Monday, 15 June 2020

Bloomsday in the Backroom!: John W Sexton


It's Bloomsday today. June 16th, the day in 1904 that in the novel Ulysses, the reader follows Leopold Bloom and a host of other characters – real and fictional – from 8am through to the early hours of the following morning. In that time he wanders around Dublin: goes to a funeral, checks in at the office, visits the National Library, and wanders on the beach, going over in his mind his very human worries. It's Marilyn Monroe's favourite novel, it's the novel that changed the parameters of the novel, from escapades on the page to adventures in the mind.

On June 16th 1954, Brian O’Nolan, Patrick Kavanagh, Anthony Cronin, A.J. Leventhal,  John Ryan and Tom Joyce, went on a giant piss up disguised as a pilgrimage to all the Dublin sites named in the epic novel, ending up in Ryan's own pub, the Bailey, late in the evening, thus launching, sort of, the tradition of Bloomsday.

To celebrate some Joycean themes we have in the Backroom today a very distinguished Irish poet who lives on the south west coast of Kerry. One theme might be the inner voyage that is so evident in 'Ulysses' and can be seen as related to the Irish 'Aisling tradition' developed by Aodhagán Ó Rathaille at the beginning of the 18th century. This tradition involved the incorporation of waking dreams, reflections, visions and revelations, the jumps through consciousness and recall a person might have even in the course of a very ordinary day. June 16th perhaps. There is a link below to some of John's 'aisling' poems. In an interview with 'Fantasy and Science Fiction' Sexton once quoted  JG Ballard's opinion that  “science fiction is the poetry of the 20th century”, so in a way akin to Chris G Kelso, whom we featured earlier in the #plagueopoems, his poetry ranges wonderfully across genres.

John was born in 1958 and lives near Kenmare.  He is the author of seven full poetry collections, the most recent of which are 'Visions at Templeglantine' from Revival Press in 2020 and 'Futures Pass'  from Salmon Poetry two years earlier.  A chapbook of his surrealist poetry, 'Inverted' Night, was published by SurVision Books in February 2019.

He also created and wrote the children’s science fiction comedy-drama, The Ivory Tower, for RTE Radio 1, which ran to over one hundred half-hour episodes. His novels based on this series, The Johnny Coffin Diaries and Johnny Coffin School-Dazed are both published by The O’Brien Press and have been translated into Italian and Serbian.

Under the ironic pseudonym of Sex W. Johnston he has recorded an album with legendary Stranglers frontman, Hugh Cornwell, entitled Sons of Shiva, which has been released on Track Records.

He is a past nominee for The Hennessy Literary Award and his poem 'The Green Owl' won the Listowel Poetry Prize 2007. Also in 2007 he was awarded a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in Poetry. His poem 'In and Out of Their Heads', from The Offspring of the Moon, was selected for The Forward Book of Poetry 2014. His poem 'The Snails' was shortlisted for the 2018 An Post / Listowel Writers’ Week Poem of the Year Award.

Here he reads 'Famous Mice':



His Author page at The Limerick Writers’ Centre for Visions at Templegantine is here:

https://limerickwriterscentre.com/product/visions-at-templeglantine/

His Author page at Salmon Poetry for Futures Pass is here:

https://www.salmonpoetry.com/details.php?ID=472&a=244




Famous Mice


the one my father trapped in the stainless steel kitchen sink
and drowned under the hot tap / the three-quarter moon
a cut coin through the net curtain / the one whose bite
I nibbled from a half biscuit breathing in its rank whiff /
a coconut macaroon a sweet moon / the one who stopped
the washing machine for a week and then the man came
in a blue bib-and-brace and the mouse was a pulped splodge
in the works / the one I cornered in the skirting board
and set free believing it was me / the one I imagined
curled in the grey right eye of the moon / the one our
neighbour’s cat brought live from the railway embankment /
the day-moon’s face inscrutable in the afternoon sky / the
one I never saw but heard the pattering of / the one yet
to be born / the one yet to be caught / the one in the broken
moon of my skull when I die / the grey one / the brown one /
the dor one / the grass one / the field one / the hazel one / the one


From the collection Futures Pass (Salmon Poetry 2018)



The Giftie

On the front step are three fruit:
an acorn, an apple, a sloe.
The autumn sun gutters
in the grey sky.
I take the apple, but throw
the sloe and the acorn to the hedge.

As I eat the apple I look into the sun.
Dark filaments, like cancers,
pass through its bright face.

Next day, on the front step are three fruit:
a physalis, a medlar, a damson.
This day the sun is grey
and it’s the sky that’s bright.
I take the physalis but throw
the medlar and the damson to the hedge.

As I open the papery husk I look at the sun.
The tiny orange globe of the physalis
would make a new sun, if I could place it
up there in the sky.
But instead I place the physalis in my mouth;
it is both bitter and sweet.

That night I am troubled.
Under moonlight I step out
to the hedge.

Outside are four trees, three of which are on fire.
An oak, a medlar, and a damson are flaring
into the night. Only one tree is sound:
from the sloe a blackthorn
has grown into the sky.
I begin to climb,
but I am cut to ribbons on the thorns
and make little headway.

I wake up, fallen at the foot of the blackthorn.
The sky is full of indigo suns,
blazing sloes.
The world is darker.
Daylight is no longer, and will never be.

On the front step were three fruit:
an acorn, an apple, a sloe.
One of these was damnation.

On the front step were three fruit:
a physalis, a medlar, a damson.
One of these was salvation.

Choices are usually clear
only when it is far too late.
And the best riddles are often
the most wickedly conceived.

(From the Mithala Review)























Sexton was born of Irish parents in Newington Green, London, in 1958. He moved to Ireland in 1982 and now resides in Kenmare, County Kerry.




He was born Catholic but has disowned that religion and describes himself as a pagan. He is inspired by what he calls a Muse Goddess, which is "the feminine and ancient energy that informs creation".




John W Sexton is the author of six poetry collections including The Prince’s Brief Career, (Cairn Mountain Press, 1995), Shadows Bloom / Scáthanna Faoi Bhláth, a book of haiku with translations into Irish by Gabriel Rosenstock (Doghouse, 2004), Vortex (Doghouse, 2005), Petit Mal (Revival Press, 2009), The Offspring of the Moon (Salmon Poetry 2013) and Futures Pass (Salmon Poetry 2013). He also created and wrote The Ivory Tower for RTÉ Radio, which ran to over one hundred half-hour episodes from 1999 to 2002. Two novels based on the characters from this series have been published by the O’Brien Press: The Johnny Coffin Diaries and Johnny Coffin School-Dazed, which have been translated into both Italian and Serbian. He has recorded an album with legendary Stranglers frontman, Hugh Cornwell, entitled Sons of Shiva, which has been released on Track Records. He is a past nominee for The Hennessy Literary Award and his poem The Green Owl won the Listowel Poetry Prize 2007. Also in 2007 he was awarded a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in Poetry.







The Prince's Brief Career (Cairn Mountain Publishing, Ireland 1996)

Shadows Bloom / Scáthanna Faoi Bhláth (Doghouse Books, Ireland 2004), haiku with Irish translation by Gabriel Rosenstock

Vortex (Doghouse Books, Ireland 2005)

Petit Mal (Revival Press, Ireland 2009)

The Offspring of the Moon (Salmon Poetry, Ireland 2013)

Poetry chapbooks[edit]

Inverted Night (SurVision Books, Ireland 2019)

Futures Pass




Famous Mice







https://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/first-bloomsday-celebration



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