I wrote a few poems as part of my M. Phil portfolio when I finally graduated from a college in 2009, at age 50. I continued to attempt poetry for a short while, before returning, renewed, to writing for theatre in 2012.
DEAD AS DOORNAILS
This is the text of a “Spoken Word” performance poem in response to an invitation from the Flat Lake Festival 2011, they year in which the final typewriter in the world was produced in India, to write on the theme: ‘The typewriter is dead – long live the typewriter!’
* The title is taken from Anthony Cronin’s memoir in which he recalls his early days associating with the writers named in this poem. The book includes a memory of being broke on Christmas day and dining on an egg boiled in Patrick Kavanagh’s teapot. Two lines here are lifted directly from Kavanagh’s poem ‘Shancoduff’.
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DEAD AS DOORNAILS *
The typewriter’s dead
And gone with it
And Paddy Kavanagh from Iniskeen
The glass of whiskey
Waft of Woodbine
Wads of foolscap
Strewn across the garret floor.
The unwashed laundry
An egg in the teapot
Fitting Christmas dinner that
Heartsore, lonely old bohemians…
The nod and the wink
In the Pearl or the Palace
The promised slot from Louis Marcus,
Smyllie, The Irish Times, The Bell,
The Irish Press – that’s gone as well.
The early deaths from emphysema,
Liver failure, gout, oedema
The infamy, the penury,
The respect accorded posthumously.
Iconic books like Tarry Flynn,
The Green Fool
The Borstal Boy
And epic pomes: “Who owns
Them hungry hills
That the water hen and snipe
Must have forsaken?
A poet, then by Heavens
He – must – be – poor!”
Now we have Unesco Cities,
Writing degrees and bursaries,
Longlists, shortlists, residencies,
Listowel, Cuirt, The Galway Arts,
Electric Picnic, Poems on the Dart,
Blogs and online magazines
Published on your own PC.
The typewriter is dead.
You can view it in the Writer’s Museum
Oh, long live the clickety-clack,
The key of C and D and E,
The roll, the scroll, the dramatic
Whack as the bar goes back
To start another line, another poem,
But as for me?
When I was twenty-two,
I wanted to be like you,
Patrick Kavanagh. I lived
On Lower Baggott Street,
I smoked and drank and drank
Some more, stumbled in my bedsit door
To sit beside an empty typewriter.
I couldn’t write a single word
For all my heavy drinking.
It took me years and years to find MY way,
Through drama groups, cabaret,
Community arts, a writers course
At TCD. And here I’m standing
Without the smokes.
My tipple’s wine, I took my time
Settled down, had kids,
I walk a dog!
I couldn’t do bohemian, but learned instead
To simply love the words,
Love the lines, love the sights,
Love the sounds of modern Ireland,
And write them down.
And live in thrall of no dead writer,
But love them all.
The typewriter’s dead
And good luck to it.
Lay a wreath upon its tomb
Go into a room, open Windows
On your screen, select text,
Cut and paste, backspace,
Spell check, find and replace,
Source your classic quotes online.
Google, Youtube, Wikipedia
Alta vista, indy-media
Change the font, do whatever you want
In the age of the paperless writer.
That’s the way it is in modern times.
The feather quill, the ink pen,
Dead as doornails.
The typewriter’s dead?
Long live the poet.
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