Episode 47

From Iarnród Éireann by Simon Barraclough

 

Simon Barraclough reads extracts from Iarnród Éireann and discusses the poem with Mark McGuinness.

These excerpts are from:

Iarnród Éireann by Simon Barraclough 

Cover of Iarnród Éireann

Available from:

Iarnród Éireann is available from:

The publisher: Broken Sleep Books

Amazon: UK | US

 

From Iarnród Éireann by Simon Barraclough

by Simon Barraclough

1.

The Spanish–Italian border was dismantled overnight
and the next day rusting flatbeds, snakes of freight,
metal fatigued as all fuck groaned into view, uncoiling wire,
pitching barriers, angle-grinding watchtowers and turrets
with migraine sparks, and the English–Nazi border was christened
with street parties of Rippers & Crippens & Mosleys & Haw-Haws.
My heart had long lapsed, too expensive to renew,
the biometrics broken down, but I had my mother’s papers
and a code word she swaddled in lullabies now lost but not forgotten.
To Dublin, then! With McCabe the Assassin,
on one of the last helicopters out of Sigh Gone,
a DC-3 out of West Berlin, an old crate out of Silvertown,
wings and fuselage clogged by imperial sugar work,
a sticky crash-landing in the Liffey, doggy-paddling
down the Dodder till we found a wharf to gorge on Gorgonzola
with grinning green teeth and a bottle of Burgundy
from a sommelier who left no reflection
as the mirror-food floated towards us.

 

2.

Deeper, then, sans McCabe, into the verdant vulvaland,
larnród Éireann from Dublino to Luimneach,
Intercity, a head full of Hell, INRI, Iron Nails Ran In,
with Mercier and Camier sharing my table,
all elbows and shanks, playing footsie with the sleepers,
buggering any gap with the bitching gab,
shuffling trips to the buffet car for miniatures
and sticking up the trolley for plasticated Jamesons.
What are trains but wormholes through weather?
What’s a drinks trolley but a clattering CAT-scan
of your liver’s livid inventory?
What are Taytos but body bags for tuber leprosy?
I tried to read but trainshake breeds flies from the alphabet,
juddering runes using sandwiches as treadmills,
vomiting the small print of the universe we never read
but still click Agree. Raindrops try to board
but have such small hands they can’t carry tickets.
They clamp themselves to the gritty windows,
limpet mines triggered long-distance by light.

 

3.

And so the long day closes, the road runs out, the buffers dissolve,
the sleepers separate like spliced DNA giving up the ghost.
The station was a green screen, the carriages CAD lines
in a blank simulation with no O-D matrix. We’re astonied
to be gathered again. Cousins try to recognise each other
after decades of loving neglect, flick through the Rolodex
of buried anecdotes, blushing crushes, stitches and grazes
in the A&E department of contused memory.
I break the panopticon by smashing every mirror;
they piece me back together in the fragments of their eyes.
My dad crawls out of the ground and begs me for a piggy-back.
I carry him along with this coffin, this new weighty loss,
this hod-load of absent bricks that curves the spine and dislocates
the shoulder. Pallbearers sob. I’ve heard this sound before.
I watch my shoes. Black shoes. Black shoes tracking
from consecrated tile to municipal tarmac to patchwork pathway
to disturbed soil. Open up the ground again. Delve into the insects’ world,
Earth felt the wound. Zounds! The last thing you need is a funeral.

 

Interview transcript

Mark: Simon, these are three extracts from a longer poem. Where did this poem come from?

Simon: This poem was kind of forged from a series of crises back in 2016. One of them was the famous Brexit referendum. The second one was the election of Donald Trump as the U.S. President. And almost smack in the middle of that, actually towards November, was my 50th birthday. So these were kind of, one, personal crises or significant moments. And two, kind of gut-wrenching, quite depressing, very disruptive political events. And to celebrate my 50th birthday, I wasn’t sure what to do. Obviously, it’s a big date. And, rather than have a party here in London where I live, I thought, why don’t I go to Limerick in Ireland where my mother’s family are from, where I had lots of lovely childhood experiences and hadn’t seen my twin aunties for a few years. And one of them I knew was unwell with Alzheimer’s at the time, and I said to my Mum and my sister, ‘Why don’t we have a big lunch in Ireland rather than in London? And then we can meet the family’. So that went down well.

