Friday, 21 August 2009

From sweatmark to beer stain

The following poem came about in an unusual way. This morning, or was it yesterday, PiR visited George Szirtes' blog and found a link to the Rotterdam Poetry Festival and thence to some video of GS and others reading their work. One of these others was Matthew Sweeney who gave an entertaining anecdote and follow-up poem about a sweatmark he found on his shirt when he was in Romania one hot summer. He likened the dark shape to the outline of Ireland.

In 1945 the poet Paul Celan walked from Romania to Vienna, Austria. So there's the tentative connection. The point of the following Poet-in-Residence poem is to amplify the difference between recent so-called problems in, for example, Ireland (we may recall a recent event where a group of Romanians were abused and forced to seek refuge in a church to highlight the point) and the desperate situation in Europe at the end of WWII.

Not only in Ireland but in many other countries around the globe so-called complainants too often resort to brutal violence in the absence of reason, sense (common or otherwise) and foresight. It behoves us to remember that we all inhabit the same planet regardless of where and when various kings and men have drawn their lines in the sands of time and place.

an impression on reading Paul Celan

the beer stain on page 9
where it says
The SS had one essential job to fulfill - "Energisch durchgreifen, die Juden liquidieren," to energetically liquidate the Jews - as they did not trust the Romanians to do it thoroughly ...
resembles the poet's profile
the open mouth
the large eye
the dome skull
the broad shoulder

the beer stain
will leave a record
that will not be erased

unlike the poet's t-shirt

M. Sweeney's map of Ireland
his sweaty socks
his underpants
are in the laundry basket's depths
mixed wash
30 Celsius
final rinse
and short spin



  1. As usual, you have made me think Poet. I too found the incident in Ireland distasteful - coming as I do from gypsy stock a few generations back on my mother's side I find the way that they are hounded from country to country - and within that country from place to place appalling. But unfortunately we are all guilty of discrimination to a larger or lesser extent. Would I want a site for their re-housing close to where I live - probably not. I like the way you have said about boundaries being drawn by kings, wars etc. I always think about boundaries in relation to our fields - the rabbits, the foxes - none of them stick to one person's land - boundaries mean nothing to our wildlife. What have we done to this world of ours that one nation can be persecuted and hounded from country to country - you are right - the stains will never be eradicated.
    A very thought -provoking post and poem - I'll get off my soap box now but it does happen to be a particular hobby horse of mine (to mix my metaphors).
    Have a pleasant weekend.
    BTW Dominic is now up to 20mile runs on Sundays, which is probably why he has little energy left for blogging.

  2. Dominic must be enjoying his running. He is now up to his maximum required training distance and will doubtless taper off 2 weeks before his marathon race. Important now, at all costs, is to avoid injury.

    I'm taking a well-earned couple of days away from running to regenerate. Tomorrow I start afresh - training towards a half-marathon race in October.

  3. Me again! Reason c) really freaks me out - shall henceforth sleep with a sticking plaster over my mouth!!!


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