March 1 to April 14
Q & A with Karl Parkinson
Karl Parkinson has very kindly allowed me to preface his excellent Q and A Session with a poem I find very powerful.
"Listening to classical music while thinking of Some great artists and their suffering"
by Karl Parkinson
Did you moan like a bird or groan like a wounded bear?
When they shot you and left you laying like an unwanted sick dog,
or what of you Bukowski,
with your tongue burning with wine and whiskey
a drunken hag snoring at your side and your face scarred by demons.
old anti Semite, old mad man of poetry,
you left your voice
in that hospital for the insane, you left clear images in the water of literature.
sweet Frida, what a strong face, what a strong art
and all with your spine full of Steele and loneliness,
your heart full of Diego.
And now I see Milton raging in his blindness,
orating his brimstone poesy at his secretary,
seeking to show the ways of God to man and making a hero of Satan.
you said the archangel Gabriel tore the roof from your house,
other angels and spirits came and told you the secrets of art and everything,
but all people said was
"He's a fucking nut."
you blew the truth of a genius into the world,
and drew the prototype of spiritual freedom for us all,
then hung yourself on a cross made of cognac and tears.
Caravaggio's self severed head! Van Gogh's ear in a bloodied box!
Dostoyevsky's pockets emptied at the gamblers den!
Genet in jail! Pinero liverless and scattered over the Lower East side!
Morrison's bloated dead body in a bath! Cobains headless body lying on the floor!
The suicides: Hemingway & Hunter S, brilliant brains blown away!
Arenas exiled and Aids ridden, shivering in a New York bedroom!
Body wracked by seizures and heart torn in two by love,
body blue and hanging limp from a noose in the awful gray
of a Manchester morning.
raped and deranged wandering through hell with his feet on fire,
his mouth full of blood, tongue forked and dripping the blessings
of delirium and wine.
And now young Arthur climbs on my back, kiss's my ear
and say's "The suffering of the artist is the suffering of the world"
a white rose, explodes in my brain showing me Christmas on earth
I hear the song of the heavens! I see the four fold vision!
All's well! No more the murder or the suicide!
No more the suffering! The vision ends in sound! MUSIC!!
Karl Parkinson’s work has been published in many magazines and journals, including The Stinging Fly. His chapbook A Sacrament Of Song was published in 2010 by Wurmpress and his first collection Litany Of The City & other Poems will be coming out soon from Wurmpress. He has been a featured reader/performer at The Electric Picnic, Glór sessions, Brown Bread Mix-tape and many more. In 2011 he was part of The Irish Rising poetry show in the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York city and in 2012 he performed at The March Hare Festival in Newfoundland, Canada. He won the Balcony TV award for the most entertaining video of the year in 2009. Leinster slam poetry winner 2010 and All-Ireland runner-up in 2011. He is one half of spoken word duo Droppin The Act(with Dave Lordan).
1.Who are some of the contemporary short story writers you admire? If you had to say, who do you regard as the three best ever short story writers? (you can sub poets in here or mix it if you like)
I don’t read a lot of short story’s, more poetry & Novels. My favourite short story’s are Joyce- The Dead. Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground, more a long, short story and Kerouac’s October The railroad earth.
2. I have read lots of Indian and American short stories in addition to Irish and alcohol plays a much bigger part in the Irish stories. How should an outsider take this and what does it say about Irish culture. Drinking was a very big factor in the lives of several of the writers you mention in your poems, did it contribute to their misery or help them escape or both?
Alcohol is used to control and stupefy the masses, the Irish like many other Nations, might have a fetish for been controlled. I don’t drink it anymore myself, though I did have some great times, while been drunk, I still have a great time now when ever I want and don’t have hangovers. Alcohol and drugs have nullified and killed many a great artist.
3. Declan Kiberd has said the dominant theme of modern Irish literature is that of the weak or missing father? Do you think he is right and how does this, if it does, reveal itself in your work.
Is the failure of the writers you mention to achieve a stable life style and be at peace with themselves and their community a part of this-I am guess many of them were very poor fathers.
I’d say there is some truth in that, though when he say’s modern, how modern does he mean? My own Father died when I was 11 years old, so, it would obviously revel it’s self in my work and In the first section of my coming soon Book Litany Of The City the first section has 3 or 4 poems about him. But It is certainly not dominant.
4. A while ago i read and posted on a long biography of Hart Crane, author of the Bridge-few read it but many known of his life style as one of the first Gay poets living out a life of rough trade and wealthy older benefactors-he lived a very chaotic life and died young from suicide by jumping off a cruise ship. His father invented Life Saver Candy and wanted Hart to go in the Candy business with him-so if he Hart had done this and died at 75 rich living in ohio fat bald and married would he still be even much thought about let alone read?
