An exquisite poet. Alan Patrick Traynor’s words carve their way into the consciousness and remain, haunting.
Which shall we choose? Young/old, simple/complex, popular/or great bards?
By Ampat Koshy
In the humorous film ‘Music and Lyrics’ (2007), a discussion comes up between Hugh Grant (Alex, former pop music idol, now middle aged) and Drew Barrymore (young Sophie Fisher, once upon a time aspiring writer forced to turn lyricist by Alex) about the importance of a (song) lyric in comparison with a supposedly literary novel. Alex points out that lines like Smokey Robinson’s “I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day/When it’s cold outside I’ve got the month of May” in ‘My Girl’ leave more of a long lasting impact on the minds of people all over the world, and that too for generations to come, than many difficult literary works like ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ by James Joyce. The deduction is worth thinking of: While popular need not be great, popular when simple, deep and profound has reach and greatness…
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Two stunning poems by vibrant poets.
Today I introduce you to two extraordinary poets. I am happy to announce that Plum Tree Books will be publishing them both in the near future.The first is Dublin born Alan Patrick Traynor. Patrick sets the page alight! He is a brave, sizzling voice, writing as though possessed. I wonder that he is an elemental. I am excited to have discovered him for the Plum Tree. He will follow in the long line of Irish poets that have made their mark on the world. Unconventional, thumbing his nose at the Irish intelligentsia, the snooty, conservative, fear-filled nay-sayers that have never known how to take risks with genius. They forced most of the great Irish artists, poets and writers to leave Erin’s shores, Those who stay in Ireland rest unpeacefully in an in-between world along with the Tuatha De Danann. Alan is unafraid to disarrange syntax and break up the…
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“Who, if I cried, would hear me among the angelic
orders? And even if one of them suddenly
pressed me against his heart, I should fade in the strength of his
stronger existence. For Beauty’s nothing
but beginning of Terror we’re still just able to bear,
and why we adore it so is because it serenely
disdains to destroy us.” ….Rainer Maria Rilke….
In the struggle
to pluck Beauty from the ether
and satisfy my soul’s longing for home,
I must open myself to the angels.
But all angels are terrible.
Their perfection is death
to all that is considered to be human.
Their beauty: fierce, pure, perfect, relentless,
burns with such brilliance
as to dismantle the fragility of Being.
We cannot be in Their presence
without crashing to our knees,
as beggars of the ubiquitous,
And when the moment has passed,
we are the condemned,
to plummet into all that is dark, cold and listless.
A vision of Beauty shows the rents in us,
the stunted, less than perfect, clumsy attempts
to clothe what we have seen
with shoddy words and paltry thoughts.
Copyright Niamh Clune 2013
As I take a breather from the bustling wing-flaps of October’s Month of the Dragon frenzy, and let my election angst fade into a welcome memory, I thought what better time to throw the spotlight elsewhere, on another writer I know and enjoy: Karen S. Elliott.
Karen is a short-story writer, with a wicked sense of humor and a darkly twisted sense of horror. She is also an exacting editor whose services I can’t recommend too highly.
Today, though, I am pleased to showcase her lyrical side, both playful and poignant, in the following trio of poems.
Set to lull
Beers swilled, shots tossed
Ink to page
Rip it up
Still a mess
Note to self
Give it up
Go to bed.
A stranger’s first glance at a sandpaper land,
To the untrained eye so stark
They think our God forgot to wave His generous hand.
But go within the seeker’s slow embark:
Hear the insistent flutter of looming raptors’ wings
Spooks lizards under rocks of ginger veil
Brings a prick to jack-rabbit springs
As roadrunners skitter to quick avail
See the honeydew and sapphire skies on copper-penny peaks subsist
Sleeping violet mantle sprinkled with heaven’s dreamy eyes
From a yawning dawn’s foggy mists
To awestruck travelers this vista lies
The scent of desert blooms wrapped in lemons tart and peaches warm
Meadow hues blushed and painted wild
Beware the sly and patient cactus’ unforgiving thorn
Unsuspected, drawn to their scent, beguiled
The moon rises from amethyst mountain cloak
Winds howl denouncing the mesa’s plateau breeze
Arid powder of lost, wandering animals, now bones,
Summer dust awaits the overnight freeze.
Mom and Bocelli
Mom introduced me to Andrea Bocelli several years before she died,
And he comforted her throughout her final days.
He’s blind, you know. I did not.
