of their aristocratic self-publishing manuscript tradition was virtually erased from the public consciousness. But their curriculum, tradition, and literary works are all there residing still in black and white apple pie order, in the original Gaelic and English translation, for anyone to discover, read, love, and learn by; secure in the knowledge they are on the most historically validated, tried and tested, genuine and authentic, living literary path trod by forty unbroken generations of Irish poets.

One crucial factor making me happy out being radically different to others, is arriving later to writing in life than most, after two decades wandering clueless, lost in the dark, working a continual series of short lived manual construction jobs on building sites and later in offices, before what the British Hungarian poet, George Szirtes, calls the secret levers of the universe were operated, and, as if by some otherworldly design, my writing vocation appeared.

Beginning this long route into letters digging, for real, on a shovel, with the old fella, since an early age.

But starting out in literary terms playing Malvolio in Twelfth Night on the school stage as a verbally gifted fourteen year old class clown and would be thespian.

During this earliest schoolboy process of rote memorization learning how to hear, listen, recite and understand what to most at that age is complex and off putting poncey and pretentious Shakespearean verse. But having drunk at a precociously early age a full bardic proof of the English language, the light of a very bright inner flame and life long love of competitive spoken word was lit. And although it came close to going out once or twice, has, touch wood, never left me as a source of succor and escape, especially during the long hard years when I was still yet to write anything down.

And in a typical tale I spent the first two decades of my dream life, reliant on only my youthful good looks and natural unschooled wit. Going nowhere after dropping out in the second year of sixth form to pursue a career in showbiz at the Baskin Robbins concession counter of the Piccadilly Plaza cinema on Lower Regent Street.

Due to a combination of youthful arrogance, delusion, hubris and fate, I was unable to find a way into realizing my earliest childish dream of becoming an actor making a mix of global celluloid blockbusters and art house classics, in between performing seminal roles on the stages of National Theatres across the Anglophone world.

I decided that life was too short to waste another year going the university route, that the easiest and quickest way to realize my dream was quit education and get a job serving ice cream, and wait for Steven Spielberg to order a cone of rocky road and spot the magic behind the costume of a young actory dreamer with a head full of poetry; then make me an offer and whisk me off to la la land to get working on the movies that would cement my early reputation as the next Kenneth Branagh.


 But I learned on the long and difficult sixteen year route ahead that waiting for others to spot and recognize what talent I thought i knew I possessed, meant that the only main stages I was performing on were up scaffolds installing suspended ceilings, and in a trench digging footings.

And so by the time the first piece of spontaneous writing appeared when I was sat at my lowest point in a law office on the Old Kent Road, January second 2001, toiling away depressed, my life a joke, living in a Wood Green bedsit on the 5-9, up at five am and back home at nine pm, an unqualified, underpaid, overworked para-legal desk-jockey reading and writing all day voluminous amounts of information of various kinds, and precising it down into apple pie briefs for London's wealthiest and most successful barristers; I was simply overjoyed that finally the birth into reality of my earliest dream of being a language artist, had begun.

As I sat there miserable at the start of the new millennium, for the first time after a year of wanting to but nothing happening, I began writing what I could see. Fag butts in an ash tray. And from documenting my misery, quickly my mind moved into mapping closest to thought in my own inner voice documenting a two page anecdote that popped out, writing at thought-speed, detached and happy, laughing inwardly and loving this brand new spiritual activity. 

And for the sixty minutes it took to complete, I was lost in my own imagination, joyous, focused, carried away by the new and strange but perfectly natural feeling of doing what I was born to.

And when I woke from the compositional dream and returned to normal consciousness, my depressing joke of a life seemed that tiny bit less miserable than before the writing popped out. And what had just occurred felt very special, very new, fragile, but a slight opening. Thus, after two decades, finally, showbiz had beckoned.

And instead of being an actor saying other people's lines, I could now make up my own, and perform the voices that filled my head on the page, present them and eventually myself perfectly. Remake the juddering stumbling bum brain once bright that had dimmed in light and had nearly gone out. Which was were I had ended up after two decades of utter confusion and not working out how to practically realise my dream of being a language artist.

A light that would be rekindled with joyous effort and much studious cerebral will; return and reignite the flames fanned upon the page by writing and losing oneself in the creative literary process, composing oneself happy, step by self-sustaining joyful step. Exactly, I discovered three years later on stumbling across his prose, as Heaney described his own practice.

A lifelong series of laying down spontaneous literary events, letters on a page, and journeys of spiritual departure and return.

I was just very relieved to have been blessed with this burning gift of imagination by Her now in heaven who gave me birth, guides these hands to move, and of whom now i write in praise. Relieved then, fourteen years before our mother died, that I would no longer have to rely for happiness and love solely on my looks and bare unschooled wit honed on building sites, digging.

Overjoyed that I had the beginnings of a vocation, that I could use the material of my years in silence and put the sorrow and joy to comedic and poetic use on the page, and keep my mind occupied instead of sliding into the second half of life just another working-class English person with an identity trapped in the chains of mental slavery, suffocated and silenced at birth by a thousand year old cultural class system. Its boot on the throat and at the very bottom of it.

The English class system that had its equivalent here in the all pervasive societal control of the Catholic Church. Populated by the cruel single damaged men that culturally and mentally abused, defiled, defined, controlled, oppressed and suppressed the human potential of virtually every single Irish citizen on the island during its worst period of sickening cultural deformation over the first eight post-Independence decades after the establishment of our Republic.

Just one of the scores of millions of working class English people without any connection to, or form of, an individually authentic literary voice with which to register one's presence and kick against the hundreds of millions of pricks in Anglophone culture that decide, judge, and measure every single success, failure and moment that I, they and we individually and collectively spend together on this earth, solely in material and monetary terms.

And so here we are, an accident of birth, alive at this time of electronic virtual reality that has changed how we read and write, and that is entirely responsible for the creation of this wholly online practice of experimental speculative discourse.

Arriving here by setting out convinced I was on the right course if I kept my head down, plodded on, ignored what the shiny shouting highly competitive mass of other ambitious luvvies were acting was the way to do it, and just stuck with the unique unimprovable original set-textual bardic filidh curriculum that produced the vast majority of Her poets, and which I studied to completion in English translation, from 2001-17.

A course of study and curriculum that has only been possible to centre a contemporary practice of spontaneous experimental speculative discourse in since the turn of the millennium. 

Because before that all the voluminous amount of set textual material that makes up what in the original was learned over twelve six-month Samhain to Beltaine semesters, was practically impossible to access unless you lived in Dublin and attended UCD, Trinity college, or the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, and had the ears of, and a willingness to mentor you, the very cliquey and insular Old Irish professors running the Celtic Studies departments.

My vision is the same as the Bellaghy bard's. Once the writing is done, the piece can appear in a million books or one printed copy locked in a drawer and unread by all but the author, but the words, the text, the poem remains the same.

This is the intellectual premise I have always had at the heart of it all. Writing is done solely to make the author happy, that is its goal, anything else is a bonus.

Thanks very much.

Kevin Desmond, paternal grandson of Macroom's Cornelius and Achill's Winifred Masterson, maternal grandson of Bahola's John and Mary English, the loving earthly son of Dublin and Bohla's Pauline Desmond nee Swords, toppa tha whirl, Ma!


Watching this live stream of the second half of the first round aka semi finals of the European Slam Competition, at which our eleventh annual all island slam champion 2017/18, Nuala Leonard, is competing with the national champions of twenty one other European countries, for one of the ten spots in the final on Friday. Mayo abú!