And then I thought, well, why not go to Dublin first with my good friend, the brilliant poet Chris McCabe, and we’ll have a day in Dublin the day before my birthday, and then I’ll get the train down to Limerick, and he would go back to Liverpool where he lives. And Chris and I had such a kind of rollicking good time in the pubs of Dublin that day that we extemporized a few lines of verse, which early on in the poem, there’s about 10 lines that we wrote together as we drank a little bit, well, more and more pints of Guinness in this lovely riverside pub. And something about the comical energy of those lines made me think I need to make more of this trip. And I started writing a kind of shell to go around those lines, and that just kind of had so much energy to it and was so much fun to write that I just kept going.

So I probably wrote, it’s about a 14-page poem. I probably wrote three or four pages on that trip. And then after that it was a much longer time adding to it, and adding new layers. And that probably took another kind of two or three years to get the finished thing together. But I always knew that it was going to be a single poem and probably either at the end of a collection or a pamphlet in his own writing, and in the end it came out as a pamphlet with broken sleep books.

Mark: And so you started writing actually on the trip?

Simon: Yes. I think possibly on the train. I think the lines about Mercier and Camier, which I think were mentioned in the extract.

Mark: Yes.

Simon: I did have that book with me on the table on the train, and it just worked its way into the poem. So that’s a very kind of factual moment. But I wanted the poem to be kind of personal, but transformed and transfigured by and through the language so that it didn’t read like a memoir, so that there were things in there which seemed true, and things in there that might not be true. I kind of wanted to mix the personal and the distant, which is a kind of fusion of the types of poems I’ve written over the years. It’s like a dialectic. I wanted them to come together in a strange form where you couldn’t really tell what was true and what wasn’t.

Mark: Yeah. You certainly get that impression. I mean, it’s kind of, I can now see the events that you were talking about kind of through the distorting lens of this kind of phantasmagoria, I mean the Spanish-Italian border, what a delightful idea that is. And being dismantled overnight. I mean, it kind of dismantles our expectations right away in that first line that clearly this is not going to be a realistic documentary style of poem. And yet it did start with a real event.

Simon: Yes. It’s like an expressionistic take on real events. And there’s a book by the great Irish poet, Róisín Tierney, called The Spanish-Italian Border, which she took from a joke I made to her over dinner. And I said, we should move to the Spanish-Italian border because she loves Spain and I love Italy. So we will remove France in the equation. And she ran with that as for a poem in the book. So this was like a kind of callback for Róisín’s pleasure. And I think starting with a non-existent border just felt like the right way to go for me, it enabled the rest of the language to kind of tumble out of it.

Mark: It really does tumble, doesn’t it? These extraordinary images of all these rusting flatbeds, snakes of freight, metal fatigued as all fuck, uncoiling wire, barriers, watch towers, turrets, and so on. I mean, where does all of that come from?

Simon: It’s a very good question. Somewhere in my imagination I wanted a sense of change in horror and disruption and the new kind of state being created. I sometimes refer to this poem as like an anti-fascist homage to my Irish aunties. So I want to pay tribute to my family, but I also wanted to write something that was against fascism and see if those two things can sit together. And if they do, great. If they don’t, that’s also great. It’s a kind of clashing of stones in some ways to see what music they produce.

Mark: Right. Well, maybe, we’ll come back to the aunties and the family event in a bit. But I mean so, again, you’ve got the English-Nazi border and street parties of ‘Rippers and Crippens and Mosleys and Haw-Haws’. And for anyone who isn’t familiar with the history, these are not the best of British, are they?