I loved to watch her, sitting in her favorite chair, body rocking, eyes closed.
I imagine her still, mouthing words she could not pronounce,
Italian opera coming through the speakers of her silver boom box.
Before I left the coast, before she died,
I bought two tickets instead of paying several overdue bills.
She said, Dear, I haven’t been to a concert since the Dorseys.
And I said, Well, we’re going.
We drove to Philly and talked about mother-daughter stuff,
And listened to his tender voice melt through the speakers of the silver sedan.
We had two tickets and two tuna sandwiches.
At the over-under bridge, there was a back-up,
and we started to laugh about needing a bathroom,
and we agreed that you should not laugh when you need a bathroom.
Then we laughed harder still.
Inside, we sat above,
And there he was.
We were close enough to see the grizzle in his beard.
Before long, Mom and I cried and held hands.
Near the end he sang our favorite, “Nessun Dorma.”
We squeezed hands and sobbed and soaked a pile of tissues.
Through those tear-stained eyes, I will always see my mother.
Karen S. Elliott is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer. She edits fiction and non-fiction including: sci-fi, fantasy, children’s, mystery, paranormal, western, horror, historical, literary, and journalism. Karen completed her writing coursework through UCLA and University of New Mexico, and was the winner of the SouthWest Writers 2009 Writing Contest – The Best Hook. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com. She is currently working on collections of short stories and poetry. Continue reading
Here at Month of the Dragon central, it’s the start of Tell a Dragon Tale Week, a time to celebrate Dragons in books and stories and all forms literary. Dragons love books. It’s something old as their hills, boiling deep in their viscid, garnet blood.
As the week goes on we’ll be featuring various books by and about Dragons, and stories in toto, too.
But to start, I thought we’d stray from more standard fiction fare, and start with a nod to the poetic, romantic side of Dragons. This anonymous verse was found scored deep into the ancient nesting caves of Wyre Weyr, in the Orkney Islands, proving there is passion – and literature – even in the remotest of Dragon retreats.
Call out the winds
with yawp and roar
gnash with tooth
lash with tail entwined
round armoured amour
Close in my wings
we dance on solar winds
shake moondust from our scales
shred the stellar net.
Seize my paw my light
Egg and seed
release my thunder
into the night
Seize the Universe!
exploding with incandescent joy
Immortality is now!
to meet your wind
to hold you
with my grateful
Here’s wishing one and all a glorious day, resounding with a draconic “YES!”
Note: Here at WAFDE, we’re always eager to expand our library. So…. Anyone who has a book they would like mentioned this week, please contact me at email@example.com. Provide all publishing info plus a brief synopsis if possible.
Also, all those of you who comment during this Tell a Dragon Tale Week will not only have your names for Dragons for Beginners and The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook, but also a signed limited edition printing of my story, “Because the Pleasure-Dragon Whistles,” the lucky winner will be announced on October 28th.
Pleasure-Dragon ~ Part II
So, my draconic friends: For your reading delight, here is the conclusion of the tale of Cynon, the Dragon, and the poet, Marlais, a couple of Welsh souls inextricably attached……(If you missed part one, you can fine it here.)
BECAUSE THE PLEASURE-DRAGON WHISTLES
…He did not ask for my return. I did not offer promises. And yet, for all such lessons learned, we knew we’d see each other again.
And over the next two decades we did – quite often, by Dragonish measure – our paths criss-crossing through highs and lows, through sullen seasons when his pleasures turned more Dalwhinnie than Dragon. True, there were lapses: a fortnight’s absence might roll into a month, into a year, in the wilderness of our swirling worlds. I flew without his path when he traded broadsheet scribblings for literary laurels, Cwmdonkin Park for Covent Garden. It was his time, his orbit wobbling round high London life. I am not an urban Dragon; I would not follow him there. And when the Isle Enchantments convened at Wyre Weyr in the Orkneys to sort our choices for the coming troubles, well, that was a long year’s Dragon business, pure and simple.
Still we were connected. Not that I was at his beck and call. That’s not the Dragon way. I chose to keep Marlais in my life and that was enough. I knew of the swath he cut from the Kardomah to the BBC, from the West End to Penzance. And when the roiling in his Cymraeg blood steered his return to our bosky hills, I was little surprised to find him cross the estuary from my old Carmarthen haunts.
“There’ll be war,” I warned him under the ruined arches of Laugharne Keep. “We can smell it.”
