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On 'The MacFiach Anthology of Irish Verse from the First Rhyming Grunt to Last Tuesday Week'

Time stood still as I pored over ancient manuscripts, deciphered ancient scrolls and pondered long and hard over the merits and demerits of Ireland’s first transsexual poet, Joseph ‘Mary’ Plunkett. Tough one this. Plunkett’s cross-fertilisation of the two known genders was bordering on the heroic at the time, and certainly led to the acceptability of cross-dressing among the Catholic hierarchy in an otherwise repressive state. But does this excuse the blandness of his verse? His place in the psycho-sexual history of his native country is assured, but that history has yet to be written, and I, whatever the blandishments on offer, am not the man, or woman, to do it.    Having said which, I admit to an early obsession with Ireland’s first solo husband and wife team. An interesting footnote to a highly controversial career was his proto-feminist anthem, ‘If…’ Such was it’s controversial nature that it was given its first, and last, airing at Opus Dei’s 1887 celebration of the arts, ‘Burnt…

OKAY IF I GO ON FIRST?

I was in New York. 3rd and Madison. 42nd and Main. Something like that. Anyhow, I had to get to Carnegie Hall for a concert. Fast. So I asked a passerby. I knew he was Scottish by the gentle scent of  Cullen Skink wafting from his pores.              ‘Carnegie Hall?’ he said – I won’t do the accent – ‘I certainly do. Cab to JFK. First available flight to Glasgow. Hire a car at the airport. Follow Bute Road to Caledonia Way. Join M8 slip Road at junction 28 towards Glasgow. M8 10.6 miles till junction 13. M80 for 3.9 miles. M876 towards Edinburgh. M9 till junction 7. A876 for 1.7 miles. A985 for 6.2 miles. A994 for 3.0 miles. A907 0.9 miles. Fourth exit off roondaboot and there’s you, pal. Have a nice day now.’             Like a fool, of course, I took him at his word, and I know what you’re thinking. It’s actually 3rdexit off roondaboot.I got hopelessly lost – charming town, Barnsley – arrived at 10.26 for an 8pm start, and missed the entire show. Fortunately, Frank Sinatra was on t…

WORD JAZZOLOGY

A quick reminder of Word Jazzology’s opening night. Stellar lineup as always. I’ve googled them so you don’t have to. 
Graham Pointer enjoyed a brief moment of fame in the late eighties as the 4th Pointer Sister. Flung out over musical differences and her decision – controversial at the time – to grow a beard. There’s also an excellent jazz guitarist of the same name. Could, I suppose, be him. 
Speaking of jazz, Christine Bovill was, it says here, a jazz chanteuse in medieval Lyons. Several centuries ahead of her time, she was charged with offending against the natural order and burned at the stake for introducing syncopation into the Catholic hymnal. Changed times. Jazz is now seen for what it is: a mental illness. Word Jazzology can’t promise a cure, but it guarantees a safe space and a sympathetic ear. 
PK Lynch. PK enjoyed a successful paramilitary career in Ballymena until someone grassed him up. ‘He’s a Catholic. The clue is in the name.’ Relocated to a secret location in Cowdenbe…

ROBERT BURNS RESPONDS TO RECENT CRITICISMS IN THE PRESS

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I've been a poet all my life All love's sweet joys I cover A poem each for every wife And two for every lover.
In Edinburgh I'm renowned I've lovers there a-plenty In every city they abound In Perth I've over twenty.
I court the lassies everywhere With conquests ever mounting For instance: scattered over Ayr It's 36 and counting.
In Cowdenbeath I've next to none But otherwise they're legion I got a dose of clap off one She must have been Glaswegian!
I praise them all both high and low In pretty rhyming couplets And once or twice before I go I leave them with quintuplets.
This poet's bargain, lassies learn Is not a thing to shame us We leave them with a fine wee bairn While all we get is famous.
THE LASSIES REPLY
A pretty speech ma fine wee buck Ye're grand at versifyin We lassies can't believe our luck

MACFIACH'S MAP OF IRELAND

It is often said that of all the enemies of artistic promise, politics is surely the most insidious. Who knows what heights Churchill might have achieved if he had refrained from meddling in Germany's plans for world domination. I could so easily have fallen into the same trap myself. That I failed to get sucked into the black hole of making the world a better place was due in no small part to my iron resolve. Take the following. I was fourteen years old and just recovering nicely from my most recent school-induced injury. We had been set the home exercise of drawing a map of Ireland for the great Hibernophile Scully. Once home I set about humouring the fellow before getting down to my real work, but the coastline of Ireland is composed of the most infuriating mix of inlets, peninsulas, headlands, bays and islands, capes, promontories and juttings, seaboards, banks, leas, zigs, zags and squiggles. I had no intention of wasting the whole evening on these absurdities so I made a fe…

THE THING YOU DID LAST TIME

I rapped on Blaise’s study door with a loud rat-a-tat-tat. ‘Blaise,’ I called. ‘The door seems to be jammed.’ Silence. ‘Could you try it from your side.’ Silence. ‘Please.’ The door opened and a chastened Blaise peered out. ‘It was locked,’ she said, pointing at a large sign. Please Do Not Disturb. ‘Ah,’ I said. ‘Hadn’t thought of that.’ To be honest I hadn’t noticed. Another of her efforts to keep her monstrous regiment of so-called friends at bay, no doubt. She further pointed to a rather witty footnote[1]. I laughed appreciatively. ‘So is it working?’ I asked. ‘Not really,’ she replied. ‘No.’ ‘Well I’m not totally surprised,’ I said. ‘If pretty blatant signs have no effect I can’t see what a footnote is going to do.’ ‘Or,’ she sighed plaintively, ‘two Yales and a mortice.’ ‘Precisely. Anyway, the thing is – ’ I stopped in mid-flow. I’d obviously knocked on the door for a reason. But what? Blaise gave me a look. What I call her suffer in silence look. Typical. If I’d been granted imme…