Alt Amháin - Single Article


airgead  glas  oráiste  corcra  buí  liath

Please email your comments to:

All fair comments, criticisms and praise will be posted!

Pól Ó Lorcáin
Paul Larkin

Chroniclers are privileged to enter where they list, to come and go through keyholes, to ride upon the wind, to overcome in their soarings up and down, all obstacles of distance, time and place.
Charles Dickens - Barnaby Rudge, Chapter The Ninth

The Naming of Things - On the occasion of my fifty first birthday – 21/11/08

I sit writing at a brand new computer. It is a thing of beauty. I am newly bathed and self pampered and there is a glass of chilled white wine in view just beyond my vowels and syllables. There is one bead of condensation running down the side of the glass, teasing me.

I feel as if I have come through a long fire and am now annealed and burnished as a new entity as I enter into my fifty first year. For, in common with many divorced men from what we call in Irish “An Pobal Aníos” - the lower classes, I have lived in a succession of bedsits since I officially left my comfortable middle class matrimonial home a little more than ten years ago.
I may have left that home, but there is still a huge amount of my love and emotion within its walls. Fortunately for me, I have been surrounded by angels who cherished and protected me throughout all that time. Many men will not seek their angels because, if they do, they are forced to examine their hearts. They are forced to release the welling grief. Angels are not of any denomination. They come from ancient times and take residence, if invited, within a person’s confines.

To those who stood by me and loved me I raise my glass. To those former friends who abandoned me, I bear no malice. We will talk again in some better space. Sin é.

Of course, bedsit life has its attractions for the young, for those who are just starting out in life and also those who have other more doubtful motives . Bedsits are for students who just want to party, young lovers who cannot bear to be departed, young workers at the beginnings of their careers and also, it has to be said, self appointed outcasts who wish to brood and plot their revenge. May God protect me from that bitterness.

For me, a middle aged man, a bedsit is a catastrophe waiting to happen at every turnabout, where your shoulder bumps that cherished ceramic on the overpacked shelves, where you cannot find your books or yourself and your frying pan teeters on the brink of aviation.

Now, at last, as I place the rim of the cool glass to my lips, I can look around me and see space. Space for a writer is vital. Mental space, physical space, space to think before you think. Space to lie on the sofa and stare out of the window.

In her acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for literature in December 2007, Doris Lessing stressed the writer's need for space -

“Writers are often asked: “How do you write? With a word processor? an electric typewriter? a quill? longhand?” But the essential question is: “Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write? Into that space, which is like a form of listening, of attention, will come the words, the words your characters will speak, ideas - inspiration.” If a writer cannot find this space, then poems and stories may be stillborn. When writers talk to each other, what they discuss is always to do with this imaginative space, this other time. “Have you found it? Are you holding it fast?”

See -

I have that space Doris and I am holding damn fast. There is room to manoeuvre all about me. Not only that, my books, books that I have dragged with me in the way of a hermit moving from cave to cave, sit now finally on magnificent spacious shelves. They look mighty pleased with themselves, basking in the glory of the wisdom they possess. Their quintessentialness. They represent a corpus of my life to date, a literary reflection of myself, my tastes, my art, my tongues. All this too is a thing of beauty; nay, wonder. Were I to drop dead now, I believe I would go straight to heaven because I am envious of no man, have no guilt and bear no ill will to anyone. Nor am I (to use the words of Czeslaw Milosz - one of my favourite poets) “embarrassed to think that I was once the same man”.

There is another aspect to writing which Doris Lessing did not mention and that is the very decision of becoming a writer. The declaration you must make to yourself that you are an artist.

I grew up in a very tough part of Salford, where my father, a bull of a man, careened against the walls of his own artistic frustration by fighting other men and beating his children to assuage his alcoholic rage. I kept my eyes on my own artistic intent as I pissed the bed in fear at the thunder coming up the stairs. I knew I was special, different, sensitive but also that I had to survive, so I placed a metal bar under my bed, not for self defence, but for self abuse, so as to beat my head, inure myself to the coming blows. An iron bar and an iron will, the iron taste of blood. But broken bones have their own education. Nothing goes to waste if we can only but think, dream and soar above all the trauma. I held on to a dream, a continual prayer, a mantra carried aloft by those angels, that I would succeed, that I would become an artist and I named that thing and burned it into my consciousness.

