history

Journeys: Travelling within

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.  Emerson

The idea of life as a journey is a well worn theme in poetry and it’s the focus of our show this week.  And what’s the message?  What great wisdom can we expect from our featured poets? Well, I guess it’s that life is a trip we have to take, no matter how bad the roads or the accommodation! In his poem The Journey, journeys 2American poet James Wright finds the secret to living in this world, in a quiet moment of reflection while visiting the medieval village of Anghiari.  Accepting life for what it is, its experiences and burdens but not being weighed down by them is the message he imparts to us.  ‘Step lightly all the way through your ruins’ he says.  We have a tendency to over-criticize and pick holes in every little thing we do, hold on to negativity and not let go of the baggage of the past, but Wright urges us to walk free from all of that and just be.  Be here now.

Life is is a voyage of discovery, of ourselves and others and we have nothing to fear on this journey only what we’ve conceived in our minds before we set out.  We spend so much time worrying about what might happen in the future that we’re sometimes blind to the magic that is happening around us.  Greek poet C P Cavafy prepares us for a great adventure to Ithaka, metaphorical destination and home of the legendary Greek king Odysseus.  I think Ithaka is about enjoying the pleasure of being alive – the people we meet, places we visit and knowledge we gain along the way.  Dreams and goals are important but I think the real value is gained through the process of living.

In Journey To The Interior, Margaret Atwood compares the rough Canadian landscape to the inner journey of self-discovery. Something not to be undertaken lightly as ‘only few have returned safely’ she warns.  I can completely relate.  Sometimes these inner journeys can be tough to navigate, there’s a fear of going too deep, of making discoveries you wish you hadn’t, but the reverse is also true and can lead to some self-illuminating moments.  Sometimes I find I just need the distraction away from myself though and take a journey out of my own psyche and into someone else’s … that can be illuminating too!

Mary Olivers’ recognition of the inner voice, the true authentic self is the subject of one of her best known poems The Journey, where she tells us to go out into the ‘wild night’ and find the voice that will ‘keep us company’ as we go deeper and deeper into the world. For most of us, the decisions we make are based on externals like what other people think.  We think it’s better to fit in, but you know what fitting in is?  Fitting in is resisting yourself … and resisting yourself can only lead to a life full of uncertainty, self-doubt and self-reproach.  Being honest with ourselves is risky business but big risks yield big rewards.  So take a friendly attitude towards your thoughts.  Be bold enough to live your truth, turn up the volume on your inner wisdom and in the words of (I think) Allen Ginsberg “Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness”.

Audre Lorde and Philip Levine also feature on todays show, along with music from Mick Flannery, Tom Petty and Bjork.

photo credit: http://www.trans-siberian-travel.com

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#PoetryDayIRL

 

magic book

Today is Poetry Day in Ireland! What a great day to lose yourself in the rhythmic alchemy of language.  Even if you’re not into poetry, just take the time, think of a topic that interests you and search for a poem on it: Love, Twilight, Death, Happiness, Thought, Paris, History – everything can be distilled into poetry and I guarantee you’ll find a poem on every imaginable theme.  If you enjoy a sunset, the sound of the sea or the smell of rain – that makes you a poet.  Listen to your heartbeat – poetry, as I’m writing I’m watching my Willow tree bend in the April breeze – more poetry, it’s everywhere!

I started reading and writing poetry in my final year in Secondary school.  I studied all the usual suspects (mostly old angry men) but I persevered because something about the medium grabbed my attention more than anything else I was studying in those days.  I remember reading Siegfried Sassoon Base Details a sarcastic poem about the indifference to front-line soldiers displayed by their officers, and tried to recreate my own version about life in the classroom! It probably sucked, but I enjoyed the word-play and the difficult search for descriptions.  In college, I discovered Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson and Dorothy Parker and I was off.  Writing about myself, my feelings and desires, my heartbreak’s and fixes, everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. In later years Walt Whitman, Mary Oliver, Michael Hartnett, James Tate, Sharon Olds, Jane Hirshfield, Naomi Shihab Nye and many  many more, became my companions.  Poetry was a constant in my life, a second shadow, and it still is, almost 30yrs later!