Simon: No, absolutely not. It’s a series of nightmarish characters. The years of Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, affected me and my family and neighbours quite closely, he actually attacked someone directly outside our house on my 14th birthday. And obviously, we were all affected by that, that very haunting, very distressing period. And it’s probably cropping up again in the follow-up to this poem. I’ve started a kind of sequel to this which is more about England in the ’70s, but again, with the same kind of approach statistically and in terms of incorporating fantasy. So yeah, so it’s a kind of an angry summation of how I felt England was going at that time in 2016. And my feelings haven’t changed that much, to be honest. In fact, they’re pretty much the same. But the escape to Ireland is a response to that. So it’s a kind of a fugue into memory and exile.

Mark: ‘To Dublin, then.’ Yeah. I mean I can say this because I’ve got Irish ancestry too. There’s always a sense of Ireland’s being this kind of hinterland, that that’s where we came from. And it’s easy to harbour Romantic dreams of escape. But you actually did take the train and you found yourself in Dublin with McCabe.

Simon: Uh-huh.

Mark: It all gets quite Joycean at this point, doesn’t it?

Simon: Could well do, I mean, there’s lots of my personal lifelong literary influences in this book. Predominantly James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, the two great modernist Irish writers who were also close friends. Beckett kind of was Joyce’s editor for a while, amanuensis as he calls it. And I think I loved Beckett since I was very young, since I was something, like, very precocious, like 12 or 13. And Joyce I got to love a little bit later. But they’re both kind of massive towering influences over many writers. And even though they’re both predominantly prose and stage writers, I did teach a class on Beckett on poetry at the Poetry School a few years ago where we kind of mined some of his poetry in the first session, but then the rest of it is kind of prose and stage works, and we kind of mined and we’re sensitive to the kind of poetry that he brings to that form.

Mark: Yeah.

Simon: So they both write a kind of very poetic prose, which kind of, again, melts and breaks down all those kind of categories and barriers between forms, which was something I was interested in doing with this long poem.

Mark: You know, as you described that, it really does feel like that this is the kind of the augmented reality of life inside an author’s head because you’ve got what is going on in the ‘real world,’ outside but there’s always an overlay of, ‘Oh yeah, this is where Joyce wrote this, or this is that scene from whatever book it was, or poem it was’. Plus there’s obviously the historical political overlay over the whole thing. So, I guess in a sense that is kind of realistic, isn’t it? I mean, it’s not photographic realism.

Simon: No. It’s a kind of psychological realism or a kind of psycho-linguistic realism. This is how language kind of works in one’s brain through one’s fingers almost with a life of its own. I kind of deliberately surrendered to wherever the language wanted to take me in this poem. I kind of went with it and I thought, I’ll worry about editing it later. And I stuck to that principle. So when I did write on this, it kind of tumbled out and I let the lines go as long as they wanted to go. I let the images go down crazy pathways and didn’t stop myself, which was a very liberating thing to do. And then I kind of tweaked and edited it a little bit at the end, but not that much. I did want to stay true to that kind of energy, and I wanted the energy to take the reader through. I wanted them to kind of almost step into this poem and be whisked along and then booted off at the end.

Mark: Yes. Yes. Just like a real train ride!

Simon: Exactly. And just kind of go with the flow of it.

Mark: And that’s, yeah. I mean, this is a very Joycean quality, isn’t it, to be led by the language. So you’ve got, I mean, you can see it in one line. You’ve got intercity, you go ‘Intercity, a head full of Hell, INRI, Iron Nails Ran In’. So you’ve got that association between Intercity and the letters carved on the cross above Jesus and the crucifixion. And it kind of all makes sense in the writer’s mind, doesn’t it?

Simon: Yeah. They’re kind of significant logos that means certain things. And the ‘Iron Nails Ran In’ is a direct quote from Ulysses, James Joyce’s Ulysses. One of the hilarious jokes he makes that teeters on blasphemy. And I had, I don’t know whether you were the same, Mark, but I had a kind of gentle Catholic upbringing. So Catholicism is, and I do sometimes still go to church. Yeah.

Mark: Yes. I think that’s a good way of putting it. Yeah. Not the brutal version!

