Tag Archives: Poetry

Celebrating Bloomsday

We’re really excited to be marking Bloomsday on Saturday with a special Beatroot Rendez-Vouz event at the Prince Albert in Stroud. For those of you who are justifiably wondering, “What the hell is Bloomsday?” — well, I’ll tell you.

Bloomsday is a celebration of James Joyce’s landmark novel Ulysses. The action of the novel takes place on one day: 16 June 1904, and closely follows the movements and thoughts of its primary and peripheral characters (many of them real Dubliners) on an ordinary day in Dublin. One of these primary characters is Leopold Bloom — hence the name”Bloomsday”.  The 16th of June was, in fact, the day Joyce met his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle.

The novel caused a great uproar when it was first published, largely due to its stark depiction of the stuff of everyday life; including eating, drinking, pissing, shitting, daydreaming about sex, wanking, getting drunk and singing, getting drunk and crying, getting drunk and trying it on with the object of your desire, getting drunk and fighting in the street — namely, the things that real people do in real life.

Such offensive material was considered by the bulwarks of virtue to be obscene and damaging to society, and was therefore banned in the US and UK, until elderly men in black robes decided to acknowledge that Ulysses is a titan of modernist literature, and not just dimestore smut.

Every 16th of June since 1954, poets, authors, artists and punters who just love the book have marked Bloomsday in Dublin (and abroad) by following in the characters’ footsteps, drinking in the same pubs, eating the same sandwiches — possibly even using the same loos. Many follow the route the characters travelled in the book, between Sandymount (a seaside suburb of Dublin) and a meandering trail around the inner city.

For example, many people flock to Davey Byrne’s pub on South Anne Street at 11:30am to have a gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of burgundy — the very fare in the very same pub enjoyed by Leopold Bloom in the novel. Enthusiasts dressed in period attire will then read aloud from that chapter, often acting out the narrative.

Basically, it’s a bit of fun. I was lucky enough to be living in Dublin on the 100th anniversary of the day Ulysses takes place. It was like a much more sober — and more genuinely Irish — St Patrick’s Day. I’ve celebrated it ever since. This year, I’m chuffed that I’ll have some of my mates from Dublin here in Stroud to celebrate it with me.

Join the Facebook event here.

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Peter Beutel

My friend Peter is dead.

Here was a man with a heart.

Here was a man who typed thousands
of words every day
with one finger.

Here was a man who understood
the fatal black energy
sticky from the earth’s belly
that powers our ignorance.

Here was a man who endured my moods
which may be the most colossal feat
I can list here.

Here was a man who said to me:
“You can write”
then expected me to do it.

Here is a man who travelled the
length and breadth of the English
language, then came back to the
humdrum world of party tricks
and souvenirs

Here is a man who gave me a dictio-
nary and expected me to use it
which I did and now I’m travelling
the English language too and I keep
finding his footprints wherever I go

Here is a man who exploded with
pride in his gardening
who taught me to crack the earth
who kindly guided me in the
supernatural conversation with
soil that makes lettuce grow
lettuce that becomes salad that
you feed your friends to tell them
that you love them

Here is a man who shed tears for
wolves
who fed a raccoon through a
rip in the screen door next
to his desk

Here is a man who loved the animal
in cats
gave them the names of Roman
emperors
let them stalk their empires
freely even if it killed them
which it sometimes did
but that’s life and they were
animals and he loved the
animal in them

Here is a man who was a viking
without being a barbarian
who locked forearms with
his friends instead of a
touchless wilting handshake
who hugged like a bear because
he really loved you
who never gave up on a friend
who stormed through armies
of knowledge to emerge hurt
but wiser, because he knew
as much as the next guy
who dried as many tears as he
shed
who cooked for 12 even if he
was all alone
who kept milk in the fridge
even though he hated milk
because his friends took milk in
their tea and what if they
surprised him with a visit?
who spread out feasts for the
birds, happy to watch them happy
who knew some terrific insults
who taught me not to shout to the
drowning from the riverbank
but to jump in and convince
them to swim

Here was a man who was my friend

for Peter Beutel, 1955-2012
14 March ’12

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I Love Patti Smith

by Ben Kritikos

How is it possible that I went 30 years without being obsessed with Patti Smith?

This world is insane.  Nothing makes sense, and maybe it shouldn’t.  People kill each other, and do worse.  Poetry is gone from our language, half-dead, imprisoned in books and open mic nights.  Rock and roll is moribund merchandise used to drug the baby boomers.   I can’t stand it.  I’d go mad if it weren’t for the existence of something, some one who breathed fire and dug her heels into the fleshy undersides of city streets, poked at the open wound on the face of civilisation and cried out in a hoarse and primitive howl from the other side of the dark corridor of time and memory.

“We shall live again”, and it will be Easter when the clocks stop, time dies running, and everything is green, gold and answers to the touch.

