Skip to main content

No Money In Poetry



Today I drove to Sligo and back in the pissing rain. Well let’s say my beloved did the driving and I sat in the passenger seat passing bitchy remarks about other drivers and the state of any poor innocent who happened to be walking along the pavement.
I had been invited to Sligo to read a poem of mine which was ‘highly commended’ in the iYeats poetry competition. In other words, a poem that didn't win. The invite had been called ‘an award ceremony’, however, we runner ups only got a cup of tea and a dry aul’ biscuit.
I’m used to the pomp that goes with poetry by now. I reckoned that if the ceremony was on at 12.30, it would be enough to skip the wine, crackers and speeches and get there about 1pm for the start. I made it at a quarter to one, only to find that it was half way through and I’d missed my slot. Gracefully, they did let me come up and read, and the whole thing was over by 1pm, say a quarter past if you count the cuppa.
There were a few poets hanging around, laden down with bags of poetry books, saying ‘I’m very reserved about pulling out my book at readings, but I do have a copy or two in my bag at €12.50 thank you very much and will I sign it?’ I’m not sure though, if poets will ever have a huge market in flogging poetry books to other poets for the simple reason that most poets are broke. As Robert Graves said:  There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money, either. 
He’s right about the no money for sure. I’ll tell you why that is. The petrol money to Sligo was about €30, lunch out was about the same and I had to stop on the way back for a large box of Solpadeine painkillers and whatever you’re having yourself. That’s nearly half of my deserted wives’ pension blown in one day, and not a bit of inspiration out of the whole event.
I decided that maybe I just don’t fit into the literature circles. I’m no good at name dropping or mentioning other competitions that I also didn’t win, and when someone suggested I send my manuscript to what I consider to be the Supermacs of Irish poetry publishing, I just said that ‘yeah, I must’, instead of saying how much more damn exciting I find it to write about things that fire my passion than to collect gold stars from learned people who judge said writing.
In many ways, writing poetry is a curse. I wish my inspiration would come in the form of best selling chick lit novels, or that my passion could be channelled into inventing something like the Dyson vacuum cleaner instead of sitting up nights mulling over words. I should really stop giving out, but, as Yeats himself once said:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.
So for what it’s worth, here’s the non-winning poem:


View From a Ditch

Here. Look at my face on a faded photo.
Cast a glance and roll your eyes up. Say you’re
Sick of these streets pasted with posters,
Boasting young lads winking at passers-by
With their Missing Person dead eyes.
Say it’s not your job to find me alive.

Believe me. These streets breed premature ghosts.
Pull in knife fighting kids on gear. Paint
The town blue with sirens, still you can hide:
Glue sniffing with the belly-topped hep-c beauties.
There I felt warm: shared needles and ice cream,
Said ‘I love you’ and the sun split filthy skies.

Look. In this ditch water flows without a tap.
Since State Care, the longest home I’ve had.
Hawk stoops for its’ prey. Bird murders worm.
The rain on my dead cheek makes me my mother’s son.
A shot - a fox lies victim of a bad deal.
And I am quiet now. I know these rules too well.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Letter to a Boy, who Died aged 18, by Suicide

Dear Tiernan,
I shouldn’t be writing you this letter. I should be hearing about you from my son, your childhood best friend. It should be about some course you are doing, or a plan that you all have to meet up. But that’s all gone. Now there’s just that awful day that you went missing. The day a boy was seen jumping off the bridge. Next time I saw you, you were in a coffin, your body, bashed up by the waves; bruised, broken, dead. The boy who told me ‘be nice to nerds, you’ll be working for them some day.’ The boy who I watched grow up, who I held great faith in. Dead at 18. And what’s left? The rest of us. Your inconsolable friend, his sister and his mother, travelling back to the West of Ireland for your funeral. Sitting in your home. Going into your bedroom and picking up your things. Yesterday this was your camera, these were your pyjama bottoms, that was your sketchbook. Now they feel strange to the touch. Relicts. And we, who never shut up, are silent. There are no words for ou…

A Packet of Solpadeine and a Lecture Please

Years ago I was a respectable lady married to a nice German doctor, and it was he who brought to my attention that in Germany you can only buy pain killers in a chemist and not in a petrol station, pub or supermarket and that there was not a chance in hell that you could ever buy a pain killer with codeine in it directly from a pharmacy, which in Ireland, you can - Solpadeine.
Then a friend of mine who is a pharmacist told me that Solpadeine was her best seller. So lucrative were the sales that she did not have enough room to store the stuff in her pharmacy. But that was also back in the time when I was respectable, and in the meantime the Solpadeine police seem to be out on patrol.
Now if you ask me, I think it's pure madness to sell substances with codeine in them over the counter at a pharmacy, and I'm also a bit iffy about buying paracetemol in the supermarket, given that any 13 year old can go in and stock up on a drug that is lethal in relatively small doses. But there a…

The MoMa, a Beggar and my Limp

There’s a woman who walks up and down the streets around West 82nd and Amsterdam Avenue asking people if they’ll give her a dollar. I’d put her around 80. Small, wiry, bent, wispy hair. Brittle bird legs in black tights, but still a follower of fashion in a knit skirt with a tartan pattern, more the kind of skirt you might see on a 20-year-old Asian student. Pale pink lipstick, and a crimson red blouse topped with a cream overcoat despite the muggy August New York heat. I wonder what she does with the money she collects. She doesn’t look like she eats anything, can’t tell if she drinks. She’s sober when she pushes her trolley bag up and down 82nd, asking ‘do you have a dollar for me?’ I don’t give her one. I keep my dollars for the MoMa. My feet are killing me after walking into the city, but I’m scared of the subway. I did make a weak attempt, but have no idea what they mean by uptown and downtown. Both of these expressions mean the same thing where I come from: Uptown – as in, I’m…