Friday, July 31, 2009

Tom Chivers on Barry MacSweeney

Two great poets in conversation -- OK, Barry MacSweeney is dead, but his spirit lives on, and Tom Chivers hears it singing in the landscape of the North-East that they both share. I fell in love with MacSweeney's poetry during my undergrad and this post has sent me back to my box of chapbooks for Pearl. As Tom writes, in Pearl
Barry remembers a childhood romance with a local girl he calls “Pearl”, whose palate is cleft: she cannot speak. The “a-a-a-a-a-” in the poem becomes an agonised utterance in the powerful theatre of Barry’s live readings. The Pearl sequence is more than mere nostalgia for place. Much more. It is memory passed through the gauze of lived experience, the demons that taunted the poet’s psyche. The demons of drink that would eventually catch up with him, mouths rustling with knives. Innocence crushed. Spoilt beauty. A broken landscape, populated by ‘the turbo-mob, weird souls dreaming of car-reg / numbers and mobile phone codes’.
It's full of cracked allusions to the medieval Pearl poem written by the same poet as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. [I have some issues with the inarticulate-woman-as-landscape trope, see also Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads, but Pearl is never simply an allegory, nor is she a mirror for MacSweeney's own struggles to articulate tenderness and rage, but a real person].

Tom's made a radio doc about a pilgrimage to MacSweeney's landscapes, and this is a great post about the journey on My Place Or Yours, bloghotspot for poetic psychogeography.

MacSweeney's books Wolf Tongue and The Book of Demons are published by Bloodaxe.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

it's nice to leave a mark when you stumble on something fascinating, so here it is...great blog on Barry MacSweeney, going to read the Kathy Acker bit now...