In the initial months of the Irish economic collapse, I lived like a down-and-out amongst the bohemians of Galway City. My hair was long, my clothes were scruffy and I had no greater aspirations in life above funding my next meal. As if things couldn’t get any worse, I joined a writing group.
While, as a collective, the group really wasn’t up to all that much – consisting of bored divorcees, aging hipsters, alcoholics, hippies and the occasionally talented writer – it allowed me the opportunity to experiment a little with different literary forms. I’ve always taken great pleasure in writing and have entire stacks of my teenage notebooks at home that I sincerely hope nobody ever finds or reads. However, beyond straight prose and essays, until then I had never made any sincere or conscious attempt to venture outside my rather rudimentary and generic comfort zone.
The poetry I wrote was, as a rule, quite facetiously tone, occasionally borderline Dadaistic and almost always self-consciously derivative. For example, here is my own little salute to The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams titled The Blu-Tack.
Not much depends upon
the piece of blu-tack
holding the posters
to my bedroom’s white wall
But the poem of which I am least ashamed from that time is one that I never presented to the group but actually quite enjoy. Written about The Spanish Arch in Galway, it goes like this:
The Spanish Arch on a Wednesday Afternoon
Pigeons, gulls, ducks and swans,
wander by the harbor pier,
beside the people trying to bronze,
and crusties with their discount beer.
They coo and flutter, peck and quack,
but little else that would distract,
a worker from his lunchtime snack,
as there are few who would react
to those disarmed by nature’s charm
for rarely could they cause more harm,
that exceeds a drop upon the head,
a bitten finger or stolen bread.