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Short Prose/Essays

Performance Poetry and the Techniques of Ecstasy or Fionn Mac Cumhaill was a Performance Poet

(Paper delivered at University of Bath Performance Poetry Conference, 2003)

“Throughout most of archaic Greek thought, the creation of art is associated with ritual, religion, and substance-induced ecstasis.” (The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics.)

A poetry slam. A tall figure comes striding onto the stage. He’s dressed in a purple robe that is trimmed with gold and silver and laced with bird feathers. A lackey holds a golden branch over his head. The contestant throws back his hood and his forehead is bright enough to blind. He puts his hands on his hips, exposing a hefty scabbard. He’s given a subject to extemporize on and instantly sticks his thumb in his mouth, drawing uproarious laughter from the audience. A few minutes later, he has flabbergasted everyone with the most astounding piece of spontaneous composition they have ever heard. The poem has a complex rhyming structure and several perfectly uniform stanzas. It is prophetic. Read more...

Paper delivered at the American Indian Science and Engineering Society annual dinner, USAFA branch, Colorado Springs, 19th November 1999.

(The occasion was Native American month at the U. S. Air Force base. I was asked to perform and to speak at various related events, because of the connection made between the Choctaw Indians and the Irish famine victims of 1845-49.)

Life is a system of echoes. Whether we want them or not, our ancestry echoes down to us through the ages.
Sometimes it’s difficult to claim that ancestry as our own. Although I grew up on Irish ground, in many ways I was alienated from my history. Whatever I knew, I knew at a distance. It was the burgeoning consumer society where all that glisters is gold and we were still getting clothes sent from America. The other side was infinitely more  glamourous, poverty was not having a television. Having a television engendered silence, rituals were cursory and too large to go deep. Read more...

That Realm Untenanted

(Essay published in Irish Spirit (2001), Dublin: Wolfhound Press)

In the first act of ‘Waiting for Godot’, Estragon asks for a carrot but Vladimir gives him a turnip instead, which he doesn’t like. After a search Vladimir finds one carrot in his pocket and exhorts Estragon to make it last as it is the end of them. In the second act, Vladimir produces nothing but turnips and a black radish and as Estragon likes neither, he has nothing to eat. Read more...