Gardening the Page

Close up of fields on one of the Three Sisters, Ballyferriter, West Kerry, IrelandThe further one is digested into a place, the less one can articulate it. Or, articulate it as a newcomer. Everything becomes more “complex”, as an American would say. Let’s avoid that stress on the last syllable for now, and just say “compli-fucking-cated, like, lad.” That, at least, is my way of explaining my silence on the blogo-plane. I suppose if blogs are froth, then at least the substance of the pint of Brooklyn Lager was being gulleted in the drafting of poems – which is, after all, what I’m here to do, and am doing.

I feel like a gardener whose garden of courgettes, rocket, spring onions, cabbage – no tomatoes, this being an Irish, north-facing garden, whose garden of poems is growly so rapidly, it’s all I can do to clip, weed, pluck the ripest ones, leave them on windowsills facing Blasket Sound – that’s where I am, imaginatively, in the Irish summer, where I was where I first grew vegetables in Antje, my landlady’s, garden, who had great wheel barrows of horse and cow shit, donated by a neighbour, and she gave me two or three rows, where I grew the above-mentioned, with a view of, not Blasket Sound, but the Three Sisters – geographic beauties – Smerwick Harbour, and Béal Bán beach, our garden being on the side of a very congenial and maternal mountainside.

Now, the garden is my notebooks, and very fecund and crazy they are. They get great spraying of weeds that multiply across state lines of pages, intermingling with potential poem seedlings, and the seedlings themselves are weedlike. Hard to tell them apart, until you sit down, meditatively, with your spade, looking down towards Smerwick, on a calm late April day, looking down in sunlight, with the sweat chilling on your back and the sun warming it, and distant waves breaking on Baile Dhaith and where Tara lived, where you had good meals and good wine and good laughs with her, and where Iarfhlaith’s self-sufficiency project is still growing strong, you stand in a break and your body feels good, good and worked upon, good calluses, the spring onions you’ve pulled are going to go great with that rocket, and the only things not from your garden are the eggs, and they’re free range from Riasc, down the road from Bhric’s pub.

Anyway, on my best days I do my equivalent of this, and listen to sirens coming off Eastern Parkway, and think deep, think earthworm and soil, and the reworking of soil, and feel, rather than think, about what’s to grow. And slowly, a poem comes out of the seedling. What’s weed will pursue its own course. What’s a seedling you’re going to cherish and work on, work with, well, that’ll take its own course, too. Sounds ruthless, and maybe it is. When there’s so many projects and so little time, you must remember we’re just talking about poetry, and a small bedroom that is not on the side of a mountain in West Kerry. And that’s a pity too, sometimes. But, the poem’s the sunlight, and the inheritance of the sunlight, and that’s the important thing.