‘I Just Want to Scream’ – Reading at PEN Korea Poetry Concert


This picture was shared with me by Alexandra Jade Rodrigues on the ould Facebook. It’s a really touching addition to the poem I kind of haphazardly shared here some weeks back. I say haphazardly as it was a knee-jerk emotional reaction to the tragedy, and it seems to have been a reaction which many empathised with. I’m grateful to Alexandra for sharing this with me, as it is a poigniant image which reflects the continued wait for answers, even when the news of the disaster appears to have left the newsreels of the international media.

As you may be aware, some weeks back I was very fortunate to be invited as a reader at an international poetry concert organised by PEN Korea. The concert took place about a week or so after the tragedy. Initially I was asked to read only one poem, but following the tragedy of the Sewol sinking off the south coast, I contacted the organiser and asked if it was possible that I read my poem which attracted so much attention here, ‘I Just Want to Scream’. I was very fortunate that they ascented, and in the end I read my two poems. The first is a older poem Driving Close to the DMZ which was originally printed in Burning Bush II a couple of years back. This poem was followed by I Just Want to Scream.

In these videos shared with me by the concert organisers you can here me deliver both my poems.

Driving Close to the DMZ

I Just Want to Scream

This particular video includes a shortened and edited version of all the readers at the concert and is also worth your time and consideration.

Thank you again to Alexandra for the image, and to Sun A at PEN Korea for giving me the opportunity to read.

For more on PEN Korea please visit their website: http://www.penkorea.or.kr

I Just Want to Scream


I just want to scream, but I know it won’t do any good.

I heard that a ferry to Jeju that was sinking. News implied all would get out alive. I thought it was Costa Concordia like, if only it was comparable now.

We watched the television late into last night, and all of this morning the volume was up high. We heard talking heads of doctors and divers explain what is wrong and what is right. At one stage I almost cried. I felt that here was the greatest loss of life. And all the time the television showed that hull, the end where those rotors spun south, poking and bobbing like a message in a bottle, an arrow directing all souls to heaven’s heights.

I just want to scream, but I know it won’t do any good.

There are others more suited to anger. There are others more suited to decry. What matters now is to get those kids out alive. Kakao Talk told us some have survived. In a bubble somewhere with all kinds of refuse and the water as cold as those who died. We wait, and we wait, and we watch another news broadcast. And again a talking head tells us we cannot hold out hope for how many might be inside.

I just want to scream, but I know it won’t do any good.

A crane, they said, is floating to the site. A day it will take. I wish I could go and help push. Heave it with everyone else watching, in tears for these boys and girls in their formative years. The years when our lives are determined and we certainly never forget. Our friends who last with us until there’s none of us left. We go through it, our highest triviality til then,and we think it’s the end but come out together.

I just want to scream, but I know it won’t do any good.

The lies. The ineptitude. The waste. The love lost. The flowers laid. The broken days. The way so many lives were left to be taken so carelessly away.

I just want to scream, but I know it won’t be loud enough.

“In Memorium” – New Planet Cabaret


More submitting by me here (and you wonder why I’ve had so few minutes to spare). This was for RTE Radio 1’s ARENA show which has been hosting a radio based creative writing course (yes you read that right) called New Planet Cabaret, with the assistance of the very competent and energetic Dave Lordon (I’d say more but I haven’t read much of his poetry so…).

I made my entry back in January and you can read the entry requirements here. I didn’t have mine featured and forgot to listen back to find out if it was at least mentioned – when I did listen to it there were mentions of some pieces which may have been a bit long for the radio – I imagine mine was also too long, if it was at least considered good. I thought I’d share it with you here as I’m not sure what else to do with it. It’s not a poem. It’s not a story. It’s just words and my imagination. Again, fun stuff. 

In Memorium

Christened Flatus Mac an Sídhe, he called himself Flatty for short, and Flatty Sheahy to a uniform or a skirt. He was not of the Sheahys of places known for their Sheahys, as this Sheahy was made up for sure, still Flatus wasn’t the worst sort.

He was a soft but robust fella whose age you’d never tell with a look, nor would you know if he was broad or short, stout or upright. He was just there.