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We Love… Jinx Lennon

“From far away/the city looks like a great big chandelier/but when you get near/the light begins to separate/and you see a different landscape …”

Jinx Lennon is one of those characters who is certainly bigger, better, more complicated and far more interesting than any adjectives one can use would suggest.  Punk Poet, Preacher, Singer-Songwriter, Soul Man, Voice of Protest — sure.  Whatever.  Jinx Lennon is unique, and like all unique individuals — whether they be artists, carpenters, saints or sociopaths — he eludes final judgement and definite description.

I was lucky enough to have moved to Ireland in August of 2003, and even luckier to have lived there until March of this year.  I say lucky because had I not come to integrate into Irish society, I wouldn’t have picked up on Jinx’s message, understood the context (or the accent) of his work, or really had the opportunity to witness one of the last and brightest bastions of punk in full operation.

Jinx Lennon is from Dundalk, he’ll have you know.  Location is important with Jinx.  His songs are not so much snapshots of real life; they’re more like bites ripped right out of life’s tender flanks.  Jinx engages you with his songs.  Much in the same way that a foreigner engaging with you intensely may take some getting used to, like a friend or new love or a great work of art, it takes some commitment on your part to reap the full benefit.  You’ve got to have your eyes and ears and mind open, your mouth shut, and your dancing shoes on.

Jinx Lennon takes chunks of life and melts them into poems, distills them down to their essences.  Life is dirt and grime, love and peace, hate and war, sex and oppression, politics and skullduggery; life is flowers growing on top of a landfill, a dove pecking at Saturday night’s vomit, love in the time of capitalism, climate change and extraordinary renditions.  “Know Your Station Gouger Nation!” the title of his second album urges us.  What station is that?

Your station is Ireland in ribbons, bruised and bloodied by a million greedy hands grabbing at the goodies, ripping the sweets out of children’s hands: be it hospitals, education, Ireland’s consitutional mandate to neutrality, or the lifeblood of the country itself, sucked into the sewers of mind, the swamps of Catholicism, the bog of Progress and Development.  Your station is coming in on the frequency of conformity; everybody is listening to the sound of their own dissolution, the shattering of their society into millions of atoms, each alone, dissociated, dislocated, without a language, a patchwork and contradictory identity, an identity confined to possession and location.  Ireland is the train station in the middle of nowhere, trying to get somewhere —  if only the train would come!  Ireland is the upwardly-mobile beast of the borrowed dollar.  Ireland in ribbons, bruised and abused, long-suffering, enduring, knowing right from wrong but casting her lot with the highest bidder.

Jinx Lennon has never been more relevant than he is today.  The banking system suffered a seizure, and we’re told it almost toppled — on top of us, of course.  Ireland hangs together by her ribbons, and Jinx is her poet.  Jinx Lennon is the most modern of all poets: nobody is on top of it like Jinx.  The poet bears the banner, the beacon; the heart in his hand is Ireland’s heart.  We’d be wise to follow our hearts.  That failing, follow the poet who holds it in his capable hands.

www.jinxlennon.com, www.myspace.com/httpwwwmyspacecomjinxlennon


Ben Kritikos
27 December ’09

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We Love… Allen Ginsberg

“So that’s one reason I write.  To say what I could say when I was alive.”

Allen Ginsberg was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1926, to mother Naomi, a Russian immigrant, and father Louis Ginsberg, a poet.  While attending Columbia University in the 1940s he befriended William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, who profoundly influenced his writing, which up to that point employed strict meters and rhyme schemes.  These three friends established what later became “The Beat Generation”.  Ginsberg further honed his command of what he called “the bardic function” under the influence of Walt Whitman and William Blake, and the tutelage of William Carlos Williams, whose own poetry incorporated the sounds and diction of everyday speech.

In 1956, Ginsberg published his first volume of poetry, Howl and Other Poems.  These poems freed the voice of the poet, rooting the prosody in physical breath, using long, uninhibited lines, as well as the diction of common speech.  Howl and Other Poems was banned on grounds of obscenity, leading to an historic censorship trial in which the judge found “artistic merit” in the work, thereby advancing the cause of free speech in the US.  “Howl” went on to become one of the most widely read poems of the 20th century.

Allen Ginsberg was a lifelong vociferous advocate of human rights, and he criticised authoritarianism wherever he saw it, on both the left and the right.  He was also a prescient proponent of environmentalism, promoting earth-friendly, sustainable human activities before global warming entered the modern lexicon.  Ginsberg actively organised against the Viet Nam war, and was highly critical of US military aggression in Latin America and elsewhere.  He campaigned actively for gay rights throughout his life, and much of his poetry explicitly depicts gay sex at a time when homosexuality was still a taboo subject.

Ginsberg’s output was continuous up until his death at the age of 71.  Allen Ginsberg died surrounded by friends and family in 1997.  His works and activism are lauded around the globe.  Many great artists, writers and musicians cite Ginsberg as an inspiration, a brave cultural and literary trail-blazer who opened the doors of freer and more natural expression — in life and art — to future generations.  Bob Dylan said of him, “Ginsberg is both tragic & dynamic, a lyrical genius, con man extraordinaire and probably the single greatest influence on American poetical voice since Whitman.”

Ben Kritikos
10 December ’09

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