Simon: Exactly. I think my Mum had the brutal version and all her siblings did. I had the much softer, gentler version which I’m still kind of fond of though. I wouldn’t call myself a practicing Catholic, but I do… Occasionally I have bouts of church-going and I still have voices in my head. I still talk to Jesus sometimes, but it’s a kind of, I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s not a devout process, it’s just a lifelong thing. It’s just language and persona playing with each other, I think. And I wanted to get some of that into the poem as well. I really just allowed myself to put into this package anything that was important to me in terms of reality and literary influence and privately, there’s some very private moments in there that I almost blush at mentioning, but I wanted them to be there. I didn’t want anything to stop the almost independent energy of this piece of writing, which I think is what makes writing exciting for me in the first place.

Mark: Yeah. I think reading this, and again, I’m thinking if anybody is maybe relatively new to modern poetry and used to stuff that kind of makes a bit more logical sense, bit by bit, I think the way I certainly, I experienced this is, oh, we are being invited to go with this, to go with the language, to enjoy the free play of words and ideas and what are they called? I’ve still got some COVID brain fog…

Simon: Oh dear.

Mark: … Acronyms! And that is really, that’s as much of the journey as the external, there’s this chap going on a trip to mark his 50th birthday, and he’s meeting his relatives.

Simon: And the other thing I didn’t mention about the structure of this was that the auntie who I knew was unwell, the died three weeks after this trip. So three weeks later everybody went back. So I went on the same journey back, but this time to a funeral in a much more sombre mode. And there was something about those two kind of triangular journeys from London to Dublin and then Limerick come back happening twice, once for a celebration, supposedly, and the second one for a funeral where I saw even more relatives, just structurally was irresistible to me. I just thought, this is such a… Because we hadn’t been there for so long and suddenly we’re going twice. And I’m so glad I arranged this birthday trip because the family did get together and they did see my auntie one last time. And my sister wouldn’t have seen her. I wouldn’t have seen her if it wasn’t for this.

So while it was tragic that my auntie passed away unexpectedly early, I thought she had many years left. My Mum said, she hasn’t got long. And I said, ‘Come on, Mum, she’s got years left.’ Three weeks later, my Mum was absolutely right. And that’s kind of, it’s almost like there’s something very playful and geometric about that structure. And that’s what made me, having started it in that earlier celebratory stage. Once the second thing happened, I thought, well, I kind of know how this is going to be now. And that allowed me to expand some of the family mythology as well. So the political energy kind of calmed down a little bit into a more personal energy due to events. But that all happened within like three, four weeks. And I just thought, well, this is the next thing I’m… In the same way with my last book Sunspots. It’s like, I wrote 30 poems about the sun in the space of like three weeks. And I thought, well this is going to be a book about the sun. And I knew that, you know? And it’s nice when that happens to me, I think, well, this is absolutely what I have to do now.

Mark: You get that feeling of life is nudging you saying, ‘Hey, this is a poem you’ve got to pay attention now’.

Simon: Yes.

Mark: And make sure you get it down. So, for listeners who obviously haven’t read the whole story, you do cover… You know, you’ve got this great scene with the lunch with the family earlier on and then you go back for the funeral. Could you say something about the process? Because I know some writers struggle about writing about family and what do I put in and what if so-and-so reads it and doesn’t like it? What’s your stance towards all of that?

Simon: I’m very sensitive to that actually. My first book Los Alamos, I wouldn’t call it confessional, but it’s the closest to the confessional mode I’ve ever written. And a couple of noses were put out of joint by some of the poems in there And that made me very wary about being too personal, or allowing people to recognize themselves in any of my work. So the follow-up book, Neptune Blue, was much more experimental and playful and deliberately nonpersonal. And that came from reading Ulysses in a week on an Italian beach, which completely reconfigured my brain, I felt, you know, suddenly I had permission from Joyce to do anything in that book. And then Sunspots again was… And this a kind of a fusion of those two modes. So there’s some personal stuff in there, but there’s lots of experimental, lots of disguised reality in there.