But he shook me off. He was round and happy, with his swanning mate and milk-breathed son and poems to walk through by the mile. He did not want to see the coming darkness, to hear grief soft-padding up the street, to even imagine my absence at end of day. Don’t dare spoil my cardiganed bliss, he begged through brilliant eyes.
So I let him talk instead. Of sex and babies and blue-windowed boat houses. Of darts, draughts, and peat-layered malt. Of musty scholars and blighted critics with tin-tipped ears. Of dreams and tremors. Of owl-light and words….
That day our parting travelled no usual route, sang no intimate litany.
“Just remember to whistle now and then,” I called out, hovering over the castle green, my breath burning like a bush.
“My pleasure!” He smiled, half-masked and cocky-self-sure. “And you – ”
But there would be rare pleasure-whistles heard for years to come.
Tapestried fears hung between us as I veered north to kin and sanctuary. Were I not Dragon-bound by Dragon ways, I would have swept Marlais and his family up into the temporal mists with me, kept them safe through the coming madness. But even Dragons have rules, the ancient harmonies of life and death, which cannot be broken. And though I never gave them voice, they were always understood. My poet knew not to ask for more than was mine to give.
I choose not to talk about the war. Your next war. Your World War Two. You humans having just packed in your quaint superlatives, preferring to list your hostilities in endless series, each longer and bloodier than the one before. Such passion for self-destruction gives the Cosmic Dragon pause. Such blind hatred calls even wise Ddraigs into the fray. Your next war became our war. We led sorties in the Battle of Britain, kept watchful eyes from Anglesey to Cardiff. No one asked us. No one had to.
And I will not talk of the after years when the dead were counted as sands upon the shore and nations rebuilt but did not learn. Of the Dragon losses cutting deep across every Enchantment. Of nestings smashed and hatchlings broken. Of my father, raging in explosive skies. My father slain over Lough Neagh with a fiercesome score of Gaelach Golds.
Dragon plagues on you, you scaleless sods! How many tears would you have us weep for your lunacy?
No, that is out of my tale. I will never speak of that.
Healing takes time. Forgiving takes distance.
For years I licked my wounds and shed death’s stench with my brittle skin. Still, it was not enough. Europe remained poisoned to me, her air toxic to every flick of my tongue. I had to burn myself clean in a landscape ancient and wild. Amongst the Sand Dragons of Dasht-I-Kavir where noble Kur, black and sinuous, once danced in the desert sun.
“Oh, Cynon, I envy you, all wing-wide, catching the flying seasons in your open claws.” Bow-tied and tweeded, Marlais was still round but no longer happy. Fame, family, and spectral friends ghosted round the edges of his mind, each vying for dominion. They would batter him bloody, sure as the Murray boys. “How I long for our tree in Cwmdonkin Park, to climb into her branches and just disappear.”
“America wasn’t enough for you?”
“America. It was shiny and new as a fresh-mint sixpence and paved, coast-to-coast, with distractions. The flesh is weak. It’s complicated.”
“Isn’t it always? My friend, you are a scraggy mortal itching in an ill-fit skin. Come away with me. To exotic worlds beyond your imaginings. We’ll escape to the East, where the land meets a seamless sky and spilt blood and tears filter clean.”
So we went away from rations and rubble, temptations and shades. Two truants running from unkempt memories until, exhausted, we fell into a fragile laugh.
It was an appetizing thought to put down roots in the Salt dunes of Persia. But Marlais would not have it. Though the dry air did his lungs good, he was, at heart, a green-weather type, not a desert-loving Angle like Lawrence of the Seven Pillars. Besides, we both had families, obligations we could not ignore.
Being there was essential, but staying was not an option.
He smelt of Woodbines, whisky, and women. Success had not made him content, children not kept him home.
“Cynon, you must come with me to New York! They love me there. Fall at my feet!We’ll have a sojourn in the Village, a romp round Washington Square. Hobnob with New World Ddraigs – not that I know any. Don’t gruff and chuff and scorch my brows – I had a hell of a job explaining the last time you did that. Besides, you owe me for that trek through God’s dustbin.” His laugh was wanting, his eyes luster-lost.
I should have said no, at least tried to change his restless mind.
The line between us pulled taut. He was right: I did owe him. And perhaps, if I was there, if he’d let me, I could watch over him, make good on my unvoiced pledge to a snow-coated boy.