Flatus really wanted to be the kindred sort, happily floating about mingling in and out with all types, enjoying the outdoors, strolls by the sea. Yoga. Hiking. Meditation, that sort of thing. Indeed a hike to a yoga and meditation retreat would be ideal.

A lover of life Flatty was. One who lived for lungs full to bursting and the whistle of the exhale through his nostrils. Life was all for Flatus.

But Flatty could kill if he wanted. Deprive you of his company he would, or hail down with the fury of a million factories in his poisoned effusions, drowning your crops and rose gardens, but only a rare breed could force that. At least that used to be the case.

Flatty could be full of himself, believed he was incomparable like a superpower, him with his blusters and gusts.

Sure enough he was untouchable and, for example, with a wisp a wall he could take down to its bricks, or pass through it as if it didn’t exist. Oh ould Flatty knew how to change everything, leaving a life and death distance in the difference.

Except for these notions of grandeur and his stance on issues environmental, he went about his existence like the best; god on his conscience, the day on his breath.

And we all knew him well, our Flatty, he who always played with our hair, his moods, his patience, and the fact he was never bothered by rush-hour, or missing buses late at night, and arguing about inconsequential things. We figured him to be at least.

However, Flatus Mac an Sídhe was old before he finished being young. Those muscles he once flexed fell flaccid, and to threats he grew apathetic.

Alas Flatty grew tired with himself. Finding moments to swallow the morning and drink in the sunshine and moisture of the dew just as the sun has risen had grown sparse. His skin grew grey and lifeless. His overworked throat went dry. The ducts in his eyes could not cry.

“It is what it is”, is what Flatty would say, “isn’t learning to live the best you can in company with it a better solution than arguing against it? Sure isn’t that that the way I’ve done it and never garnered further complaint?”

He would say that. Flatty could say that. Flatty had a say in things. Because without Flatty, well let’s be honest, there is nothing.

Yes Flatus, you and your molecules, you had a say and you could have done more. You could have gotten angrier and fought for those walks you loved so much. But now you have relinquished your title. Superpower or not, yours is a sunken flagship.

And then to be sure we killed you. We curried up enough filth and fear and vehemence to counter anything you could manage to rekindle until you keeled over breathless.

There you were, writhing in a blustering and intoxicating mess with your defecations all over the place. Tearing down everything you loved. Tearing down the walls of everything you thought was built from your influence. And you did not cry.

We woke the next morning and you were not there. Not hiding or buried or burnt or vaporized or departed or extinct or emigrated or arrested. Not gone. Just nothing

And now Flatus, there is only memory to define you.

Notebooks


I’ve been going through my old computer files and notebooks lately hoping to find some encouragement. It’s always interesting too look back, be it in a diary, an old collection of photographs, or even old posts on a blog. Pages and photographs fortunately have a stronger sense of permanency than timelines or twitter feeds, and even if you can find everything online, the nostalgia is physical when leafing through the old pages written in slightly different handwriting and in faded pencil or ink.

Aside from my newest Moleskine and a collection of my newest fascination as a writing medium, yellow A4 lined paper, I believe it’s called legal pad, I have all kinds of paper and notebooks scattered around the bookshelves and packed in boxes around the home. All of these have served some function in my scattered and impotent career as a Nobel laureate.

I don’t really write much here about poetry, as it’s something that I consider myself far from an expert on. But it drives me crazy to the point that sometimes I lose sleep over it, or I am a useless conversationalist. More than anything, I’ve always looked to excel at writing poetry, as to do it well is more than art, it is pure craftwork.

My poems to me are mostly biographical, at least in their instance, and reading back over them reminds me of how I was thinking at that time.

The thing is, I’ve never been one to keep a diary, and this blog certainly doesn’t serve as one – it least not in the day-to-day sense – so reading through notebooks I’ve written in serves odd reminders of what I’ve done in my life over the past few years. There are peculiar connections and many of these start with the actual medium itself, be that the notebook or the loose sheets of paper I wrote on.

Many pages are neatly organised together and appear like a final draft, or as close as I got to one, and then many are roughly folded with the edges frayed from being kept too long in the bottom of my bag. Some I recognise from the time I wrote them, such as white printer or copier paper, which often suggests to me that I wrote this while I was teaching in class (say nothing), or possibly at my desk on a break. Of course I can’t recall when and where I wrote whatever it was, but these scattered sheets are equally scattered memories.

