Sunday 22 February 2015

Louth Navigation Trust epetition - please sign

Louth Navigation Trust need to clarify ownership of the waterway, in order to continue the work of restoration...

Louth Navigation Trust epetition

Louth Navigation Trust to have full access to restore and operate the Louth Canal

Responsible department: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To allow the Louth Navigation Trust, a registered charity to restore the full length of the Louth canal and bring watercourse back into full operational use. This would encompass renovating or renewing existing locks and associated canal structures including banks together with an operational depth put in place for boats/craft to use as a navigable waterway.

Louth Navigation Trust
The Louth Navigation Trust was formed in 1986 to promote the canal as an amenity, and has established a base in a restored canal warehouse in Louth. A feasibility study for restoring the canal for navigation was commissioned in 2004, and the Trust is hoping that this could be a reality by 2020.

The Louth Navigation Trust was formed in 1986 to promote the canal as an amenity, and has established a base in a restored canal warehouse in Louth. A feasibility study for restoring the canal for navigation was commissioned in 2004, and the Trust is hoping that this could be a reality by 2020.

Louth Navigation

Wednesday 11 February 2015

A gentleman and a poet

A number of times recently I have found myself acting as The Spouse at my wife's formal events.  It is not hard.  I can do it.

At one such event, a young woman came and sat next to me and said, 'Are you the gentleman who is a poet?'

Where to begin?  With John Ball, perhaps, and William Morris:

When Adam delved and Eve span
Who was then the gentleman?

Is a gentleman simply some man who has stolen our assets?  Or, another introduction to the delicate weave of English culture around that word, Elizabeth Bennett, during that walk in the wilderness, confronts Lady Catherine de Bourgh, on rumours of an engagement:  'He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman's daughter; so far we are equal.'  Would I, by accepting that word, be claiming equality with Colin Firth?

Many times in the day, of course, I am relieved to accept the categorisation.  Recalling, then, Jonathan Miller on that 'unpunctuated motto', 'Gentlemen lift the seat'.  'Is it a sociological description - a definition of a gentleman which I can either take or leave?'

(Kate Bassett, In Two Minds: a Biography of Jonathan Miller, 2014, reminds us that the quote comes from the monologue about trousers lost on London's railways.)

Moving along, to the second part of the question...  It is true that I have written and do write poetry.  For example, I did write an elegant villanelle when I was wooing my wife.  These things are unavoidable.

And it is true that I have published Love Death And Whiskey, a book of my song lyrics.

In my own world I make a distinction between my song lyrics and my poems. Simply put, a song lyric is a thing of gaps, gaps for other creative people to fill.  But people have chosen to speak of my song lyrics as 'poetry'.  Terry Jones, on Amazon and on Twitter, said of my book, ' a great book for those nervous of poetry. They are simply wonderful lyrics...'   If we analyse this deeply (everything said by Terry Jones can be analysed deeply...) there seems to be some sort of problem around 'poetry' that my work addresses.

Sometimes people have said to me that they like my 'poems', and I have tried to explain my song/poem distinction - thereby, absurdly, quarrelling with people who like my work.  Some have fought back, gamely, reading out loud my own work to me, in order to prove to me that my song lyrics are 'poems'.  At this point it is clear that I have misunderstood the argument, and should just shut up.

Yet, readers of this blog will know that I am uncomfortable with some of the exercises required of a 'poet' - see below, by way of contrast, my happy encounter with Laurie Lee.

Would I be happy, then, to be called a poet?  I am, I suppose, happy with the word, a doer, a maker, a Makar - as the Scots have it.

And so, after what you might well think was insufficient consideration, I did answer the question.  'Are you the gentleman who is a poet?'  I said, Yes.

Patrick O'Sullivan
February 2015

Monday 2 February 2015

O'Sullivan, Mercier, Notes

This is really, maybe, a 'Libraries Prequel...' I wrote these notes last month to answer some of the queries I get about my piece on Mercier's The Irish Comic Tradition...'Sullivan%2C%20On%20First%20Looking%20into%20Mercier's%20The%20Irish%20Comic%20Tradition.pdf

January 2015 
Some notes on 
Article (OSulliv2004First) 
O'Sullivan, P. 
On First Looking into Mercier's The Irish Comic Tradition 
New Hibernia Review, 2004, 8, 152-157 

John Bayley
I have just heard the news of the death of John Bayley, who is mentioned in my piece. Where his name is spelt 'John Bailey'. I do not know how that happened. Might even be the Curse of Autocorrect, as the text was passed from hand to hand. For such a small piece this article needed a lot of negotiation with editors. Witness the correct academic American English usage in 'an homage'... 

 John Bayley, who was a kind and good teacher, is mentioned in my article as, perhaps, denotative of a certain approach to texts, involving close, sensitive reading. He was a decent man. 

Here is The Guardian's Obituary...

Kensington Library, Liverpool
is the little local library remembered with gratitude. When I was writing the piece I looked around for some pictures of the building, partly to prompt memory. I was writing for an austere academic journal - so no pictures could be used. At one point in the writing of the piece there was a danger that it would become a study of the libraries rather than of the book. Finding pictures has become much easier with the passage of time. It was, and still is, a very fine little building. There is a note about the building by Reg Towner, and a very nice drawing at 

Reg Towner also directs us to a photograph... 

Designed by Thomas Shelmerdine for Liverpool City Council, funded by Andrew Carnegie, of course. Built 1890, modified 1897 - with the addition of that bigger wing. Which I like - I like the off balance look of the building. 

The Victorian Society has a useful leaflet at 

And a web search for Thomas Shelmerdine will find more odds and ends. The Everton Public Library, Liverpool - also designed by Shelmerdine - is used by Alistair Black for some general pontification. Which I do not object to...

Everton Public Library 
Alistair Black 
Victorian Review Volume 39, Number 1, Spring 2013 pp. 40-44 

He summarises some of the discussion about these buildings, and these resources. All under threat, now. 

It was there, when we needed it, where we needed it... 

Picton Reading Room, Liverpool, and Bodleian Library, Oxford

It is easy enough to find pictures of these places online. 

The Picton Reading Room and the surrounding buildings have recently, 2010-13, been given a make-over... 

Hard to judge from photographs - but have they done something to the floor levels within the Picton Reading Room? 

When I gave up being a probation officer I went to the Bodleian Library - to repair my prose style. There I did the reading and the research to write 

Incollection (OSullivan1989literary) 
O'Sullivan, P. 
Swift, R. & Gilley, S. (Eds.) A literary difficulty in explaining Ireland: Tom Moore and Captain Rock, 1824 
The Irish in Britain: 1815-1939, Pinter, 1989, 239-74 

Which was given that daft title by our esteemed editors. People keep asking me what that title means - I have no idea what it means. 

The point of places like the Picton Reading Room or the Bodleian Library is that any thought, any thought, can be followed into the research record. 

Do note that the two chapters from The Irish World Wide, which are mentioned in my Mercier piece, are available on that free MediaFire.

That is, Barry Coldrey on the Christian Brothers, and my own chapter, 
'The Irish joke'... 
O'Sullivan, P. 
O'Sullivan, P. (Ed.) The Irish joke 
The Creative Migrant, Leicester University Press, 1994, 3, 57-82

Patrick O'Sullivan