Poïesis

   In memory of Joseph Campbell and James Dickey

look upon me as the bastard daughter
of music and prose
suspended in a jar of poppy-brine 1
resting in a dark recess
of the Atlanta museum
that is your child 2
my name is Leanhaun Sidhe 3
of the fifth age of the world 4
I too was an artisan
overwhelmed and raped by the sons of Míl 5
and dwindled by your Christ 6
I wed thee
art and unhappiness 7
you paint as a means to make life bearable? 8
eighteen whiskeys and you believe it’s a record? 9
oh you whom the world could not break
nor the years tame 10
I will extinguish your hard gem-like flame 11
with the gift of a rose-colored pearl 12
that you may never know the sweet taste of Fomorian blood 13
peer into my dusty jar
son of Galamh 14
and where you thought to find an abomination
you shall find a god 15

Poïesis citations & amplification notes

1. In Irish mythology Lug of the Long Arms, god of the sun, was a poet and one of the greatest of the Túatha dé Danann warriors. His sword, the sword of Lug (one of the Túatha dé Dananns’ four talismans), brought victory to whoever brandished it. The sword hungered always for combat and when not in use, Lug kept it sleeping in a vase of poppy-extract.

2. refers to James Dickey’s “The Sheep Child”

3. In Irish Fairy and Folk Tales, the Anglo-Irish poet William Butler Yeats says the Leanhaun Sidhe (faery mistress) seeks the love of mortals, but if they consent to her, they waste away. She is the Gaelic muse, for she gives inspiration to those she persecutes. The Gaelic poets die young, for she is restless and will not allow them to remain long on earth.

4. The Túatha dé Danann were the divine race that came from the islands of northern Greece and inhabited Ireland during the fifth age of the world (the world being Ireland). They were divided into gods and non-gods. The non-gods were farmers and laborers. The gods were artisans and poets. They defeated the Fir Bolgs (the fourth race in Ireland), and put an end to the giant Fomorians, but they were overthrown by the Milesians (the ancestors of the Celts) on the 1st of May. In time they came to be worshiped by the Milesians as gods.

5. Míl Espáine is the ancestor of the final inhabitants of Ireland, the ‘Sons of Míl’ or Milesians, who defeated the Túatha dé Danann. Amergin, the great Milesian poet, greeted Eriu, the Túatha dé Danann goddess, when the Milesians stepped ashore on what is now Ireland, and he promised her that the island would forever bear her name.

6. Brian Froud says in his book Faeries that following their defeat by the Milesians, those of the Túatha dé Danann who decided to stay in Ireland made their homes under the hollow hills (raths) where they became the Daoine Sidhe (faery people). The Túatha dé Danann were originally huge, but in the course of time, and with the encroachment of Christianity, as they diminished in importance, they correspondingly dwindled in size.

7. The link between right hemisphere creativity and unhappiness has a long history of documentation, whether it refer to the painter, poet, sculptor, or novelist. In Wisdom of Life Aristotle says that men distinguished in poetry and art all appear to be of a melancholy temperament. James Dickey called alcoholism, mania, suicide, and depression the occupational hazards of poetry. Poets, he said, almost without exception, are cast into the most abject despair over things that wouldn’t bother an ordinary person at all.

8. refers to a note from Vincent Van Gogh not long before his suicide

9. These were the reputed last words of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas after being taken to Bellevue Hospital during an American reading tour.

10. refers to Sara Teasdale’s epitaph of poet Vachel Lindsay who committed suicide in 1931 – Teasdale, a fellow poet, killed herself just over a year later.

11. see Walter Pater ‘Conclusion’ The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry 1888

12. The Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde says in The Picture of Dorian Gray that Marco Polo is said to have seen the natives of Zipangu put rose-colored pearls into the mouths of their dead.

13. Whatever historical gods govern Ireland, they are opposed by the Fomorians, the gods of the native Mediterranean culture. Lug of the Long Arms put a final end to the Fomorian threat during the fifth age of the world.

14. Míl Espáine’s given name was Galamh. His eight sons were among those who invaded Ireland and defeated the Túatha dé Danann, ending the fifth age of the world, and beginning the sixth.

15. Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton. Princeton University Press. 1949: 25

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