Unity comes from between the binding of my notebooks. Each starts with a flourish infected by the desire to spoil the freshness of the recently freed paper, and ends slowly and unconvincingly as enthusiasm wanes with the final few pages, and I look to start a new notebook before the older one is even finished. This has always been the way I’ve used a notebook, from my primary and secondary school copies to my newest much underappreciated Moleskine which I seem to needlessly carry with me everywhere.

Every page in these old and new notebooks of mine is like an old cryptic diary arranged around some thoughts I had at some stage. Often these memories are vague and cliché, with nothing more than the impression that I was living in a big city and I was utterly appalled by the post-modern condition of urban habitation, or something unoriginal like that. Sometimes there are bits worth keeping though.

I have one of those cheaply made notebooks with plastic covers which you see being sold on the side of the street in Seoul. They are always too big even for the most ambitious writer. I bought mine back in 2007 at the top end of Insadong and I ended up writing in it right up until 2010, and maybe even 2011, but there’s still room for more. It wasn’t my only place to write, but it is without a doubt the one notebook I will reach to if I am looking to raid my memories for new material, or a simple dose of nostalgia.

But there are glimpses of the moment too. There are times when I travelled around the country with herself, there are poems from our honeymoon, such as this one which was published by Wordlegs:

“Foça”

“The wind has been blowing here
for three thousand years
and it will not stop
just for your honeymoon”
the fisherman told us,
soaking and shivering
from the gust laden tides;
the Aegean not as warm
as the guidebook
had optimistically implied

(As a gesture of goodwill and decency, please give Wordlegs a visit and have a read of some of the other excellent poetry and prose on their site)

There are poems from the creative writing module I took while doing my masters in Southampton, and there many, many poems and stories and comments on all other aspects of life. There are also a few poems I wrote to Herself, although I won’t post any here. There are notes for articles I wrote for magazines in Korea, and even the first couple of drafts for a post which still attracts a certain amount of attention here (just checked the super-sexy and detailed WordPress statometer and it’s ranked #8 all time most clicked post – what the fuck is up with that?). There are doodles, lists, phone numbers, and even email addresses for people or places I have no memory of. This is all just from one notebook, and I’m sure there’s more elsewhere.

If I were to stack all my notebooks up I’m not sure how high they would reach. If I combed through every page I’ve written I don’t think I’d fill even a small notebook with anything worth keeping. But as a good friend and mentor explained to me, undoubtedly as we were drunk in Itaewon late at night back in the day (or night), for every piece you’re happy with there is bound to be ten more you’ll never look at again but you have to keep writing because you’ll only know the difference if you have plenty to compare them against. The same ratio is probably true for anything I write which would be deemed good quality by an editor other than me – even here.

But that’s what writing is all about. The more you write the more you put down into a more permanent and physical kind of memory that can be actually picked up and looked back on. Unlike a photograph, words written down in an apparently random situation force you to think and force you to remember and recreate that situation. For me this is essential for any and all future written efforts.

Right now I’m half way through a new chapter of memories like this. There may be less words, but there are other things which act as a flint, such as a wireless password for a guesthouse in Langkawi, a picture of me that looks nothing like me drawn by a friend of Herself’s, and a several lists of things I should have done but I seem to have crossed very little off. That’s just me. Soon I’ll finish that and move on to the next one and soon those pages will be vague memories for rekindling. I look forward to the fire where I will bring this notebook and all those other notebooks too.

 

White Day


If you read mylast post you will be familiar with White Day.

During my first White Day – maybe not on or after or before the day but at some stage close to it – I wrote this little poem.

Enjoy!

White Day

A day for the ladies they say
Because they made the first move in February.
Chocolates or flowers, silver or gold
To prove to the maiden intentions aren’t bold.
Dinner for two over candlelight
and a stroll by the river late into the night,
kiss by a fountain for the first time
then wrapped-up in arms wait for a chime.
This day is made for the women
who change the beat of our hearts with adrenalin.

 

© Conor O’Reilly 2006