Poetry, Society, Banks.

"There can be no society without poetry,"
Octavio Paz.

I didn’t take the opportunity to post here because family, life and death dictated otherwise. After a wonderful summer, full of inspiration, joy, energy and splendid Moorish Spanish sunshine, I also had PhD transfer panel stuff, family commitments, various other workloads, and a golden vein of scholarly research corralling my thoughts far away from blogging. Three weeks ago I lowered my uncle Johnny into his cold mud walled grave, the proverbial gentle man, I knew him well all of my life, I was deeply saddened at his departure from this world.

My own mother is now the sole survivor from their brothers and sisters. Johnny was preceded by their sisters Maura, Nancy and Patricia and brothers Jimmy and Mickey. In utterly immaculate timing, the HSE inform my mother that her hip operation of a couple of years ago (which she has always maintained was incorrectly performed and actually reduced her mobility while increasing her pain) did involve a defective replacement hip / device, that should never have been used in the first place. Her physical pain is finally acknowledged by someone despite her many many GP visits. But then the HSE has closed both the local surgery and the surgery in Navan where the original operation took place. Other incredulous stuff has gone on that I simply cannot fathom let alone blog about here. So an intense and emotionally turbulent personal part of my life has hopefully begun to settle down somewhat.

Like everyone else I endure daily the debacle that is the economic recession here in Ireland – it really makes it Ire – land, Like so many others I feel surrounded by that ire, a tangibly intense anger at what has transpired in a country over the so called boom years, and the subsequent failures to offer redress, apology, or any honesty in relation to the unethical carry-on. The entire establishment – not just the banks, the catholic church, developers, politicians, senators, TDs, but now trade unions, the overbloated and overpaid public service sector, even that most abstract of entities – the markets – but also so called ‘professions’ i.e. the lawyers, doctors, dentists, solicitors, essentially the economic fabric of our society have revealed themselves to be the exclusively self centred epitome of commercial greed and avarice. Interested in ideas of society only for what can be extracted from it in personal gain. While there are obviously some pockets of genuine community, decency and concern, these seem to be receding a little more each day.

The pointing Irish, ‘Look at dem bastards dare’ blame avoidance technique that the Irish media has to date been successfully using is, like the 450 thousand unemployed people here, no longer working... and such ordinary people like myself are just sick to the high teeth of the various strands of that media trying to outrage and out-outrage each other. To search for poetry among these ruins of this (relatively) momentarily proud society, may appear to be a futile exercise. The seriousness of the dysfunction currently corrupting all aspects of our society has banished rational consideration, trivialized any ideas about enjoyment, caused horrific anguish, literally driven people to the gates of insanity or death. The tunnel continues to lengthen by the day and the mere mention of light brings greater hopelessness and the remembrance of trails of previous broken promises, false dawns and ultimately utter abandonment. The establishment needs to understand that humanity is no longer a commodity. Framing society in solely materialistic terms has failed and failed miserably. I’m not advocating for a complete end to capitalism or the introduction of big broad society ideals currently being touted in both the US and UK, I am many things but social reformist or political pundit are not two of them. I just happen to be part of this society and I’m pretty miffed at how it is declining as a moral and ethical amalgam of mostly good people, good institutions and great traditions.

Paz went on to say after his comma above:

“,but society can never be realized as poetry, it is never poetic. Sometimes the two terms seek to break apart. They cannot.”

What would happen then if after all this material centric mess, we all grew into a society of poets ? Well I am fortunate enough to personally know some professional and practicing poets. Most professional poets (at least those with whom I know well enough to discuss such matters) need to publish and also teach or tour to enable them to make a close to average living. The work itself, in isolation would maybe keep you in tea half the time, but little else. Heaney’s anecdote in the Denis O Driscoll stepping stones biog, about when he drove the poet Kavanagh and herself home after meeting them in the Bailey, where she says from the backseat: “there you go Paddy, Poets can have cars.” Says more about a poets own genuine disregard for, and maybe disbelief in,. the pursuit of material things (& stuff).... than those who love or encourage them. (to acquire it ?)

I find it a tremendous irony that empty vessel like, most noise being made about smart and knowledge economies patently (sic) emanates from obviously stupid people. What is even more annoying however is how so many underlying abstractions have become ‘economies’ yet the real stuff that matters to little people like me remains ‘firmly off the radar'. Rather than humanity and community we have the attention economy, the aforementioned ‘smart and knowledge economies’, the export economy, the tourist economy, the property economy, economies of scale, the international economy, the global economy, the infrastructural economy etc, its just all part of that mumbo jumbo business speak invasion and pandemic of mismanaged personal communication infection hitting us all going forward.

For gods sake, don’t anyone mention the poetry economy or a new poetic society, don’t confuse the wholly artistic pursuit of writing, reflection, imagination with the often necessarily commercial aspects of publication, don’t try to tie these two things together, as the recording industry has sought to do when redefining itself as ‘thee music industry’, seeking to exert undue control over intellectual property and regulatory influence over how people can conduct themselves in relation to musical creativity. Any writing economy (if there is such a thing) and I’m certain people like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (whom incidentally were pledged 300 Million of Irish Taxpayers money in grant aid) or Hughes and Hughes (who folded only to reopen with the same stock) firmly believe that there is such an entity. And as the various economic domino’s begin to fall here these will soon be infected with economic migrants from other essentially commercial disciplines - the arts will become even more commercialized. After all being a writer and game developer now means I’m part of that demographic called the creative economy, which itself feeds into the arts economy, which is supported by the agencies economy and so on and so forth until we all just end up jumping up and down in a rage about economics.

But this is eco-moronics not economics, forget the misapplication and misunderstanding of ‘Margina Utility’. Our ecomoronisists entirely fail to grasp or factor into their equations or thinking any substantial quality of life issues that most effect peoples’ emotional and mental well being. Big houses, big cars, more stuff, only become individually important if someone begins to question or make you question your self esteem and sense of your own self worth. They only become collectively important when we find ourselves commodified within a purely commercially orientated society. That famous Alain De Bottom graphic for a little more for one making a whole lot of misery for the others without that little more, has itself been wrung out again and again as we now start to wash our conscience as the bell tolls. Here’s my poem:

Ode to the Banks.
Nothing, thank god.