And this time I just thought the way I’m writing is very kind of openhearted and quite tender. And some of my family, obviously different people have read this and they all like it and there’s no complaints and no one thinks I exposed anybody. But yeah, it’s something I’m very aware of not wanting to cause offense, but also feeling it’s an important thing to write about. So, I don’t even… I think I was so confident that whatever I said down here wasn’t going to upset anybody that I just went with it. I didn’t kind of self-censor those moments. And there’s little passage in there about, it’s like a one-to-one address with my auntie, who had dementia at the time, I think is very kind of tender. And she was unable to read it or understand it. So she’s the one person who didn’t get to see that. But yeah, I don’t know, I feel I took a risk, but a risk worth taking and I was confident that no one would be particularly offended. And I think I poke enough fun at myself or expose my own feelings more than I talk about anybody else that it kind of counterbalances that.

Mark: Yeah, you absolutely do. And it comes across as very, like you say, very tender. And I would hope it’s a nice memorial for the family of celebratory as well as a sad time. I remember Caleb Parkin was on the show last month and he was talking about, he said, David Sedaris, you know, the American humorist, he said, he tells a lot of stories about family and friends and whatever, he says, you shouldn’t use it to get one over. As long as you come off worse or people come off better than you in some way, then it’s okay. And certainly you’ve… Yeah, I thinks a lot of affection comes across in the poem.

Simon: Yeah, that’s a good principle.

Mark: And so you started off actually writing in the moment, which is really interesting because it has got that vividness and the enthusiasm, the excitement, linguistic as well as whenever you go on a journey, I think there’s a sense of adventure somewhere, particularly one like this. So how did you approach editing this and revising it, and how much did you, how close is this to what you originally had?

Simon: It’s really close. It’s probably about 95% what went down originally. When I eventually sent it to Aaron at Broken Sleep Books, he had kind of half a dozen suggestions and changes, I think most or all of which I incorporated very wise. I love it when an editor actually gets hands-on. Some people don’t like it, but I think it’s a great honour to be edited by or encountered by another intelligent mind that cares about your language. And so it’s kind of… The only question I had was, well, when will it end and how long will it go on for? At one point I thought, well, this will be three pages. Another point. I thought, well, I could make it 200 pages. But then it kind of rounded itself off and I thought, well, I’ll bite off this chunk of this narrative and I’ll work on a follow-up maybe later. So, I knew I had to get from the first trip to Dublin to the funeral and then back home, but it’s what goes in the middle that was the question really. And there are bits that surprised me as I was writing it, where I suddenly leap back to Huddersfield in the 1970s because something I wrote suggested the beg… Yes, the habits of my Irish relative saying, ‘So now, so now.’ as a kind of… It’s like ‘allora’ in Italian,you know?

Mark: Yeah. Yeah.

Simon: It’s like a little pause. It doesn’t mean anything, but it means everything. And it means, okay, so we’ve covered that. Now we can move into the next thing, or now we can… It’s an invitation to talk about something else. And Heaney’s, Seamus Heaney’s version of Beowulf begins with something like, ‘So’.

Mark: Yes.

Simon: That’s the first thing.

Mark: Yeah. Yeah.

Simon: And I always thought, well that is so classically Irish. That’s the same as, so now, I kind of wish he’d said ‘So now’.

Mark: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Simon: And that reminded me of the first time I came across Beowulf as a child. So suddenly I was talking about Heaney, I was talking about Beowulf, I was talking about this Canadian substitute teacher we had when I was like eight who made popcorn for us for the first time and read Beowulf to us, which was two mind-blowing events for me as a child. Didn’t know what popcorn was at that time. She made it fresh with fresh butter. And then she read some really scary gory passages from Beowulf to us. And I was like, wow, this is just wonderful. What a wonderful world. So I kind of went down that path, but because of this phrase, ‘so now,’ is what opened up the next box. Wasn’t planned at all. But again, I just went with it. And in fact, I’d forgotten that memory until I was writing this and suddenly opened up a whole chamber I hadn’t thought about for decades.

