Alan Sondheim

Mairéad Byrne
The Pillar
Wild Honey Press, 16a Ballyman Road, Bray County Wicklow, Ireland

The Pillar, a poem of seven pages, is a masterpiece; I don't say that lightly. It is set about Lord Nelson's Pillar, perhaps in Dublin? A description of a visit, Nelson rising "up up up" from the plinth, then the poem settling down back into description with which it first set itself, that is around the square, if such it is, I don't know where I am. There is of the Lacanian here, the I-Pillar inserted central to the text, the shifter literally shifting, return to everyday life. The poem's replete with image:

We were low, no supposing, low-down in our boots,
battering past the pillar's base, clattering into this ravine
or that, clip-clopping up the gulch of North Earl

in such a manner that one is caught in the swirl of it which moves from Browning to elegiac:

He was there for the Plough and there for the Stars
He was there in the wings when the women ran with prams
when the gun-boat Helga when Ulysses
when the street broke and the poets stumbled
with a white flag and James Connolly from the GPO

in the manner of reference and referencing not all of which I understand but which fill in the depths of such a life, this is a work I can and do read over and over, something throughout near the ending about childhood: "I was a child!" and the story which one wants to emerge and which doesn't and which all tangles with history — but the elegiac

And of this town. The pubs inside the pubs
made new to look like old or old made look like new
the pints and pints and pints each daisy-fresh
and sloppy in the bar. The shops inside the shops

and the rows of them. The replete emerges, how full we are of everything, of the world's gathering, all gathered here, time and space and visitor, and two unnamed wandering among the streets of, where, Dublin? unstated, somewhere in Ireland, where

how the Phoenix Park was the largest park in Europe,
O'Connell Street the broadest street
Jack Doyle the champion of the world
and wasn't DeValera the right quare name.

The shifter or "I" inserted in language, pillar in the center of town, here identity's centripetal, gathering towards the center which might as well remain unnamed; the two of them skitter around the scattered out-skirts, tangential to the pillar in a manner or matter of speaking and walking.

Does history gather us in this fashion, fashion pillars in language where we might geneolo-eulogize? I'd think so, but I get back caught up again in the sheer music of this writing; I tend to love works which are also texts, which one can mine as mine, which proffer depths on the reread — even trying to project their image, poet and friend/lover?, back into that space. So that, short as it is, it holds deep resonance spiraling chaotically within and across the lines — not Browning, not for the narrative or the telling, but for the speaking/singing — Oddly enough The Pillar is both carved in stone memorial, and sung, and that's the beauty of it, the dis/location of location, traveling Pillar of language.

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