I knocked at her doors for so long before realising she’d left a key under the pot!  That’s the thing about poetry, if you want her she’s yours, you don’t even have to ask.  If you’re lost, she’ll find you.  So don’t be put off by academics who make out that poetry is only for the lofty, the high-brow or uber intelligent.  Wrong, wrong, wrong. Instead listen to what Pablo Neruda, one of the great Latin American poets, had to say about poetry (and he knew a thing or two):

 “On our earth, before writing was invented, before the printing press was invented, poetry flourished.  That is why we know that poetry is like bread; it should be shared by all, by scholars and by peasants, by all our vast, incredible, extraordinary family of humanity”.

So, drop your guard, open a book of poetry and walk into your heart 🙂  This is one of my favourites, it’s Neruda, it’s his honest-to-goodness, wonderfully descriptive, personal poetic discovery, the moment poetry held him in her embrace. Translated by Alastair Reid from Mark Eisner’s Essential Neruda. it’s:

POETRY

And it was at that age … poetry arrived
In search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
It came from, from winter or a river
I don’t know how of when,
No, they weren’t voices, they were not
Words, nor silence,
But from a street it called me,
From the branches of the night,
Abruptly from the others,
Among raging fires
Or returning alone,
There it was, without a face,
And it touched me.

I didn’t know what to say, my mouth
Had no way
With names,
My eyes were blind,
Something kicked in my soul,
Fever or forgotten wings,
And I made my own way,
Deciphering that fire,
And I wrote the first, faint line,
Faint, without substance, pure
Nonsense,
Pure wisdom
Of one who knows nothing,
And suddenly I saw the heavens
Unfastened
And open,
Planets,
Palpitating plantations,
The darkness perforated,
Riddled
With arrows, fire and flowers,
The overpowering night, the universe.

And I, tiny being,
Drunk with the great starry
Void,
Likeness, image of
Mystery,
Felt myself a pure part
Of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars.
My heart broke loose with the wind.

 

 

Photo Credit: http://science-all.com/image.php?pic=/images/magic/magic-03.jpg

 

#EarthDay

In recognition of Earth Day I’ve got a poem by Patricia Kathleen Page, born in Dorset, England in 1916. She and her family moved to Red Deer, Alberta, in 1919, so that her father could advance his career in the Canadian military. Her first book was a romantic novel called The Sun and the Moon (1944), which she published under the pseudonym Judith Cape, 2 years later, in 1946 she published her first solo book of poetry As Ten, as Twenty, under her real name. In her lifetime, Page published more than two dozen books — spanning poetry, fiction, non-fiction and children’s literature — and also developed a parallel career as an accomplished painter, after studying under artists in Brazil and New York.
In 2000, Page’s poem Planet Earth, inspired by four lines from a longer poem by Chilean writer Pablo Neruda, was chosen by the United Nations for its Dialogue Among Civilizations Through Poetry reading series.  This is like a love poem to the earth.  An assertion that we need to treat it like a precious object, thereby making it stronger.  From The Hidden Room, Collected Poems, it’s:

 
PLANET EARTHEarth
By PK Page

It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet,
has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness;
and the hands keep on moving,
smoothing the holy surfaces.
—– In Praise of Ironing by Pablo Neruda

It has to be loved the way a laundress loves her linens,
the way she moves her hands caressing the fine muslins
knowing their warp and woof,
like a lover coaxing, or a mother praising.
It has to be loved as if it were embroidered
with flowers and birds and two joined hearts upon it.
It has to be stretched and stroked.
It has to be celebrated.
O this great beloved world and all the creatures in it.
It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet.
The trees must be washed, and the grasses and mosses.
They have to be polished as if made of green brass.
The rivers and little streams with their hidden cresses
and pale-coloured pebbles
and their fool’s gold
must be washed and starched or shined into brightness,
the sheets of lake water
smoothed with the hand
and the foam of the oceans pressed into neatness.
It has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness
and pleated and goffered, the flower-blue sea
the protean, wine-dark, grey, green, sea
with its metres of satin and bolts of brocade.
And sky – such an O! overhead – night and day
must be burnished and rubbed
by hands that are loving
so the blue blazons forth
and the stars keep on shining
within and above
and the hands keep on moving.
It has to be made bright, the skin of this planet
till it shines in the sun like gold leaf.
Archangels then will attend to its metals
and polish the rods of its rain.
Seraphim will stop singing hosannas
to shower it with blessings and blisses and praises
and, newly in love,
we must draw it and paint it
our pencils and brushes and loving caresses
smoothing the holy surfaces.

