Friday, 26 March 2010

Rip Roaring Start to Poetry Now Festival, Dun Laoghaire

Well, what an evening, what a kick off, what pleasures promised for the rest of the festival.

Picture this, Dun Laoghaire, the clink of rigging on the masts of the yachts in harbour, the gentle hum of the South Dublin Priuses parking, the whiff of fried onions from the high street, the hum of anticipation as the great and the good (some of them) gather in the Pavilion theatre for the keynote address of the Poetry Now Festival in Dun Laoghaire by Paul Muldoon.

Who was there? Loads of people. I don't recognise everyone but Famous Seamus, Famous Derek, Iggy, Tony, Anne Stevenson, Medbh, Maeve, Chris, Niamh, John F., Peter, Anne, Joe, Leanne and many, many more.

As we went into the auditorium, we were handed a sheet of 7 poems, 6 Irish poets, 2 of the in the audience, on the theme of Fish. We took our seats (front row for me, scary, luckily he didn't either spit on me, ask me a question about spondees or call me up to help with a magic trick) and read the poems.

The lovely, tireless curator Belinda McKeon came in on fabulously high heels and welcomed us and introduced Paul Muldoon. He came on and before he could say a word, there was a heckler. Yes, a real live, agressive heckler at a poetry event. And he wasn't even there to try and read his own poems or force someone to published his dog eared manuscript. (is it always men?) Anyway, he wanted Paul Muldoon to take a position on Provisional IRA activity.

Paul, though taken aback, was unfazed and defused the situation with the help of some audience conuter-hecklers. All in all an exciting start. No one was asleep anyway.

The lecture was entitled Go Fish and Paul read and analysed the poems and underlying themes and links to other contemporary events.

Sunday Morning by Louis MacNiece where Paul pointed out echoes of a poem by Elizabeth Bishop. He invited the heckler to read it, which he did with aplomb, I have to say. Then he wandered out. Phew.
Little fishes vanish with a wink of tails.

The Net by W.R Rodgers (confession - never heard of him) which was about an affair with loads of rude things. Also Moby Dick. Jane Russell, Stephen Dedalus and willies.
Guineas and gills will flake/ At each gull-plunge of me.

The Trout by John Montague. John not being with us, this was read by an audience volunteer. Let's call him Bernie from Limerick City. Unfortunately Bernie had left his reading glasses on the train so this was fraught with tension and misquotes. "Jesus. Mary and Joseph," he said at the end, "I made a hames of that" or words to that effect. The poem is about guddling trout and willies. (What is it with male poets and masturbation? Are they many (any?) poems from frigging women poets? Not such an obsessive avalanche I think)
The two palms crossed in a cage/ under the lightly pulsing gills

Limbo by Seamus Heaney, read beautifully by the man himself. My favourite. No willies this time, only death.
Fishermen at Ballyshannon/Netted an infant last night

and The Guttural Muse also by Seamus Heaney - voyarism, echoes of his Skunk poem here. Macbeth and dirty old man trench coats, though that may have been one echo too far. I don't know. I get irritated when teachers/whatever tell you what a poem is about.
I felt like some old pike all badged with sores

Then a couple of women, almost as an afterthought and little analysis. No willies I suppose.

The Flower Master by Medbh McGuckian, read by the poet herself. I don't know what it's about. Nor, I suspect did Paul. Lovely language though.
stoop to our low doorway/ our fontanelle, the trouts dimpled feet

The Shannon Estuary Welcoming The Fish by Nuala Ni Domhnaill a translation I think from her Irish. Paul pointed out a rude bit but but little else.
I am welcoming, full of nets/enveighling, /slippery with seaweed

He also talked about his school days in Armagh and a personal family story leading into the Pope's letter to the Irish church last week which, Paul said, basically told lay catholics that the problem with the church was secularism (surely a result, not a catalyst) and that what was needed was prayer. In essence, there is an Irish confusion between victim and abuser. The fish has to get itself off the hook.

Cue thunderous applause and lots of luvvie hugging.

Paul reads some of his poems on Saturday at 8:30pm with the legendary Anne Stevenson and Homero Aridjis from Mexico. Should be a great night.

Of course Various beat me to a post.


Liz said...

Great write-up, Kate, felt I was in your inside pocket. Also made me remember last year when I was able to be at the festival....loads ahead to look forward to then. Lucky, Lucky you!

Niamh B said...

The early fish catches the worm!

Emerging Writer said...

Thanks Liz. Any festivals on your island? Can I come?

Michael Farry said...

Ah Gee, Kate you're making me jealous I can't attend this year.

BarbaraS said...

I enjoyed reading it from your POV - off to see what Cushions made of it :)

Emerging Writer said...

Thanks all, Unfortunately that was the start and the end of this lovely festival for me. I've a family event thingy in West Cork but I have sent my intrepid reporter, Maeve to report on more.
Have a great weekend wherever you are

Titus said...

Brilliant post!