Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, episode 171 – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary. Welcome to a new season of the Letters for 2022. In 2021 I published 170 posts under the Letters From Quotidia title using a variety of content formats. To kick off the New Year I will present two hitherto unpublished works in a short season over consecutive days of the week. I’ll start the ball rolling with a composition entitled Making the Living Poetry. This will be podcast in four parts this week.
The longueur between my eyes ungluing and fitful sleep/Can challenge a score most tedious or page a-snoring./I know the ceremonies of the egg at breakfast time:/The scene has not exhausted TV writers yet-/And so, I wrote a poem: commemoration blessed/By the “Times” (TV Times, that is.)
Galahad at the kitchen sink
Reviewing his strange position sees
In memory vast battles fought
Over sauce bottles and arduous
Pilgrimages to a point where two
Can understand a simple gesture.
Most strange: he shakes his elfish
Head and wrings the dishcloth.
Later, waiting for the post I hope again…/I take a turn around the garden, smell a rose perhaps./Still later, looking at the sky, as I will often/Do outside; I gasp a gasp (small, of delight)./-I’ve read my Keats you know- I rush inside and grasping/Pen I live again and practise poetry:/
Let me say to the whole sky- Hello!
Not forget the clouds or sheets of rain
But take them too and with them take the low
Swooped birds which flatten out the rolling plain
And make mirrors of the silver rivers:
Best seen from a curtain of rarest mind
Distilled which then attuned re-shivers
Shaking out the foil that makes me blind.
My wife interrupts creative flow: “The post/Has come.” I go, and grabbing missives from beyond/Return to recognise my writing- Self Addressed Envelopes-/Their purpose you all know, myself, I sigh, too well./Not surprised and counting up the cost of postage/Am inspired to verse- strange term for despair./
If I could affix a postage stamp to my desires
And by swift courier send my dreams direct:
By easy payment cease to feel the gnaw
Of rats and slimy presences within my heart
How I would clerk away this toil:
Forego the rant and laugh away the blasted
Urges burned upon my shrieking mind
And feel the calm of statues to the moon.
My family gives advice, they find my stuff insipid./“You’re in here while a world out there is going mad.”/They’re getting holes-in-one and winning journeys- sun/Drenched vistas kissing cardboard packets- I reply./I can take advice from anyone; not proud, I scribble/Down a souped-up-eight-line poem, full of life./
We are excited! We are ecstatic!
The world has delivered another one to us!
I was just getting bored, going to bed
But we have been rescued! We have been saved!
They say that he lived with a tiger for two months!
Taught it Zen Buddhism! Chess! And Backgammon!
Lived on raw meat! The occasional peasant!
But now he has come he will tell us it all!
I’m glad I’ve taken their advice. Feeling humble, humble,/Bumble to the pub to re-acquaint myself again, again,/With vast events which justify the forests falling, falling./Royalty is worth the trees, I see. Po-faced politicians, too./Blessed be communicators, blessed be their name, their fame./And glad to see democracy alive and well, I register dissent:
Trained at fox hunting, a guest in the Bourse
And schooled in reading the secret signs
On portals through which we blindly pass
Enables you to laugh when I say
“You are the enemy- you are no friend.”
For you point to rows of men in singlets and
Double-knits, girls in evening gowns and common prints
Who do knee bends if you but bow their way.
In the interests of realism, I hope you understand me when I say/That though I was contrite earlier today I must report/My feelings now at the masses, the hoi polloi, have it/As you will- I’d flush ‘em down the toilet-/That they’d comprehend- the language and the action!/And now the spin-off: hear and mark the next denunciation./
We have seen the winners and heard them rejoice
Tumultuously in the city squares and coffee bars.
Hanging out of office windows, whooping along the corridors
Or tastefully gloating in Laundromats or bistros.
For they are vindicated in their perfect view: a loss
Of control of the hardening shades of real power
Releases them once again to their fragrant marshes
Until another prophet points to the beast nearing Bethlehem.
Fire in my belly, actually it’s beer, and quite a lot/Judging by the path worn, not to the Guinness tap, but/To the jakes. Emboldened now I borrow pen from man who serves/This slop and bursting from the close restraint of/Eight-line verse I sally on. I now attack my critics/Who send me S.A.E.’s instead of money through the post./
Quizzically befrowned, stop and go,
Reverse and sagaciously ponder,
Sniff and cock an ear toward
The howls of dogs around you.
The task- so fitting for your prowl.
The traces faint but soon perceived:
By all means call the others dogs
But hide your doghood from them.
A likely clump, some singing bush,
A sniffing joy, a wagging trill,
On spreading haunch give voice, for, Aye,
The masterpiece has found you.
No money in polemics, I decide, and dreaming, scheming/Come to know that I won’t win the pools- notice all these/References to Mammon? Yes, I admit I’m venal and greedy/But I’m safe ‘cause lots of poets have made it big by/Bringing the Confessional into the open. I hit upon a plan-/Listen to this discussion of my coffee-table poem:
Books are passé, my dear, don’t you know?
And little games on hooks, the same, the same,
I’m sure your husband uses to keep sane
The whiling day away, I’m sure. But tell me
Do you know what I myself have found?
All by myself while polishing my belt?
You don’t! Well, let me take you in, my dear,
-To my confidence, that is- what I have found.
I bought it in the Art shop down the road:
A coffee-table poem to firm our flaccid dreams.
I stumble up the hill and meet the wife a-blazing:/“Where the blazes have you been? Your dinner’s burnt!”/I listen to the litany- I know it all by heart./And I will be revenged- I will get her back./Stamping to my room I hammer typing spite/Take that, and that, and that, thou awful kite!/
Filling up with poison like a poison sac
Suck I in and blow me out, drinking down
And then piss out some fraction of the death
I comprehend and, indeed, I apprehend
Although it makes no difference in the end.
Breathe pure air if that you really must
And drink the chlorinated water from your tap.
But why to me you come if you would know
Why flowers will not flourish under snow?
That concludes the first part of Making the Living Poetry. It’s a strange feeling resurrecting this artefact after more than 40 years. It filled a need, during the year 1979, when I was unemployed in Northern Ireland- apart from a few days of casual relief teaching at the local schools. When we re-join the versifier in part two, we will hear two of the songs he wrote in that time. These have also featured as part of the Letters From Quotidia sequence in 2021.
Credits: All written text, song lyrics andmusic (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