 

#WorldPoetryDay 2016!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Enjoy whatever you’re reading.

Ars Poetica

By Archibald MacLeish16704884223_292f83b1cd_m

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,
Dumb
As old medallions to the thumb,
Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—
A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds.
                         *
A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,
Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,
Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind—
A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs.
                         *
A poem should be equal to:
Not true.
For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.
For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—
A poem should not mean
But be.

Honouring Women

24974393973_00efb80acd_m A grand old time!

There has been a lot of emphasis on women since the beginning of the year and more often than not, thankfully in a positive light. In Ireland anyway we’ve learned so much about the important roles played by women in the rising of 1916 and beyond, as the country struggled for independence. Studying history in school in the 1980’s however, we were led to believe it was a male only revolution but thankfully women are now getting the recognition they deserve. Women of all generations are flourishing in the arts, in politics and business and although it’s difficult to believe in 2016, we still have a long way to go to achieve the gender equality to which we are so rightly entitled.
Gender discrimination in terms of education, employment, pay, human rights etc., is ubiquitous, battles are hard-won in the West but women living in developing or dictatorial countries haven’t even been invited to the war.
In honour of International Women’s Day and in this Women In History Month, today’s show is all about the ladies. We’ll have poetry from Sharon Olds, Lucille Clifton and Radmila Lazic and music from Kate Bush, India Arie and Natasha Khan. We think of our Grandmothers, Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, Neice’s all over the world fighting battles from the personal to the political; we think of women who broke the barriers, cleared the path and led the way from Sappho to Simone de Beauvoir, Harriet Beecher-Stowe to Benazir Bhutto, Mirabai to Malala Yousafzai. Warriors, nurturers, lovers and friends – we are every woman!

 

 

Study of the past

This weeks show features the poetry and music of History with Sharon Olds, Derek Walcott & Maura Dooley alongside Tori Amos, Ludovico Einaudi & Norah Jones.

Digital image

  Tracy Gaughan ©

 

Presented by Tracy Gaughan

‘… Let Us Hear The Purple Glens Replying’

This poetry/music choice was inspired by a weekend ambling the by-roads of the west and observing the remains of ancient structures, cottages and castles of a bygone age.  Buttercups, foxgloves and daisies lined the roads, way-marked by white-thorn, alder and rowan trees that gave rise to the great hills and mountains of the Maamturks, carpeted with purple heathers and grasses. I also walked part of The Western Way, a 179 km old pilgrimage route that begins in county Galway and ends in Ballycastle, Co. Mayo.  So the enduring themes of tradition, heritage, ancestry and legacy became all the more comprehensible when I visited the sixteenth century Aughnanure Castle on the shores of Lough Corrib.  The fairly well preserved castle, which translates as Field of the Yews, was built for defensive purposes by the ferocious O’Flaherty clan of Galway and forms part of the backdrop for the 2012 amateur production by Cast Iron Films, No Eye To Pity Her, a portrayal of the Cromwellian occupation of Ireland starring my brother Paul! (trailer here)
Aughnanure-Castle-Oughterard-County-Galway
Born in Lincolnshire in 1809, Alfred Lord Tennyson is one of the most popular poets in the English language. Among his major poetic achievements are the elegy mourning the death of his friend Arthur Hallam, In Memoriam (1850) and the patriotic poem Charge of the Light Brigade published in Maud (1855).  Tennyson died in 1892 and was buried in the Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. This is:
from The Princess: The Splendour Falls on Castle Walls
by Lord Alfred Tennyson
The splendour falls on castle walls
                And snowy summits old in story:
         The long light shakes across the lakes,
                And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.
         O hark, O hear! how thin and clear,
                And thinner, clearer, farther going!
         O sweet and far from cliff and scar
                The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying:
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.
         O love, they die in yon rich sky,
                They faint on hill or field or river:
         Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
                And grow for ever and for ever.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.