Mark: So most of the poem is in these really wonderfully capacious long lines where you get the sense you could put anything into it and by the end of it, you probably have put just about everything into it. But there’s also some other one really quite experimentally-looking passage and another really beautiful evocation of the conversation with your auntie with some quite delicate short lines.

Simon: Yes.

Mark: Anything you’d like to say about those decisions?

Simon: Well, I definitely wanted, I always want to get as much variety as possible into either collection or to a long piece because I think readers need to recalibrate, to take a pause, to change gears, shift into another gear. And I think people’s brains are very curious and very malleable and they don’t want too much of a monotonous kind of structure going on. They want now take a little… We’re going to have short lines for a while, or we’re going to have some visual poetry for a while. And kind of, if I think of this poem as a kind of train, it’s like all the different passages are like different types of rolling stock or different forms of carriages. So they make different sounds. Some of them are very commodious, luxurious.

Mark: Brilliant. Yeah.

Simon: One’s a quiet coach, one is a very rowdy coach full of, drunken fools or one of them has the toilet in a door flapping open. So I wanted it to be an energetic journey, but also for each as if you’re moving through all these different kind of carriages en route. Which was a nice, it was again, nice permission for me to suddenly change gears or switch points, to keep the train metaphor going. And sometimes you just want to be very quiet after a rambunctious passage. You know, you want to whisper in someone’s ear or want to just give them an image to look at rather than any meaning or sense to unpack or interpret.

I think people often, I don’t know if you hear this in the course of recording these podcasts or feedback is that people feel that a poem is a test or something they need to understand and unpack rather than just, you probably wouldn’t think of what does Mahler’s fifth mean? Or I’m not comparing myself to Mahler, but music is something we allow to wash over us and through us without feeling well that’s about fate. It’s not, that’s about Mahler’s second wife or something, which you can do that, but that’s not the most important thing about, these pieces of music. And I just want people to really and myself to just enjoy the language, this wonderful thing we have. Which can be wonderful at communicating information and experiences, but also it’s its own pleasure and that pleasure can also work in different ways something can come out of pure pleasure. I think I mention jouissance twice or something, which kind of from my old days of critical theory in studying Lacan. There’s something about pleasure being a dangerous in the creative thing and it’s central to language.

Mark: Yeah. I agree with you completely. I mean, Idon’t quite think in quite such elevated terms as Mahler but I like to think about pop music – you know if you like it or not within the first couple of bars, and you might not ‘understand’ all the lyrics, but they do mean something to you and they give pleasure and you can listen to them over and over again. That’s what I like about poems. It’s the similar kind of experience, there is meaning in it, but that’s only just part of the mix and it’s not necessarily the most important part. And certainly my experience of reading Iarnród Éireann, have I got that right?

Simon: Iarnród, Iarnród. Yeah. ‘Iron road’, basically.

Mark: Yeah. Yeah. That’s why I keep trying, wanting to say ‘Iron road’. Iarnród Éireann, it was a real pleasure. Its really kind of clackety clack through the poem and the pages and you get to this, it’s not quite the end of the whole poem, but that, that brutally funny line, ‘The last thing you need is a funeral’. But there’s a lot of pleasure on the way. So maybe we could have a listen again to those extracts that you read and just say them again. Thank you very much, Simon.

Simon: Thank you very much. It’s been a real pleasure.


 

From Iarnród Éireann by Simon Barraclough

by Simon Barraclough

1.

The Spanish–Italian border was dismantled overnight
and the next day rusting flatbeds, snakes of freight,
metal fatigued as all fuck groaned into view, uncoiling wire,
pitching barriers, angle-grinding watchtowers and turrets
with migraine sparks, and the English–Nazi border was christened
with street parties of Rippers & Crippens & Mosleys & Haw-Haws.
My heart had long lapsed, too expensive to renew,
the biometrics broken down, but I had my mother’s papers
and a code word she swaddled in lullabies now lost but not forgotten.
To Dublin, then! With McCabe the Assassin,
on one of the last helicopters out of Sigh Gone,
a DC-3 out of West Berlin, an old crate out of Silvertown,
wings and fuselage clogged by imperial sugar work,
a sticky crash-landing in the Liffey, doggy-paddling
down the Dodder till we found a wharf to gorge on Gorgonzola
with grinning green teeth and a bottle of Burgundy
from a sommelier who left no reflection
as the mirror-food floated towards us.

