Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Poem of the month - Finnegans Wake

Is 'Finnegans Wake' one of the longest poems written in modern times? The 600+ pages took James Joyce 17 years to scribble out -or so we are led to believe. He footnotes the last page: Paris 1922 - 1939.
R S Thomas says of poetry in his poem 'Don't ask me...', 'The listener should come / to and realise / that verse has been going on / for some time. Let / there be no coughing, / and no sighing. Poetry / is a spell woven / by consonants and vowels / in the absence of logic' Thomas's defintion applies de facto to Finnegans Wake, as we will see. A novel, in the normal sense of the word, it certainly isn't. For as a novel it is unreadable.
Many 'coughing' and 'sighing' professors may dutifully claim that the book defies categorisation, or even that it has no literary merit. Poet-in-Residence disagrees. To put it bluntly P-i-R says - Finnegans Wake is nothing more or less than a long poem. The only problem with it is - it's on the wrong shelf.
P-i-R has taken a single paragraph (FW-p409) completely at random and set it out in verse form. This simple act reveals the wink in Finnegans Wake. Nowt but a sillyole pome it is.

from Finnegans Wake

Goodbye now, Shaun replied,
with a voice pure as a church-mode,
in echo rightdainty,
with a good catlick tug
at his cocomoss candylock,
a forestaste in time
of his cabbageous brain's curlyflower.

Athiacaro! Comb his tar odd gee
sing your mower
O meeow?
Greet thee Good?
How are them columbuses!
Lard have mustard on them!

Fatiguing, very fatiguing.
Hobos hornknees and the corveeture
of my spine.
Poumeerme! My heaviest crux
and dairy lot it is,
with a bed as hard as the thinkmuddles
of the Greeks
and a board as bare
as a Roman altar.

I'm off rabbited kitchens
and relief porridgers.
No later than a very few fortnichts
since I was meeting
on the Thinker's Dam
with a pair of men
out of glasshouse
whom I shuffled hands with
named MacBlacks - I think
their names is MacBlakes -
from the Headfire Clump -
and they were improving me
and making me beliek
no five hour factory life
with insufficient emollient
and industrial disabled
for them that day

I have the highest gratification
by anuncing how I have it
from whowho but Hagios
Colleenkiller's prophecies.
After suns and moons,
dews and wettings,
thunders and fires,
comes sabotag.

Solvitur palumballando!

1 comment:

  1. How did I miss this? One of my all time favourite books. It's amazing how much easier it is to read when broken into free-verse lines.

    I can't resist quoting one of my favourite bits:

    (Stoop) if you are abcedminded, to this claybook, what curios of signs (please stoop), in this allaphbed! Can you rede (since We and Thou had it out already) its world? It is the same told of all. Many. Miscegenations on miscegenations. Tieckle. They lived und laughed ant loved end left. Forsin. Thy thingdome is
    given to the Meades and Porsons. The meandertale, aloss and
    again, of our old Heidenburgh in the days when Head-in-Clouds
    walked the earth. In the ignorance that implies impression that
    knits knowledge that finds the nameform that whets the wits that
    convey contacts that sweeten sensation that drives desire that
    adheres to attachment that dogs death that bitches birth that entails the ensuance of existentiality.


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