“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.


“Hempel’s views now are often contemptuously described as the ‘received view` meaning the ‘not received by anyone who has read my latest article view`. “

An entry by Prof Michael Ruse on Carl HempelFrom The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. I particularly like the second paragraph…

Hempel, Carl Gustav ( 1905 – 97 ). One of the leaders of the logical empiricist movement in the philosophy of science, which flourished for about three decades after the Second World War, Hempel saw the task of science as that of showing phenomena to be the consequence of unbroken laws . A major implication was the so-called covering-law model of scientific understanding, stressing that there is a symmetry between explanation and prediction, where the only difference is temporal-in the case of explanation, that which you are explaining has already occurred, whereas in the case of prediction, that which you are predicting has yet to occur.

With today’s move from prescriptive philosophy of science to a more descriptive stance, not to mention the switch from an exclusive concern with the physical sciences to a more general interest in such areas as biology and psychology. Hempel’s views now are often contemptuously described as the ‘received view` meaning the ‘not received by anyone who has read my latest article view`. Whether this will prove to be the end of such an approach to science will presumably be the topic of many future Ph.D. theses.

“Seduced by sinners, fools, & jerks I delight in as I write in my study, my pen my poker, my thoughts often bloody” – ‘Flannery and St. Thomas, Take II’ by Angela Alaimo O’Donnell

I posted Angela Alaimo O’Donnell’s “Flannery and Dante” the other day. Here is another poem by O’Donnell, this time dealing with Flannery O’Connor and St Thomas Aquinas.

“Flannery and St Thomas Take II” takes as its epigraph a typically contrarian passage from one of O’Connor’s letters:

I feel I can personally guarantee that St. Thomas loved God because for the life of me I cannot help loving St. Thomas. His brothers didn’t want him to waste himself being a Dominican and so locked him up in a tower and introduced a prostitute into his apartment. Her he ran out with a red-hot poker. It would be fashionable today to be in sympathy with the woman, but I am in sympathy with Thomas.
—Flannery O’Connor, Letter to Elizabeth Hester, August 9, 1955

Sunday morning and what do I know
beyond my own foolishness? I spend
my days with crazies who come from my brain.
Thank God for Thomas. He keeps me sane.
A man who knows his nature and his end,
keeps both forever fixed in view
so as not to get waylaid on the road
to salvation, unlike the worser person
I am, easily derailed by temptation,
what’s pretty and what’s witty and what’s new.
Like the peacock loves his tail I love my work.
Seduced by sinners, fools, & jerks
I delight in as I write in my study,
my pen my poker, my thoughts often bloody.

You are not alone: the word “sonder”

I recently came across the word “sonder”

Coined in 2012 by John Koenig, whose project, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, aims to come up with new words for emotions that currently lack words.[1][2]Related to German sonder- (special) and French sonder (to probe).[3]

(neologism) The profound feeling of realizing that everyone, including strangers passed in the street, has a life as complex as one’s own, which they are constantly living despite one’s personal lack of awareness of it.

I am not that sure how I feel about it. As with solastalgia I am somewhat suspcious of the resort to neologism. I have a nagging sense that there is another, already existing word for this… perhaps I should think of a word for this nagging sense.

What is greater – to give your life for Irish freedom or to write comic songs about the Tipp team?

The Nationalist is running a poll to find out Tipperary’s All Time Great. Among the likes of Charles Kickham, Adi Roche and Dan Breen we have The Two Johnnies, a contemporary comedic duo. While their rib-tickling prowess is undoubted their presence seems incongrous, especially as the paper is using a knockout format to decide who will emerge as Tipp’s All Time Great. Thus rather entertaining juxtapositions like this:

An amusing correction in the TLS letters page from 12 years ago

While looking for something entirely different, I came across this letter to the TLS by Tim Nau from January 5th 2007:

Sir, -In a paragraph about saints of the Dark Ages enjoying pain, Druin Burch includes a quotation from St Theresa of Lisieux (December 8, 2006). Is he aware that she was born in 1873? Either Dr Burch has an unusual idea of the extent of the Dark Ages, or has confused this St Theresa with some other.


21 East York Avenue, Toronto.


Architectural urban myths: mixing up the plans in Dungannon and Enniscorthy

Reading the Wikipedia page on Dungannon, Co Tyrone I came across this:

An interesting feature of the town is the former police barracks at the top right-hand corner of the market square which is quite unlike any other barracks of a similar vintage in Ireland. A popular but apocryphal story relates that the unusual design of this building is due to a mix-up with the plans in Dublin which meant Dungannon got a station designed for the Nepal and they got a standard Irish barracks, complete with a traditional Irish fireplace.

There’s a picture here at Geograph (the project to photograph every OS grid square):


The plans-mix-up story rang a bell, for I have heard the same said of St Senan’s Psychiatric Hospital. Supposedly somewhere in the Raj an asylum designed for County Wexford was erected. The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage is having none of it:

A lunatic asylum erected to a design by James Bell (1829-83) and James Barry Farrell (1810-93) representing an important component of the nineteenth-century built heritage of County Wexford with the architectural value of the composition, one unusually deviating from the Tudor Gothic standard seen across the country, confirmed by such attributes as the near-symmetrical footprint centred on an elegant arcade; the construction in a vibrant red brick offset by silver-grey Kiltealy granite or yellow brick dressings producing a lively polychromatic palette; the slight diminishing in scale of the openings on each floor producing a feint graduated visual impression; and the Osborne House (1845-51)-like Italianate towers embellishing the roofline as prominent eye-catchers in the landscape: meanwhile, aspects of the composition clearly illustrate the continued development or “improvement” of the lunatic asylum to designs by Charles Astley Owen (c.1855-1922) of Marlborough Street, Dublin (Irish Builder 15th September 1895, 218; 15th August 1900, 451). Having been reasonably well maintained, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with substantial quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior, thus upholding the character or integrity of the composition. Furthermore, adjacent outbuildings (extant 1903); a chimney (see 15604055); and a nearby burial ground (extant 1903), all continue to contribute positively to the group and setting values of a self-contained ensemble making a dramatic visual statement overlooking the River Slaney. NOTE: The firm attribution to Bell and Barry puts to rest the local legend that the designs for the lunatic asylum were mixed up with those for an army barracks in Pretoria or a palace in India during, variously, the Crimean War (1853-6) or the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1).

Hmmm, I wonder where else this urban legend has spread? Perhaps any unusual building from a certain era was assumed to be incongruous to the locality .. and I note were buildings linked with social control in different ways, so perhaps this allowed a certain mockery of intimidating local institutions (and linking them with Imperial power)

I wonder if it ever worked the other way and local traditions in India of in South Africa claim a building was “actually” intended for far off Ireland.

On a less exotic scale there is an (uncited) story of a Newry-Dundalk mix up:

Incidentally, Thomas Duff also was the architect for the Cathedral in Dundalk, a town just over the border in County Louth, and it is said that he mixed up the plans for both cathedrals and sent Dundalk Cathedral to the builders in Newry, and Newry Cathedral to the builders in Dundalk.

Perhaps Newry and Dundalk are more foreign to each other than Enniscorthy and the Raj after all…Something not dissimiliar is reported in “local tradition” in Lincolnshire