 

2.

Deeper, then, sans McCabe, into the verdant vulvaland,
larnród Éireann from Dublino to Luimneach,
Intercity, a head full of Hell, INRI, Iron Nails Ran In,
with Mercier and Camier sharing my table,
all elbows and shanks, playing footsie with the sleepers,
buggering any gap with the bitching gab,
shuffling trips to the buffet car for miniatures
and sticking up the trolley for plasticated Jamesons.
What are trains but wormholes through weather?
What’s a drinks trolley but a clattering CAT-scan
of your liver’s livid inventory?
What are Taytos but body bags for tuber leprosy?
I tried to read but trainshake breeds flies from the alphabet,
juddering runes using sandwiches as treadmills,
vomiting the small print of the universe we never read
but still click Agree. Raindrops try to board
but have such small hands they can’t carry tickets.
They clamp themselves to the gritty windows,
limpet mines triggered long-distance by light.

3.

And so the long day closes, the road runs out, the buffers dissolve,
the sleepers separate like spliced DNA giving up the ghost.
The station was a green screen, the carriages CAD lines
in a blank simulation with no O-D matrix. We’re astonied
to be gathered again. Cousins try to recognise each other
after decades of loving neglect, flick through the Rolodex
of buried anecdotes, blushing crushes, stitches and grazes
in the A&E department of contused memory.
I break the panopticon by smashing every mirror;
they piece me back together in the fragments of their eyes.
My dad crawls out of the ground and begs me for a piggy-back.
I carry him along with this coffin, this new weighty loss,
this hod-load of absent bricks that curves the spine and dislocates
the shoulder. Pallbearers sob. I’ve heard this sound before.
I watch my shoes. Black shoes. Black shoes tracking
from consecrated tile to municipal tarmac to patchwork pathway
to disturbed soil. Open up the ground again. Delve into the insects’ world,
Earth felt the wound. Zounds! The last thing you need is a funeral.

 

Iarnród Éireann

Iarnród Éireann by Simon Barraclough is published by Broken Sleep Books.

Cover of Iarnród Éireann

Iarnród Éireann is available from:

The publisher: Broken Sleep Books

Amazon: UK | US

 

Simon Barraclough

Simon Barraclough portrait photo

Simon Barraclough won the London Writers’ Competition in 2000 and his debut poetry collection Los Alamos Mon Amour (Salt 2008) was a Forward Prize finalist. Since then, his published works include Bonjour Tetris (2010) Neptune Blue (2011) and Sunspots (2015). Sunspots also toured the UK in 2015 and 2016 as a one-man show including music, songs and film. He devised and edited the multi-poet, multimedia event Psycho Poetica (2012) and in 2014 Simon was writer in residence at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory where he edited the anthology of scientists’ poems Laboratorio. In addition to poetry, Simon has published short fiction and non-fiction.

SimonBarraclough.com

 

A Mouthful of Air – the podcast

This is a transcript of an episode of A Mouthful of Air – a poetry podcast hosted by Mark McGuinness. New episodes are released every other Tuesday.

You can hear every episode of the podcast via Apple, Spotify, Google Podcasts or your favourite app.

You can have a full transcript of every new episode sent to you via email.

The music and soundscapes for the show are created by Javier Weyler. Sound production is by Breaking Waves and visual identity by Irene Hoffman.

A Mouthful of Air is produced by The 21st Century Creative, with support from Arts Council England via a National Lottery Project Grant.

Listen to the show

You can listen and subscribe to A Mouthful of Air on all the main podcast platforms

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