Magical thinking from a magical being.
New York is no place for Dragons. Hasn’t been, according to my American cousins, since the Lenape were forced west of the Hudson. In autumn of 1953, it was noise and neon, sporadic trees marooned on islands of dog-yellowed grass, concrete fountains passing for pools. True, Central Park is bearable in its manicured way, save for the zoo, rank with imprisoned wildness begging to be free. And the view from atop the Empire State is impressive when the air blows thin enough to see beyond the tip of my tail. I admit I’m even rather fond of Coney Island from afar, and chatting up the Riverside Church gargoyles is always a challenge. But, block for block, London’s a veritable Eden by comparison. Were it not for the Cloisters, I would have been rough-pressed to stay, even for Marlais.
I circled high, watching. He sat on the fountain’s edge in Washington Square, waiting for me. To these smog-burnt Dragon eyes, he was bent and grey as the November sky, immortal longings oozing from every pore.
“You look like death warmed up.”
“And how was your day, Cynon?” He coughed, then lit another cigarette more out of habit than want. “Seriously. Tell me what you’ve done, what you’ve seen. We’ve been here over a fortnight and all that time I’ve been sentenced to work and the demands of people I hardly know. Talk to me, Cynon.” There was a plaintive desire in his voice, a quest for answers just beyond his weary half-pissed grasp.
So I talked. Of the New York I knew. Of the Cloisters’ anachronistic calm and the underground, lusty with Dragon thunder. Of hand-linked lovers, shoulder-huddled against the cold, strolling along the river and earnest, black-clad Hasidim, Yeshiva-bound along Delancey. How kaleidoscopic aromas tickled my nose, all hot-sweet, soft-savory, and urban-foul. How my scales rippled with music in the night: cool Beat, hot Jazz, and the syncopated slap-pat of double-Dutch jumpers in the street.
And I talked. Of Bowery poor and Gramercy rich. Of musky Brooklyn waterfronts and spiky Bronx cheers. Immigrant dreamers and silk-suited thugs. Of Mingus and Monk, de Kooning and Rothko. Of Ginsberg, Berryman, Cunningham, and Cage. Of Ellison, Baldwin, cummings, and words….
For the longest time Marlais stared at me through soot-flaked evening, smoke, more Dragon than man, spewing from his nostrils. Hunching shoulders into tweed, he coughed again. “I was so angry with you, Cynon, all those years ago. When I was a boy, and you came to me, the most wild and wondrous thing! I was so angry when you did not return. When the other boys mocked my pledge to fly, to see town and sea from Dragon heights. So many years, I had to find my Dragon pleasures…elsewhere.
“I swore I’d never forgive you, Cynon. Never. But then you came back, and I did. I am glad of that. Glad of our travels, our twilit trysts. So glad to hear you whistle again. Better than bells.
“I shouldn’t have asked you to come this trip. It was selfish of me.” He looked at his watch, its face safer than Dragon eyes, then stood, unsteady and small. “I must be going. Supper over at Patchin Place, then on….”
“Want a lift?”
“Oh, what an entrancing entrance that would be! Ta, but no. The walk will do me good.” He lied. “Sorry they don’t allow Dragons in the White Horse. I think you’d enjoy the company. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He nodded, backing away towards MacDougal Street, his pale smile a tight, fraying string between us. “You are a poet, Dragon. I should have said it sooner.”
Then he was gone, sucked into the city, step after step, dying of welcome, women, and strangers from whom even I could not protect him.
I waited for him the next day, and the day after that. A near fortnight with no sign, no sound. Then, one day, as I kept vigil atop the Triumphal Arch, I caught his mourning’s inner bells pealing east from St. Luke’s, setting me free.
Promises are tricky things.
It takes time to heal. Distance to forgive. Forgetting, they say, takes a Dragon’s age in flight.
Tomorrow I go north to New Brunswick. I hear there is a Weyr of sea-loving Dragons who surf the deep waters off Gaspe Peninsula. Then on, perhaps, to chill my bones among the Snow Ddraigs of Hudson Bay, or further west to the Rockies….There are so many Dragons in this part of the world, so many new whistle-bards to hear.
I will dance my eternal dance with time and space, until, at length, I return, wing-tipping over Cymraeg hills.
I will find another child, perhaps, who laughs and calls me pleasure.
copyright 2011 Shawn MacKENZIE
Come join in telling Dragon Tales, your best, your worst, your favorites….