Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Aumbry, Chawd, Pica, Lackeen, Fixfax, Sneachta, Gadje, Anacoluthia, Numnah
Aumbry. A recess in a church wall.
Chawd. A word that means anything you want it to.
Pica. A 12-point (for some reason) type.
Lackeen. As in ‘Pavee Lackeen’, meaning ‘traveller girl’.
Fixfax. No results found.
Sneachta. The Irish for snow.
Gadje. A non-traveller (pejorative).
Anacoluthia. A grammatical non sequitur, if I can mix my Greek and Latin.
Numnah. A pad that goes under a saddle.
There’ll always be a tidbit here or there for the dictionary cormorant in an Ailbhe Darcy poem. I say ‘always’, despite basing my reading on her new Tall Lighthouse pamphlet, a fictional dress, and her appearance in Roddy Lumsden’s anthology Identity Parade, but here is a new writer for whom it is worth putting a kink in the usual niceties of the space-time continuum. Here is quirkiness without archness, the bellybutton fluff of youth but the empty taxis and left-behind pubs and streets of the left-behind cities afterwards, and here too is an unusual way with spacing that may have something to do with the ‘burnt spaces between /one line and the next’ of the untitled poem on page 15. The talent for splicing the heterogeneous together, cadavre exquis-style, reminds me of Jane Yeh. I am tickled by the avian inventions of ‘Swan Song’:
I brood, yellow-peppered
In my own chawd-wine, sheepish, out
Of my element. Happed in you, feathers
Scales, wings fins, maw brackish.
You try to speak in pica, your claws kerns:
We lay a blotched ligature.
You’ve bitten off more than you can mew:
I’ve lined your throat with feathers.
In another avian moment, Darcy finds she likes the verb ‘swan-upped’ so much she uses it not once but twice (‘I’m swan-upped, whoops, into the pot’, ‘swan-upped, lackeen, bracketed in a fixfax’).
‘Polder’ was Seamus Heaney’s original title for Field Work many years ago now, and in her poem of that name there is a very, not Heaney- but Muldoonesque touch of returning in the last line to a casually dropped detail from earlier in the poem, with an added Muldoon touch of indecision and betwixt and betweenness: the speaker first finds herself ogled by men who ‘confirm /for their records my one side /was good as the other’, but ends up no longer an object of their scrutiny, returning the compliment by ‘turn[ing] to watch men pass, /to see was one side as good as another’. What a long-winded and convoluted (I mean me here) way of saying that if there is any discernible Muldoon influence here it is of the slightest and not a prey to the Muldoon-lite mannerisms that used to send entire first collections crashing and burning, and not so long ago either.
What audacity, too, to call a poem ‘The Art of Losing’ and not promptly take a pratfall. Darcy gives Bishop’s poem a shakedown that leaves our losses more comfortably companionable objects than what sticks around:
It’s plain to see the real mystery:
why, with all I gather to me, I dwell
so often on the things I’ve shed. I could
easier list my losses, the denim
jackets, watches, dignity, perfectly
affable friends, than all the curiosities
I still keep in my cave hoard,
troved finely on shelves.
‘I am speaking of you here, to everyone I meet’, we read in ‘Halo’, a poem that begins with a talking dog. May the dogs in the street spread the word of the abundant merits of this very fine pamphlet, and may her promised first book (from Bloodaxe) not be long in arriving. Though since some of these poems, presumably, will be reprinted there I will also point out one teeny typo (‘fuschcia’ should be ‘fuchsia’). But an altogether appetizing début.
Swan as seen in New Holland, south bank of the Humber, last November.