The naming of things is very important. It is, in my view, the litmus test of one’s own intent and will also reveal the true colours of those around you. I clearly remember the moment that I realised that I was not a television producer but a film director and a poet and I promptly went and told everybody who cared to listen that this was the case. A small number of middle class people in the BBC, reacted with mirth, calling my films “labours of love” with a smirk on their face, whilst established poets called my poems “doggerel”. Even those who claimed to love me were wont to ridicule me but I remained steadfast. I have faced bigger giants with my sling and bow than they will ever know.

My breakthrough came when in the teeth of fierce opposition by others (“why should the BBC broadcast your bloody poetry?”, came the angry cry), I managed to get a film broadcast (“Belfast Black”), which was based on a poem I had written. The film was about a Falls Road black taxi - think of a taxi bus. This film/poem, got a huge audience and marked a personal turning point. I will be ever grateful to those in the BBC who supported me in the efforts to get the film on air. All artists need patrons and well wishers. A way out of the despair.

At that early stage of my development as a writer, I wanted to be a film director and to be known as a director and this is what finally happened. I climbed a mountain and then I went looking for the next artistic summit. The next phase of an artist trying to find his voice. It's not talked about in polite Irish society but white trash Alpha Males like myself (yes, I admit it, I eat red meat and admire the female body) face huge obstacles in getting their voices heard.

Tim Pat Coogan has spoken recently in his usual eloquent, yet trenchant way, about the exclusive nature of the artistic scene in Ireland. To this can be added the general problem of people of “questionable backgrounds” trying to find a forum for their work and yet still retaining their own distinctive voices. I have referred elsewhere to what the the brilliant Glaswegian writer James Kelman said about the middle class swamp culture which, in particular, tries to cow males from working class backgrounds into artistic submission –

“These bastards think they own the language. They want to block your stories and they will, if you let them. “
See -

Or see -

To The Future – má bheir Dia mo sláinte is saol – If God spares me

I adore 19th century fiction and wish to write in the painstaking “real time” way in which Doestevsky, Tolstoy, Hardy and Dickens wrote. They took their time in describing the times in which they lived. However, two modern day novelists in particular have also inspired me to write on. One is Michael Ondaatje and the other is Cormac McCarthy. I felt like I had broken free of some kind of male blockage after reading Ondaatje’s In “The Skin Of A Lion”, a book which startlingly combines the issue of male jealousy with the question of a socialist utopia. Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”, clearly inspired by the apocalypse of the Iraq Wars and Al Qaeda’s reprisals, will remain as a monument to the beauty and essential mystery of the human spirit. McCarthy preaches, without ever being preachy, that there is an ancient common bond linking all of us together, a river, a watercourse, or ancient paths that we can recognise if we choose to ponder the world and remember. A bond that is in danger of being severed because of human greed and avarice. I sobbed when finishing “The Road” (yes I know Alpha Males don’t do that but then I am an Alpha Male with a feminine side). My tears were partly tears of gratitude for my brother who gave me the book as a gift when I turned fifty. A fitting gift.

It is a gift to be alive after all that has happened to me. It is a gift to be a writer. It is a gift to be of the "pobal aníos", the people of no property.

“This is what the good guys do. They keep trying. They don’t give up." - “The Road” – Cormac McCarthy


I've seen it. I've lived some of it. I know it to be true.
by: Likkle Brian (contact) - 24 Nov '08 - 09:44
so many things are understood within a family our kid - there's no need for words - what I find amazing is that we still manage to get up in the morning and face the rising sun with at least a semblance of a smile
by: Pol (contact) - 24 Nov '08 - 10:51


Comments must be approved before being published.

Meta Information:

Title: The Naming of Things - On the occasion of my fifty first birthday – 21/11/08
Date posted: 21 Nov '08 - 21:15
Filed under: General
Next entry:  » Remember Captain Boycott – Boycott Israel.
Previous entry:  « The Joy of Books, the Joy of Work

Baile - Home