“The Sonnet Is Dead”, a sonnet by Joanna Cleary

From the Summer 2018 issue of Temz Review here is a sonnet (of course) by Joanna Cleary. I like its ironic treatment of contemporary lit crit certainties. And of course, the poem itself subverts the title:

The Sonnet is Dead
By Joanna Cleary

The sonnet is dead; we’ve talked it to death.
Love is complicated, political.
And what could be more complicated than
a sonnet? They are always ironic,
my professor said sternly to the class.
Always. The idea is ironized
in the sestet. I was still half-asleep,
retracing my pen over the octave,
thinking that it first could have been written
on a day as rain-splattered as today,
and the poet could have walked home slowly
with both feet wet from stepping in puddles
as sunlight appeared in the sky again
to touch water drops shining on cobwebs.


David Monacchi: “Fragments of Extinction”, the sounds of vanishing nature

With the prospect of mass extinction in the news, it seems a good time to reflect on the loss of soundscapes. In Ireland, the corncrake and the curlew were once the background sounds of daily life; now they are nearly vanished.

I have posted before about nature recording artists such as Gordon Hempton and Chris Watson who have captured soundscapes in the natural world that one hopes will not vanish altogether. I came across David Monacchi and his Fragments of Extinction project.

Monacchi records (and streams) soundscapes from the dwindling number of intact, untouched forests around the world. What makes his work especially compelling is the clarity with which he illustrates how these ecosystems have a panoply of harmonious acoustic niches, across species and genera. The best way to get a sense is this short video:


#AprilCountry, April 27th, “Cool Water”, Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash, in the last years of his career, made a series of albums which mixed new compositions, country standards, and versions of contemporary songs from unexpected genres, such as Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” – which has become more associated with Cash than Trent Reznor at this stage.

Some of the  most powerful songs on these recordings, however, are revisitings of country classics, such as this version of “Cool Water”, which I first came to know via The Sons of the Pioneers. It has a great simplicity, and the sense of it being a worksong about, well, lacking water, is quite strong. It is sung by Tim Blake Nelson in the opening scene of the Coen Brothers “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” incidentally. Anyway, here is Johnny Cash:

The Birds of Castle Espie

I haved blogged before about WWT Castle Espie, Co. Down. Another visit over Easter re-confirmed just how wonderful a place it is for a family day out. It is also a place where the serious ornithologist can observed the internationally important RAMSAR site of Strangford Lough, and one can also get up close to a range of international wild fowl. I found the last in particular fascinating. Seeing Eider, Hooded Mergansers, Cinnamon Teals, Red-Breasted Geese, White-Headed Ducks, Bufflehead Ducks and sundry others was an aesthetically and dare I saw it spiritually satisfying experience.

While on Easter Monday Castle Espie was busy, I noted no other “Southern” (always an ironic usage given Donegal is further north than most of “The North”) regs in the car park – a contrast to say the Titanic Experience.

I came across the Birding For Pleasure  blog which is maintained by Margaret Adamson. While it isn’t exclusively about Castle Espie, it features heavily and I find her posts – like this one and this one – – really capture the place and the birds well.

She also has made YouTube videos of the birds of Castle Espie:


“The tide rises, the tide falls, / The twilight darkens, the curlew calls”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is a poet whose stellar reputation of the late 19th and early 20th Century is rather in eclipse, to say the least. No doubt his star will rise again. However, “The tide rises, the tide falls” is one of the more enigmatic, haunting poems I have come across. And again the curlew’s cry, here as perpetual as the tides and twilight. Another marker of what we have lost and what we will lose if the curlew’s cry goes silent.

The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveller to the shore,
And the tide rises, the tide falls

“Curlews Lift”, Ted Hughes

Curlews Lift

Out of the maternal watery blue lines

Stripped of all but their cry
Some twists of near-edible sinew

They slough off
The robes of bilberry blue
The cloud-stained bogland

They veer up and eddy away over
The stone horns

They trail a long, dangling, falling aim
Across water

Lancing their voices
Through the skin of this light

Drinking the nameless and naked
Through trembling bills