‘Our journey to the foot of Mt Everest was spectacular in the extreme’. – Sir Edmund Hillary
Monthly Archives: July 2010
Mr Carr was one of my many English teachers. He taught me all through the Junior Certificate syllabus, including some of the most famous and iconic pieces of Irish poetry. This is the poem I am most grateful to have been taught.
Kavanagh was born in Iniskeen, Co Monaghan in the early 20th century. He was best known for works such as Raglan Road and the critically acclaimed The Great Hunger. During his youth and middle-age, Kavanagh was an avid pessimist as well as something of a heavy drinker. In 1954, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and had the lung removed. Whilst recovering in hospital, his general outlook on life changed dramatically and he became far more philosophical and generally, it would seem, happier. He spent much of his time relaxing on the nearby Grand Canal, which is where he his now commemorated with a statue.
‘O commemorate me where there is water, Canal water preferably, so stilly Greeny at the heart of summer…’
Epic was published with Come Dance with Kitty Stobling and Other Poems in 1960. The poem’s title is used half-ironically, and half self-justifyingly. Set in Kavanagh’s native Monaghan, it describes a rather nasty altercation between two families in a dispute over land which has turned violent. On the general scale of historical events, fray would seem very minor, but Kavanagh later realises that such things are ‘all relative’. The ‘Munich bother’ which he refers to is the sequence of events that led to the Munich Agreement, which Prime Minister Chamberlain famously proclaimed guaranteed ‘peace for our time’, only for World War Two to start within a year. The final five words are, I believe, some of the most powerful in all of Irish literature.
I have lived in important places, times
When great events were decided: who owned
That half a rood of rock, a no-man’s land
Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.
I heard the Duffys shouting ‘Damn your soul’
And old McCabe, stripped to the waist, seen
Step the plot defying blue cast-steel –
‘Here is the march along these iron stones’.
That was the year of the Munich bother. Which
Was most important? I inclined
To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin
Till Homer’s ghost came whispering to my mind.
He said: I made the Iliad from such
A local row. Gods make their own importance
I’ve been in London for the last couple of days and yesterday met up with friends of mine from prep school, Hubie and Charlotte:
We went to the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens, where they were showing work by the photographer Wolfgang Tillmans. The gallery is absolutely tiny, but since we were barely there ten minutes, I didn’t really mind.
That big one on the left of the folded piece of metal was my favourite. It’s very simple but I imagine having it hanging in my sitting room would make my life so much better.
Fun facts: every year, the Serpentine Gallery commissions an architect to design a pavilion which they have open for the entire summer. There have been a few famous names including Zaha Hadid (who designed the Berginsel ski jump at Innsbruck) and Oscar Niemeyer (who did many of the main buildings in Brasilia, Brazil).
This year, they commissioned the French architect Jean Nouvel, who designed the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis:
Nouvel’s Serpentine pavilion is completely red and a really awesome place to chill with friends you haven’t seen in a while:
And here’s how they built it:
I’m not much of a photography fanatic, but over the years I have begun to figure out the simple things: like why a DSLR camera creates prettier photos than say, the £49.99 jobby you picked up in Argos. Having a good friend studying at the Edinburgh College of Art also means that I have recently spent more time than I usually would in the presence of beautiful photographs and the people who take them. As a result, I now pay attention to photographs a little more than I once did.
While pottering about online, I discovered this photo of a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend:
That blue stuff flying through the air is yoghurt mixed with dye.
I don’t know about you, but I found this image thoroughly arresting. The contrast of colour is brilliant. It makes me want to be photographed like that.
The photographer is a 28 year-old Irishman called Rob O’Connor who specialises in sports and creative photography. He currently works for Cricket Ireland and Leinster Rugby Club. He was named Sports Photographer of the Year 2009 at the 3 Mobile Student Media Awards. In May, he exhibited his work at The Joinery in Dublin.
I took a while to trawl through his work. Here are some of my favourites:
And here are a couple that aren’t quite so food-related…
Check out the rest here.
A couple of weeks ago, when I was at the story-telling event Milk + Cookies, a girl called Sarah Maria Griffin, who is now 22, read out an entry from the diary she had kept when she was 16 years old. Now, the stereotype of the teenager has always been something I mildly disagreed with. It’s a tough time, you have to deal with parents, exams, school, teachers and on top of it all you’ve just discovered sex and, what’s more, the media is really not helping. But dear God, this diary entry was quite clearly one of the most cringe-inducingly pseudo-angst-ridden pieces of literature of modern times.
Seriously, Adrian Mole would probably have left to dig a hole somewhere which he could crawl into and die. It was hilarious.
But this self-humiliation of Sarah Griffin had a useful purpose. Not only was it an entertaining story (this was, after all, a story-telling event), but it also gave her an opportunity to talk about an event she runs called: “Scarleh fer yer Ma fer havin’ ye“. A quick crash-course in Hiberno-English, for those readers not from Dublin. This phrase, spelt non-phonetically reads as: ‘scarlet for your ma for having you’. The phrase is a common pejorative expression commonly used in Dublin. It means, essentially: ‘I am embarrassed on behalf of your mother for the fact that she gave birth to you’. And that name is incredibly apt.
The event is something which I have heard about before, and which has been growing swiftly in cities all across the Western World. They’re known as “cringe events”, and they mainly focus on teenage diaries. People congregate in a specific location of an evening, sit in a circle and take turns reading poetry, lyrics, diary entries etc which they wrote when they were much younger and which are therefore toe-curlingly embarrassing. Everybody laughs at the person, but doesn’t judge them because they themselves have all done similar things. It sounds like an absolute ball.
The next event of Scarleh (for short) is on Saturday the 24th of July at 8:30 at the Ormond Studios, Ormond Quay, Dublin. Sadly, I won’t be able to make it as I am abroad (it’s the title of the blog, after all). But anyone who can should GO!
As for the embarrassing diary entry: I managed to get hold of it. To be read in angsty teenage voice a la Emo Kid Song.
“So…. here I am then.
I love rhyme. Poems with rhyming schemes will, for me, always win over those which have none. For this reason, Rudyard Kipling is one of my favourites poets.
Born in Bombay, India in 1865, Kipling was a child of the Raj. His father was an academic and he spent most of his youth being brought up in England by a British family before going to boarding school and eventually returning to British India. He eventually became a writer, producing such famous novels as the Jungle Book and Kim. In the early 20th century, Kipling’s popularity as a writer reaches its zenith, with the author becoming the first Briton to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907. It was around this time that Kipling wrote what was to become his most famous poem: If-.
In the final line, it is apparent that the poem is being addressed to the author’s son (who would later be killed in the First World War). Rather like Newbolt’s Vitai Lampada, If- is a memorable conjuration of Victorian stoicism, and the ‘stiff upper-lip’ which popular culture has now made into a traditional British characteristic. It offers the reader wise, commonsensical advice about how to take on and deal with life’s challenges. In my opinion, every teenager should be required to study it. If any poem were to be manly, this poem would be.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!
My father and I went down to Kilkenny to see our new puppy, Bailey, who is staying with cousins in Thomastown. He’s the most awesome dog in the entire world:
Fun facts:Bailey is an Irish setter, which is a breed of gun dog. His coat is a deep red and silky, and when he grows up, it will be moderately long.
When I brought him near the river, he started chasing the ducks – what a lad.