wrote a nice review of my nomadic poetry.
Of a soul, hungering after ‘Hiraeth’.
Which means ‘A longing for something This
World can never give’, Celtic source, with an
Emphasis on ‘This’ as opposed to ‘Other ‘world”
I like this very much. I think it gets at the seemingly contradictory tensions in my work. My poetry is, I think, influenced by some NY School Poetry with its emphasis on the everyday and conversational language, and also surrealist. Maybe Ron Padgett’s form of surrealism mixed with a visionary poetics. NY School poetry is itself influenced by French surrealism, but with a lighter touch. That’s where I am coming from, overall.
My work is a nomadic writing practice, living simply in many countries, immigrating since the age of six. It is also a kind of contemporary shamanism traveling between visionary and so called ordinary states. Sometimes dream-like states of the unconscious and other imaginary worlds of the “marvellous,” but also an attempt at zen like grounding by accepting the absurdity of existence. The Zen teacher Gil Fronsal suggested that Buddhism is maybe a kind of existentialism, but without the angst. I think that is maybe my orientation.
After coming home early from my Mormon mission at age 20, in my newly adopted country of the United States, and arriving in a small town in Utah, I felt alienated. I was having what is commonly called an identity crisis. When I immigrated to America, at age almost 12, I adapted myself to the United States by moving my mouth like an America. Eventually I got rid of my Northern Irish and working class British accent. The same thing happened when I immigrated from Ireland to England at around age 7, but not completely. It wasn’t good to have a Northern Irish accent in England in the 70s or 80s. It is a bit like being from the “middle east” today. You were a terrorist, or a drunk. So I tried to become more and more English (or British), but I still had traces of my Northern Irish accent. And then came Mormonism. A new religion. It helped us immigrate to the United States and survive there. The Mormon church helped my family a lot with food donations and also hope. My mum and my sisters still carry that Mormon hope. I have left the Mormon church with its attempt at Truth and a fixed meaning of life. And I have continued traveling the world without a home base. My alien card for America has expired. I have no legal claims to the United States of America and they have no legal claims on me.
My passport is British out of convenience but I need to change it to Irish. I am an Irish citizen since I was born in Northern Ireland. I hope that doesn’t change with Brexit.
And yet my ancestors go back to Lowland Scotland. And also French Huguenots. I was born in Ulster.
Do I feel Ulster Scots? Yes, there is some of that, it is part of me. I’ll take the country and western legacy and also Johnny Cash and Van Morrison. Also David Lynch (An Ulster-Scots father). Ulster Scots is the language of my childhood and all my relatives, except my immediate brothers and sisters and step father. In America, almost every evening for many years, my mum sung the songs of Ulster and Ireland to us, and also the stories. So many stories and songs from Ulster. My mum is a natural storyteller. In America, my mum seems at home as a first generation Irish American. Many of her friends are different kinds of Irish. There are no more distinctions between protestant and catholic. I hope someday Ulster Scots is another kind of Irish.
So I am really a hybrid. Americans are often hybrids too but if they have lived in America for so long, then aren’t they just Americans? The great melting pot experiment. Is it working? We are all searching for home, a place to belong.
When is someone really from somewhere? I cannot really fully answer the question: where are you from? Actually, if you examine that question long enough, it becomes more and more absurd. Where are you from? The Mormons try to trace their lineage back to Adam and Eve. We are all from Africa. But that’s not it either. We are from the Milky Way. And something further. Nothing.
After my Mormon mission I returned to university. I thought education was the ticket out of poverty, but more importantly the key to my freedom. I focused all my energy on education and school when I immigrated to the United States at almost age 12. But after the Mormon mission, and no longer believing, it was existentialism and philosophy that helped me. I saw, and still see, the absurdity of existence. For a while it was psychedelic existentialism (with various spiritual searchings in the desert, both literal and metaphorically). Now, mostly, I am finding absurdity as a way of letting go. Yes life is often absurd, so why cling to it. When faced with the absurdity of existence, no fixed meanings or metaphysics, Camus considered suicide. But there is another kind of letting go in the face of absurdity, Buddhism as a practice. I don’t really consider myself a Buddhist in terms of a fixed religion, but more of a practice, in motion. Ditto my art. My art/writing is a practice in motion, traveling. My reading and experience of art is not separate from my life. It is all part of my life. It is part of that original grand experiment of the avant garde, to unite life and art.
Of course, words are slippery. And labels, as words, are sticky. I am a writer cosmonaut. A traveler. Like all of us.