Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Rolls Around Again

So - its bin along time, bin along time, bin along lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time.. ( baderripdum dipdum diddlydaddly diddlydaddly diddlyipdum ipdum ipdum etc. etc. ) since I last posted here. No biggy. Life is intermittent when its working right. Bush is out, Obama's in, Cowen doesn't know where he is. Wherever, I don't think we're in Offaly any more Toto. Offally deep shite, perhaps.

The creature above knows nothing about the current economic climate, climate change or climate control for that matter. Lucky sod! Happy End-of-January to All. Spring's-a-comin'!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

It's a Sunny Dublin Saturday!

So, did anybody manage to nab any art for themselves yesterday - seeing as it was Free Art Friday? I didn't find any myself - but I believe there was plenty about town. I didn't contribute, I'm afraid - next year, perhaps.

If you didn't manage to pick up an original Sean Hillen or Will St. Leger, no worries - you can always pop into the National Gallery to see the Turner watercolours. Or just enjoy another of my paintings, entitled, Bolg, above. It's not a haggis.

A Beautiful sunny (but cold) day in Dublin City today. I'm off down the country shortly - a flying visit to the southeast. Speaking of which, fellow Scalder Peter Murphy has a new book out. John the Revelator has already garnered enthusiastic praise from the likes of Colm Toibin ad Roddy Doyle, no less! He's interviewed in the Irish Times today.

For those staying in the City - there's a couple of attractive propositions once the sun has gone down;

The Shoestring Collective has their first event of 2009 tonight. As usual, the line-up is eclectic, feauring songs, comedy, piping and reading from Jinx Lennon, Enda Muldoon, Éanna Ó Muire and Colm Liddy respectively - and more! Details Here.

Also, tonight is your last chance to catch Classic Stage Ireland's production of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale at the Project Arts Centre. Its a treat of a production - lots of energy and commitment from a predominently young cast, peppered with a few more mature contributions. Well worth a look. My review can be read here and - if you don't trust my perspective - Gerry Colgan reviews it for the Irish Times here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Politics, Pageantry, Poetry, Poe

What a week, eh? Pageantry and Politics can be dangerous bedfellows, but Obama’s inauguration, spin or no, has been a shot in the arm for so many. Here’s to Hope (and industry)! In all the fuss, however, the celebration of another remarkable American, and notable occasion in US history, was a little overlooked.

Firstly, some context. As a child, I read anything I could get my hands on. I guess this trait came from my father, who once said he would “ anything from Playboy to the Bible” - although I never remember seeing either in his hands (or our home for that matter). Luckily, our family regularly frequented jumble sales, auctions, church fairs, junk shops, etc. along with more usual outlets, so we accrued a wide and random selection of reading material. A particular treat were those rolled bundles of used comics - usually sold for something like 10 for 10p.

I worked my way through Brer Rabbit and company, lots of Enid Blyton, Biggles, Just William, The Bobbsey Twins, Hardy Boys, even the occasional Nancy Drew. My imagination was fired by Robin Hood, The Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe, The Arabian Nights (abridged versions, I’m guessing). I really loved reading stories and as I got older everything was fair game, even schoolbooks now and then. 

One of the first 'grown-up' books I remember making a distinct impression was a paperback collection of short stories – titled, I think, Tales of Mystery and Terror. I was gripped! The Cask of Amontillado, The Telltale Heart, The Black Cat, The Pit and The Pendulum – brilliant, gruesome stuff. The Masque of The Red Death was a particular favourite.

Last Monday, January 19th, marked the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allen Poe, the author of those stories. His first publication was Tamerlane and other poems. Only fifty copies of this short collection of poems were printed, of which only 12 (not bad, considering!) are believed to still exist. He was in many ways ahead of his time, writing criticism, prose and poetry with clarity and focus. Tragically, not long after the success of his classic poem 'The Raven', he suffered an ignominious death. He was further unfortunate in having as literary executor one Rufus Griswold who harboured some personal grievances, and aimed to destroy his reputation in a thoroughly calculated way. Despite that, of course, his work is widely read and his influence remains strong today.

