It took a couple of pages to absorb the sentence structure of Eimear McBride’s deeply distressing book, A Girl is a Half formed Thing. It’s written in the mode of a stream of thought of a young girl, so its punctuation reflects the havoc and incoherence of the inner voice. The story is about relationships. She has a brother with intellectual disabilities (the first pages are about his stroke as a baby); her mother is a self obsessed, religious woman. There is no father and she is raped by her uncle aged 13 with whom she forms a strong emotional bond as a result. After this she uses sex to escape the pressures and tirades of adolescence and assert her independence. Eimear Mcbride’s book is very perceptive and it is truly a poem,
Wednesday, it rained all day, that sort of rain that makes you very wet. At the same time, we had an unexpected power cut which meant no electricity or power, so we couldn’t make tea, cook or work on computers. I had planned to hoover the house and wash the floors. Instead, the dog and I wandered aimlessly from room to room. It was like being thirteen, restless and bored. I’d forgotten what that felt like.
I also went to Jampa Ling (the Buddhist centre in Bawnboy) to see the photographs from an exhibition of ‘strong women’ that a friend is putting together. I was delighted when she asked me to feature as one of the women. The photographs, drawing (there are paintings too) of the women are striking. I was shocked when I watched the slide show: the jaws, the angles, the poses, the rhythm, the beauty, the wear and tear of the women is fascinating.
Strong women: what makes women strong? Is it luck? Family, friends? Is it circumstances? Is it ourselves? Is it biological? It’s hard to describe the whisper that weans strength or weakness of woman. Eimear McBride’s book explores female sexuality. Does sexuality provide us with strength? Or is it a weakness? Philosophical and indeed, poetic questions.
I was reading a book on poetry written in the thirties this week. The author showed how phrases, proverbs, slogans include the essence of verse: they are pithy, catchy, have melody and make sense.
A stitch in time saves nine
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
No man is an island
No taxation with representation
Each reflects sense, metre and rhythm, imagery, harmony of sounds and general form: the key elements of poetry. Good isn’t it? So, if a proverb reflects the composition of poetry, it also shows how broad poetry is and how hard it is to define – as will be reflected in this month’s AT The Edge, Cavan which takes place this coming Tuesday on 1st July in the library in Cavan.
This month we have three poets, all very different, but each captures the key elements of poetry in different ways. I am lucky to have Stephen A Murphy who writes in a ballad form from Leitrim. His recent poem ‘Was it All for This?’ went viral two weeks ago. And I am delighted to have Rachel Coventry from Galway whose poetry is different, it’s subtle and shaded. Paddy Halligan is the Cavan Man this month, hailing from Bailieborough and his poetry captures an Ireland at a crossroads of class, culture and moral identity. These changes are explored through simple family vignettes, corner-boy voyeurism and colourful characters.
So to coin a phrase
A treat in store!