A Poem from Waiting For Saint Brendan in Radiolab’s Latest Podcast

Dear listeners, I’d like to report that my poem “I carried your oxygen” (from the first section of Brendan) is in Radiolab’s latest podcast on the Periodic Table of Elements!

Photo Credit: Jamie York
Photo Credit: Jamie York
Sam Breslin Wright
Actor Sam Breslin Wright

Naturally, I’m delighted, and excited, to hear actor Sam Breslin Wright perform my work with such power and sensitivity. How this came about was due to a stunning poet by the name of Thomas Dooley who is a good pal of mine. His publicist sent his powerful book Trespass to NPR (click on the link for a piece about T. Dooley’s work); Trespass, Thomas’s first book, was one of five National Poetry Series winners for 2013. Robert Krulwich of Radiolab noticed it on someone’s desk and asked to borrow it. A poetry lover, he read it, loved it, and noticed that Thomas organises something called Emotive Fruition, an event in which actors interpret and act out poems on stage. Robert came to one of the events and thought it was dynamic, beguiling, and surprising, and asked Thomas to collaborate with them on an upcoming show.

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Thomas put out a call far and wide, as well as close and near: the poems had to be about, or involve, one of the elements from the Periodic Table. I thought that I had nothing to send, and then realised that I had a poem about my aunt, the late Edwina Hamill, and I sent that. The poem is dedicated to her courage in the face of ovarian cancer, and sets the scene during dinner in the restaurant in Bewley’s Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin, one summer when she realised that the discreet oxygen tank that she carried in her handbag, was running out. Casually, she asked if I’d go and get the reserve tank from the boot of the car. Apprehensive as to what the reserve would look like, I went, and found a tank that was gun-metal grey, heavy, and definitely bigger than a scuba diver would use.

She hooked up her O2 tubing, and the meal continued as normal, the waitresses and waiters politely not noticing the tank standing beside the table. It was a summer evening, and the lobby was full as we left the restaurant, everyone casually not noticing us as we left. As I carried the massive tank, she linked me, and stopped to pretend to search in her bag or chat about something or other as she caught her breathe again. After she passed away, that night came back to me as an example of great courage under fire, and I dedicated it to her (and for her children Anna and John).

Poets Sarah Sala, Christina Quintana, Jason Schneiderman and Emily Alta Hockaday also have wonderful work in the same episode. And, look at Emotive Fruition’s website for a limited edition chapbook of the thirty poets whose work was featured in the two great events Emotive Fruition did with Radio Lab on the Periodic Table (the book is made by Michael Parrish):

They are NYC-based, and wonderful, all: KC Trommer, Jameson Fitzpatrick, Sarah Sala, Monica Wendel, Chrissy Malvasi, Mary Block, Becca Myers, Nicole Callihan, Theta Pavis, Jason Schneiderman, Lauren Neefe, Peter Longofono, Ama Codjoe, Thomas Dooley, Jason Baker, Arden Levine, Matthew Rohrer, William Dowd, Ryan Siegel-Stechler, Jeff Musillo, Geer Austin, Brandon Menke, Dustin Luke Nelson, Carly Rubin, Christina Quintana, Julia Guez, Jerome Murphy, Emily Brandt, Emily Hockaday, and Jackie Sherbow.

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An Essay on Done into English: Pearse Hutchinson’s Collected Translations

An essay of mine about the translation work of Irish poet Pearse Hutchinson was published on transtudies.org this week, a journal dedicated to “creative non-fiction essays and scholarly articles, as well as hybrids of the same, pertaining to the trans-personal, trans-cultural, and trans-national, with an emphasis on synthesis and contemporary relevance.” (In editorial guidelines.) I could have sent the essay to a Hispanist journal, but given the fact that the essay is directly concerned with hybrid themes (Spain, Ireland, Galician, Gaelic), I’m glad it’s in good hybrid company (How many times can I say hybrid? Transport me to a postmodernist conference, oh, fly me to the moon, or a representation thereof…) I’m especially happy with it, because it brings together a few of the strands that my work is concerned with: writing, of course, travel, translation, minority languages, and various aspects of “Spanish” culture. (Quotation marks to signal that Spain is a multifarious beast, as my friends the Catalans, Basques and Galicians often say. And, they’re right.)

Pearse Hutchinson, by Michael O'Regan(An aside: by Spanish, I mean a certain section of Iberia, not East Harlem or the Lower East Side. I mention this by way of having noticed a curious phenomenon in New York whereby folk of Latin American origin say “yeah, I’m Spanish.” This of course is a red rag to my inner pedantry bull, which immediately starts charging around, even as I, on the surface, say, “oh, you are from Castile? Or perhaps from Extremadura?” All the while placidly drinking from exquisite bone china (not really). Then again, Irish Americans do it all the time. “I’m Irish, dude! Fuck yeah!” “So, you’re from Mayo, then?” “Oh, yeah, I like mayo with everything. Mix it with a little English musta’d, especially on dawgs on Saint Patty’s [sic] Day” [See a future post regarding this dreadful rending of Patrician nomenclature. See also a future post about the snobbishness of the piggies that never left home to those little piggies that did. I myself am a little piggy that did both, and thus shouldn’t be so mean to other little piggies.].

I am also chuffed with the essay because, in an age (of what Bowie calls “grand illusion”) when editors no longer seem to edit, transtudies’ editor, Michael Broek, said yes to the essay, with the proviso that some changes would need to be made. I accepted, and was happy to see that ever last one of them made the essay better, while making sure that it remained my own. No better salve to the writing ego than that.

So, here ’tis.

I am also happy to do just honour to a great poet, a good mentor, and a good man. (Pearse Hutchinson, died 14th January, 2012.)

(Photo source: Michael O’Regan. I suspect it was taken at Pearse’s home, “Findrum”, in Rathmines, Dublin.)