Dub Remix wrote:I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were a poem out there about Irish social workers. I'll take a look about for it.
I would love to have had poems about Ballymun and its delights on my sig the way Ger does about Glencolmcille, but Ballymun is crap. Always has been - always will be.
Perhaps K.E. Dennis can dig up some lost 'Ode to Notty the Social Worker'? Somehow I doubt it.
But TBH, Unki, there's one poem I know which I've been reminded of many times by your writings, & never had the patience to sit down & transcribe for s.c.i. - & now I've found the motivation. I think in some ways - which I hope are evident - that it represents something of your skeptical take on Romantic Ireland.
Cronin is originally from Wexford, is a UCD graduate, & has been an
Irish Times correspondent, as well as the editor of The Bell. His
poetry isn't lyrical, but it isn't meant to be; & it's very funny at
the same time as very serious.
The Man Who Went Absent From The Native Literature
Contemporary Irish Poetry
edited by Anthony Bradley
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988
He did not come of a long line of stone-cutters,
Wise but silent men who had learned silence from the stone,
Or seamen, whose eyes reflected distance,
Though there isn't much distance in the alleyways and
man-cupboards of a modern ship;
His lot were not even Dubliners with the desperate
generosity of the Dublin slums,
Expressed through drink in the grimy man-traps where the
generosity of working class men found its profitable-to-
Nor were they doctors whose hands had calmed heartbeats
and children in the womb
As well as dealing cards nightly in the bridge club,
Or savants, careless of advancement and intent only on
Unlike any savants you might have the misfortune to meet
And they were certainly not aristocrats whose blood had
darkened the dim banners in the village church like
And ran in the veins of the village children as proof of
everybody's careless virility.
His mother was not the sort who put other people, but
especially sentimental men, in mind of the Great Earth
Goddess, Everybody's Mother.
She was a neurotic woman, much given to dyspepsia and
novenas, especially the Nine Fridays,
And so far from being careless and bountiful and
all-embracing like nature,
Spewing out children and other creations like a volcano
giving out rocks,
When he knew her anyway she emanated mostly anxiety,
And the only things she seemed to want to take in were
money, priest's opinions, and stories about girls who
were in trouble.
Nor were his grandmas, so far as he knew, any more
outgoing or disdainful of consequence.
At the times he met them he never heard anything but
words of caution about knocking over ornaments and
not getting wet on the way to school from them,
Expressed in stale musty clichés in musty stale parlours,
Where, in any case, any ideas about saving the world might
have been generated over the odd drop of sherry,
Several representations of a mauled, battered, eviscerated
and totally dispirited saviour and his broken-hearted
mother were exhibited to dispel them,
Even Parnell, even Robert Emmet being absent from those
You couldn't say either that such and such a landscape had
helped to mould him or his ancestors.
His forebears were not gaunt upland people, slow of speech
but unshakable once decided,
Some of them might have been of course, but the reasons
for the slowness of speech in any of the more proximate
cases of his da and ma
Were the obvious dangers of small-town life;
And his daddy as a matter of fact kept decisions to a
minimum and was easily dissuaded from anything except
Nor were they mountainy men whose feuds and lovings
became legend in the peaceful valleys.
Any family scandal he sniffed in the wind was of a different
Nor yet, not to make a meal of it, secretive canny folk
from the back of the hill.
They were secretive all right, and canny in their way, but
there was no known hill that had anything to do with
And he came in any case from what you might call mixed
and migrant stock,
Who in the era of petty officialdom and jobs for the more
Had been stationed here, transferred there, married
And so the town he was born in was an accident for his
And a much more serious, nearly fatal, to the spirit
anyway, one for him.
When he thought of it afterwards he did not think of
Ne'er-do-wells with a turn of phrase, charming rapscallions
with a gleam in their eyes and the arse nearly out of
Idling down by the river where the chestnut trees cast their
Friends of his father or otherwise.
As a matter of fact his father had no friends.
He did not see it all as picturesque.
Wherever the picturesque was it was not there.
And the local colour the place had was the colour of shame,
For him anyway,
His memories memories of idiotic burgeonings and
The mistakes of an ignorant outsider with the wrong
Whose first loves were based on false premises.
And so, granted that in his heart there was a sort of void,
Unfilled by images of the Greyhound Racing Track, the
Arcadia Dance Hall and the Cattle Dealers' Cathedral
of his native place,
Or the memory of companions who had sometimes
While he undoubtedly diverted them,
That the tendrils that would root had found no soil
Comparable to the rich ploughlands and pastures of
In the asphalt of the school playground or the ashy soil of
And you could say he was a man without a tribe,
Pariah wandering on the outskirts, by woods and streams
And though for years he felt that these lackings of
stonecutter ancestors and comic, picturesque characters
among his father's friends
Made him somehow inferior in blood and in bone to those
who had them
Or said they had,
He did not bang a local drum.
He did not give a hoot who won the tribal conflicts.
He didn't want anybody to win.
Nor did he think that your ancestor's creations, folk-songs
Or come-all-yes and war-cries,
Made you somehow creative yourself if you made enough
fuss about them
And got money from the radio by doing it.
Neither did he flog a line in identity whether real or false,
Nor in the picturesque,
Whatever that is.
He did not think that the local hero was more real than the
When he walked through cities he was not always yearning
for the soft pints and the softer options of the pubs where
his playmates drank.
He thought that du sang, de la volupté et de la mort
He would learn as much in his travels as in his native
He did not think that the cabin where the rain came in
under the door was free from sordidity;
And thought in any case that the sordid we had always
But that when it came to the sordid
Metropolitan sordidity was richer and more fecund.
And that when it came to freedom,
Which it would come to in the end,
The metropolis if it was a real metropolis would have freedoms
which would astonish any peasant who ever lived
Or any picturesque character from our world of misfortune
And that when there were free men on this earth
They would strike a balance with their ancestors
Which would not begin in regret,
Or in nostalgia,
Or in lies.