I first read those stories over 30 years ago, sitting on the ground by a bookshelf in Wexford. Though short, they felt utterly complete and had character and personality in a way I hadn’t previously experienced. They were freestanding. Involving. Chilling. Reading them, I understood clearly that it was possible for one person to write short, unique stories and see them appear in print. Perhaps I could do this too? This spark of realisation took a long time to catch flame. Intervening circumstances presented their own necessities, requirements and, yes, distractions. Preconceptions remained stubborn. For many years, the idea of becoming a writer was a foreign concept, accessed beyond any route I was aware of. Writers were writers - I was something else.

Nowadays I write regularly. To mixed effect, it's true - I'm no Poe. But that's the point. Hopefully I've shed many pre-conceived definitions or expectations that may have been obstacles and now I aim to write for the reward of the writing itself. So, today I'd like to thank Edgar Allen Poe and all those other writers who, in doing likewise, have inspired and enriched my life and world, even in the face of it's unremittant terrors - personal, domestic or foreign. And to Mister Poe, offer a (belated) Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Poem for Obama

(written back on Nov 5th, 2008)

November Spring

One turns, then another
And another, leaving
Swathes of country hung
With canopies of red

Until capillaries deplete
Becoming paper-brittle
Dropping palmates increment
A tinderbox of hope

Blazing clear a plate blue sky

Today, under tributed precision of limbs
Beneath hard-coppiced charnel woods
Uncoils green light of Spring

© PJ Nolan 2008

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Out of Hibernation - Blinking into Zero Nine.

New Year well under way, with sheer human folly and grimness in the ascendant, I'm just about ready to stand up straight now. Having taken my sweet time uncurling from midwinter stupor, last week saw me back in the workplace, shaking my head every now and then to spark synaptic embers. Didn't work much. It's only this weekend that any semblance of regular service is resuming.

The holidays were a peculiar mix of slobbing and stressing this year. All the usual elements mincemeating themselves together; family, food, booze, sleep. And, of course, the demon flipside of self-indulgence - introspection! I'm all in favour of New Year, birthdays, anniversaries etc., as opportunistic points of reflection. While I'm not so good on the forward-looking 'resolution' end of things, I do find value in the the 'altitude' that these occasions provide. A chance for some perspective on those woods passed through while trying not to crash into too many trees along the way. Many questions.

On my writing, for example. Where's it going? Is it going? What's the cost of keeping it going? I'm a little burned out, I guess. Not so much blocked [btw, interesting article by Anne Enright over on the Guardian on this subject] - as choc-a-blocked! Too much going on. Rather, too much bubbling manically under the surface to be getting on with. Not so much burned out then, more like spread a bit thin. Or perhaps the opposite? Logjammed? Gridlocked? Strung out? I'm a frayed knot. Time is always tight. Money even tighter!

I write; poems, short fiction, reviews, this blog. I paint too (that's one of mine above) and I also take photographs, make illustrations and do a bit of songwriting, when I get a chance. I run my own business, try to ignore our dilapidated decor, have young family (older family too) and I'm involved in a couple of organisations. I've had a measure of success in all these areas, as well as some painful disappointments. Now, at a stage where energy levels aren't quite as resilient as a decade ago, I sometimes wonder if I'm slipping into jack-of-all-trades territory.

Difficult to know, then, if a fresh dose of self-discipline and efficiency might allow me to maintain further progress in all these areas - or simply result in a coronary. Do I need to consider trimming some elements from the mix? Difficult, especially when there's as many others I would still like to get around to! None of which would impress my bank manager.

Oh well - if one must ponder these things, then the dim light of January is probably a suitable time to do so. Other than that, my ongoing resolution must remain - as always - 'Do More Good Stuff. Better!" Maybe that's the problem right there?

Writing-wise, so far 2009 has brought rejections, from Contrary and The SHOp - but also publication in Orbis 145 (thanks Carole) and over on Nthpostion (thanks Todd), both of which I'm very well chuffed about.

So, onwards! Here's wishing a peaceful, progressive and productive 2009 to all who pass through these parts. Stay busy. I guess?