It depends, if He still wrote the same at times sublime poetry that he did, then he would still be read, yes. But of course the facts of his life and death, will draw people to his work.
5. Ezra Pound-Dave Lordan also references him on occasion-same sort of question-is it the fact Ezra went mad and might have been some how turned on by Nazi ideology and trappings part of his appeal. Does Ezra have to go crazy to be interesting? Have you read The Cantos? does anybody
I’m not sure if his Nazi ideology would have much of an appeal, nor his madness. No he doesn’t have to go crazy to be interesting, there have been and are many, many crazy people who, nobody’s interested in. How crazy is crazy? Who is crazy? Who is not crazy? How do people ‘go ‘ crazy and why? I’ve read some of them. Yes.
6. tell is a bit about your non-literary work experience please
I’ve worked in factories, on Building sites, as a stage hand, in a furniture shop, various shit jobs like that. Now I’m teaching poetry workshops in schools, and I like that a whole lot better.
7. Tell us a bit about your educational background please
I had basic primary and secondary school education. No 3rd level.
I’ve had invaluable street education and have educated myself in the classic autodidactic way.
- Jack Kerouac-he seems to be making a come back-to what do you attribute that-have you read much of his work beyond On the Road? have you read "Howl" by Alan Ginsburg?I’ve read about 12 of his books and bios and critical works about him, so I’ve done a systematic study of him. I don’t think it’s a come back, I think it’s a growing of stature and film makers who are influenced by The Beats are making films about them at the moment so they’re back in the news at the moment, because Hollywood is on to them right now. Yes Howl and Ginsberg and the whole Beat movement along with Blake, The romantics, and Whitman have been a major influence on my decision to be a writer and on my work, much more than any Irish writers.
9. Why have the Irish produced such a disproportional to their population number of great writers?
They haven’t. Great writers: Joyce, Beckett, Wilde, No doubt. Yeats. Kavanagh, Swift, Flan O’Brien and others have a shot at it, some might argue at the sustainability of their greatness. So, no I think we are capable of producing much more great writers and should produce them in large quantities. Come on lets all have a go at it. Immortality is the only thing worth striving for, says William S Burroughs.
10. (This may seem like a silly question but I pose it anyway-do you believe in Fairies?-this quote from Declain Kiberd sort of explains why I am asking this:
" One 1916 veteran recalled, in old age, his youthful conviction that the rebellion would “put an end to the rule of the fairies in Ireland”. In this it was notably unsuccessful: during the 1920s, a young student named Samuel Beckett reported seeing a fairy-man in the New Square of Trinity College Dublin; and two decades later a Galway woman, when asked by an American anthropologist whether she really believed in the “little people”, replied with terse sophistication: “I do not, sir – but they’re there."
I’ve not met any fairies yet, but wouldn’t rule it out.
11. Do you think the very large amount of remains from neolithic periods (the highest in the world) in Ireland has shaped in the literature and psyche of the country?
Ireland is old and proud of it.
12. Tell us a bit about representing Ireland in New York City at a poetry event please? did being Irish give you extra status?
It was myself and a few other well know ‘Performance poets’ sent over by Culture Ireland and we had a good aul time. Yes it did, Americans loved me and found me to be everything they dreamed I would be.
Do you feel Aosdana is the best use of the Irish governments limited funds to promote the arts or do you think the money could be better spent in another way? No they should give it all to Dave Lordan and me. We will then start up The Mystic underdog, visionary school of excellence in the arts of Poetry, song, dance, magic, trance, Hierophany and Fragism.
14. OK this is a rude question so ignore or tell me off if you want to-in Savage Detective Roberto Bolano suggested one of the reasons men in Mexico City where the novel is set read at poetry workshops was to meet women who were looking for someone with the sensitive tortured soul of a poet-is Bolano just nuts when he said poetry workshops were a great way to meet women?
There are usually more woman then men at poetry workshops, so you’ll defiantly meet woman at them.
15. William Butler Yeats said in "The Literary Movement"-- "“The popular poetry of England celebrates her victories, but the popular poetry of Ireland remembers only defeats and defeated persons”. I see a similarity of this to the heroes of the Philippines. American heroes were all victors, they won wars and achieved independence. The national heroes of the Philippines were almost all ultimately failures, most executed by the Spanish or American rulers. How do you think the fact Yeats is alluding too, assuming you agree, has shaped Irish literature
England had a lot more victories to celebrate and we had more defeats. But he is wrong about that, because Ireland never shuts up about heroes and victories, just ask Ray Houghton( He, who stuck a ball in the English net)
16. in he same vein, if instead of being an artist suffering for her or his craft, a writer is rich and on the BBC does that make him less or more interesting, less or more authentic?
