Welcome to Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 2– a podcast by Quentin Bega for listeners who enjoyed that Irish phenomenon- the crack! in the Letters and Postcards From Quotidia Quotidia remains that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encoun+ter the extraordinary.
In the introductory Postscript, I defined, as I tend to do, what a postscript is, in tedious detail. But I will spare you any repetition. But I must tell you, in Quotidia, things refract and splinter in rather strange ways. The Pee-eSSe’s can bifurcate and attach themselves to two or more Letters or Postcards From Quotidia. And this seems to have happened here. What I thought was a simple matter of continuing a conversation about American poet, Lee Edgar Masters, from the first Postscript- blew up in my face, metaphorically.
When the latest war in Ukraine broke out on February 24th, I sent for a book of poetry entitled Words For War, New Poems From Ukraine, published by the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University. I had read online several poems from the war that, in fact, had started in 2014- eight years before the conflict erupted into the world headlines by Putin’s full-scale invasion of the neighbouring country to the south. The book took some weeks to arrive, and when it did, I was able to put a face to the name of one of the poets- Borys Humenyuk, whose poetry had an immediate effect on me at that time. I still don’t know if he lives or dies. I pray he lives. But when I read some more of his poetry when the book arrived from America, I knew I had to make room for it in this Postscript. And I will, a bit later on.
Listeners to the previous post will be aware of the template I have adopted for these Postscripts: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. The final component, something blue, is always subsumed in the general tenor of these Postscripts. And the other components may get mixed up- as it proves to be now. The order is reversed- the something borrowed is first cab off the rank! Now, one of the splintered PS’s attaches to the very first Postcard From Quotida, published on 15th of January 2021. These posts featured the group I was a part of for over 25 years- Banter. We sang and played in various venues out here in Western Sydney from the mid-1990s down to the present.
One of my favourite songs, sung back then by Sam Beggs of our wee group, is The Diamantina Drover. This song looks at the Australian outback experience. The drover is an iconic Aussie character and here, the persona reflects upon the landscape, his regrets, and longings, in a uniquely Antipodean way. Written by Hugh McDonald, who performed and recorded with a number of Aussie folk bands, this is one of our favourite songs. Hugh lost his battle with prostate cancer in November 2016, a real loss to Australian folk music. This song has, by far, the most listens of any of the items on my website. And now I present my version: [insert song]
Now to the something new. Well, sort of new. I mentioned about continuing the conversation about the poetry of Lee Edgar Masters from the previous post. So, I shall! Back in 2021 on the 12th of January, I evinced a connection with Fiddler Jones, a character from Masters’ magnificent, Spoon River Anthology, originally published in 1914. I recited his poem, The Hill a couple of weeks ago and ended up using it as the inspiration of my original composition. So, I have taken his poem, Fiddler Jones, and put it to music. Is this really new, you cry? New enough, I reply. [insert song]
Birthdays are wonderful in the truest sense. Suddenly, there is a new consciousness in the universe- oh, limited at first, but with any luck, developing and blossoming over years and decades. And unrepeatable. Unique. I have watched this with each of our children over many years. Parents all over our world will relate to the agonies we go through to select and wrap and assemble those gifts that will make our children’s eyes gleam with glee as they behold the marvels we have placed before them for their delectation- fearful always that our best efforts may not be up to one of the only marks that count- that of our child’s approval! What’s brought that on, I hear you ask? Three birthdays. My daughter, Cathy, turned fifty just over a week ago- a significant milestone. I’m still trying to work out how this has happened! I mean, I can remember the day of her birth in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, in May 1972. I was drinking in a student pub nearby on the Falls Road, called The Beehive, dazed and confused, as I think some rock artists of the time may have termed it.
But sometimes birthdays are not so wonderful. I will not be able to send birthday greetings today to my sister, Mary, who died of cancer last year on 13th March. Nor will I be able to send birthday greetings to my sister, Monica, on June 16. I received an email last week from my brother telling me that she died, like her sister, from the ravages of cancer. Neither of my younger sisters reached three score and ten. But what I will do is commemorate Mary’s passing in a postscript reprise of the song Sprawling Blue Bells. For my sister, Monica, I will find a fitting way to mark her presence and value to the world.
I mentioned Borys Humenyuk before. In 2014, he joined a volunteer group of Ukrainians resisting the attacks by separatists on his home. If he still lives, he will be opposing the full might of the Russian military who employ thermobaric weapons. But poets, like this man keep us informed knowing that the language of dissent and remembrance in verse form will live on long after the recorder of it perishes. Here are four stanzas from his poem, It’s Normal: When HAIL rocket launchers are firing/Over residential neighbourhoods/Be they Lebanese, Syrian, or Georgian/ Or those in Mariupol, Artemivsk, Antratsyt-/There is something normal about it//It’s normal when HAIL fire balls/Hit nurseries/Where children are sleeping/It’s normal when they strike/Supermarkets full of people/Railway stations and airports/It’s normal when civilians die/By hundreds and thousands/Because it’s normal when civilians/Die in war- but of course/Only as much as war itself is normal// It’s normal that children run to playgrounds/Where they find blood-spattered toys of children/Who were taken to the morgue yesterday-/Kids being kids-/They clutch the blood-spattered toys/Parents attempt to pry the toys away/The children cry/Our toys are not as nice./And this is normal./Just so normal//It’s normal when a shell drops on a cemetery,/levels the graves of our parents./It’s normal when soldiers dig trenches/and build bunkers there./The cemetery is strategically located/We will never know who ends up buried in those trenches./This is the war of all against all-/It touches everyone-/The dead, the living, and those not yet born//
My podcast, Letters From Quotidia, Episode 196, published on April 15, 2022, has more material from this poet. The final component of this podcast is the something old, taken from Letters From Quotidia Episode 123, published, on August 27th, 2022, in remembrance of my sister Mary. Here is Sprawling Blue Bells. [insert song]
I hope the next Postscript is not as splintered as this one. I hope, also, that the subsumed blue component is not quite so dark. I’ll aim for a more serene, ethereal shade, such as Uranian blue. Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun is a seriously cool place- as you might expect, with temps as low as -224 degrees Celsius. It has things about it I like: it’s tipped over on its side with an axial tilt of 98 degrees- as am I, from time to time! I like its quirky, retrograde rotation. I like that its name derives from a Greek rather than a Roman god. I like that some of its moons are named after Shakespeare’s characters, too. Miranda, the beautiful, innocent, and wonderful daughter of the magician Prospero from The Tempest and the fearsome and imperious King and Queen of the Fairies, Oberon, and Titania, from that magical play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The next Postscript from Quotidia drops, as they say, in two weeks’ time.
Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.
Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text.
For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.