A writer who Is rich and on the BBC, may just be suffering more than most. I find the rich and poor to be as interesting as each other. If you’re Authentic, you’re authentic.
17. Do you think poets have a social role to play in contemporary Ireland or are they pure artists writing for themselves and a few peers?
They do if they choose to. All artists make art for themselves and for others, this is obvious. I believe in the poet as a seer, shaman, magical world shaper, wouldn’t it be interesting if more poets did?
18. "To creative artists may have fallen the task of explaining what no historian has fully illuminated – the reason why the English came to regard the Irish as inferior and barbarous, on the one hand, and, on the other, poetic and magical."-is this right? Kiberd, Declan (2009-05-04). Inventing Ireland (p. 646).
Who is Declan Kiberd and why do love him so much? By the English, he seems to be talking about, the overlords in the palace and parliament, they see everyone as inferior and barbarous. As for the English people as a whole, I can’t speak for them, but doubt this to be true. (Response added by Mel u-Declan Kiberd is the author of Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation. He takes a post-colonial approach to Irish literature that is compatible with my readings in post colonial-Asian literature and he puts literature in perspective so one who with no formal training in the area can understand the background a bit. His book is sort of informing how I am looking at a lot of Irish lit for this month-of course no one has all the answers.)
19. Do you think Irish Travellers should be granted the status of a distinct ethnic group and be given special rights to make up for past mistreatment? Are the Travellers to the Irish what the Irish were once to the English? I became interested in this question partially through reading the short stories of Desmond Hogan.
They should if that’s what they want. I think it’s up to Travellers to say what they want, not me. I’d fully support them if that’s what they want to do. No, I don’t think they are to the Irish, what we were to the English. There’s defiantly a negative or stereotypical view of Travellers from certain sections of Irish society. In saying that, there are travellers who, act in certain ways that reinforce that view, eg the movie Knuckle, this happens with in the working/lower class background that I come from as well.
20. Ok probably this is really naive question, who is young Arthur?
Arthur Rimbaud, the great, French Poet.
- tell us about your partnership in Electric Picnic please?I think you mean my partnership in Droppin the act with Dave Lordan? Electric picnic id a festival. Droppin The Act is a performance poetry Duo. We’re experimenting in and broadening the art of performance poetry in Ireland. We’re bringing the Hierophany to the people. You can google us!
22. if you could have dinner and talk to three writers no longer living, who would they be and why?
William Blake and Walt Whitman because we’re of the same ilk and Shakespeare because he is!
23. If you were to be given the option of living anywhere besides Ireland where would you live?
I don’t know I’ve not visited enough places yet to make an informed decision.
24. If you could time travel for 30 days (and be rich and safe) where would you go and why?
The future, to see what we’ve become.
25. Tell us about the biggest rewards and challenges teaching in literary workshops.
Seeing people, uncovering gifts they didn’t know they had. Breaking down conditioning.
26. Flash Fiction-how driven is the popularity of this form by social media like Twitter and its word limits? Do you see twitter as somehow leading to playwrights keeping conversations shorter than in years past?
I’m not really interested in Flash fiction. No.
27. How important in shaping the literature of Ireland is its proximity to the sea?
I think our proximity to the sea has shaped us as a country and a people, so that would then have an influence on our literature.
28. When you are outside of Ireland, besides friends and family, what do you miss the most? What are you glad to be away from?
I’ve never been out of Ireland for long enough to miss anybody. When in New York I did miss seeing the sky.
29. Quick Pick Questions
a. Yeat or Whitman or Pound: Whitman
b. dogs or cats. I’m not into having pets.
c. best city to inspire a writer-London or Dublin Both
d. favorite meal to eat out-breakfast, lunch or dinner? Dinner
e. RTE or BBC, BBC, no Adds.
30. OK let us close out on this note-what is your reaction these lines from a famous Irish poet?
I was born to the stink of whiskey and failure
And the scattered corpse of the real.
This is my childhood and country:
The cynical knowing smile
Plastered onto ignorance
Ideals untarnished and deadly
Because never translated to action
The sick glorification of failure.
Our white marble statues were draped in purple
The bars of the prison were born in our eyes
And if reality ever existed
It was a rotten tooth
That couldn't be removed.
I like it very much. He can write!
My great thanks to Karl for allowing me to publish his wonderful poem and for taking the time to provide us with such interesting well considered answers