I'm delighted to announce that Follow Me To Ground is officially forthcoming with New Island Books, to be published in May of this year. It's now available for preorder at newisland.ie.
Ada A-da How did he decide on such a name? Abrupt, but leaving its lilt in the air. And the mouth, in its aftermath, tugged at the corners. When spoken in anger it can cause a jerking in the neck. Other times the mouth hardly moves but its roof receives a quick, fleeting tap with the tip of the tongue, in that moment is careful and deft as a cat’s tail. Why this name, this sliding together of consonant particles? Of course, it may not be mine alone. I’m sure there are other girls, elsewhere, who turn upon hearing it called. Had I sharper memories of my time in the ground I might recall his voice come coursing toward me, through the loam, teaching me my name. In describing the summers here, with July grown thick in its middle, I rely on the sweetness of untended grass and the flat, even distribution of sunshine. I rely on, as inventory, the lemon light being cast on the garden’s back wall with a harshness that sees the shadows of the trees cast dark and deep. Yes, in summer’s height the shadows are as solid and alive as the bodies that throw them. I have come outside, into the morning heat. Latent in the air is the promise of tang and burn. I have come outside to warm my feet on the patio stones and to consider the drainpipe in the garden. It is a gullied, gutted hole. Nearby the lavender, grown in a heap, has had its scent worn away. I am fearful of the drain. I am fearful because no matter how long and dry the summer, on occasion a slug will emerge and creep on its snake-belly around the patio and seek entry into the house. I have hated slugs since I was a child. Once, when still very young, I rubbed one to ... Read more ».
A small work I saw in the RHA show Apertures & Anxieties in 2011, Donor Body Prepared For Spot Exam was to become a persistent reference point when I began making notes for Follow Me To Ground. Its emotive presence in the face of dissection, the resonance of personhood within a body rendered serviceable, is achieved by the treatment of the line which is broken, vulnerable, and laden with empathy. In a piece I wrote last year, I considered the subjectivity implicit to Eustace's depiction of the deceased body. "As a cadaver, it is presumed that the body should be able to tell us nothing other than the biological workings inherent to it – the ‘silent teacher’ giving up of itself. Donor Body Prepared For Spot Exam manages to undermine this pervasive assumption of the Cartesian split and assign a degree of subjectivity to the body itself, with or without its noetic counterpart, and presents us with a body that remembers something of its own history. Having considered that the body may be emotively equipped with more than the sum of synapses firing, we can ask then why these cadavers are presumed to be silent? Because they have lost the capacity for audible speech? What if there lurks some other data, purely experiential, that is also revealed in its dissection?" The insistence of embodiment where we are conditioned to perceive absence has continued to be prevalent in my thinking around the obstacles faced by any subject in seeking coherent self perception. Today, having managed myself back inside, I made a paltry drop of coffee and decided to look at the drawings that Father so often showed me when I was a child. I have not taken them from their casing for some time and am pleased in handling the loose sheathed pamphlet, the binding of which has grown ... Read more ».
(i) practice (ii) steep (iii) looked a bit like *photography courtesy of Emer Lynch & Tracy Hanna.
I wrote this scene in response to a segment from Michel Foucault's History Of Madness, in which Foucault writes of post mortems conducted in the late 1600s that the brain of a maniac was found to be "dry and brittle, while that of a melancholic was damp and congested with humours. In dementia, the cerebral substance was very rigid or excessively relaxed, but in both cases devoid of elasticity." The cerebellum is a part of the brain located near the base of the skull which controls voluntary motor activity. I was eager to use the word it for its lyrical, self-contained presence on the page. At first, before remembering myself, I was relieved to hear that Mr Kault’s cerebellum had grown so twisted and hard, thinking that the more strenuous our Cures the less likely Father would be to notice any changes wrought within me. And I had never seen a cerebellum; edible-sounding, full of swell, and determinedly supple when healthy. Mr Kault’s neck was badly bruised, and Father murmured that he must have been kneading himself absentmindedly, sighing at the damage done by a man so broad and determined to loosen the teeth-gritting knot at the base of his skull. I held his left thumb in my cupped hand while he slept face down on the long couch in the sitting room with Father and I both knelt beside him. He was the only man I’d ever seen of approximate size to Father, whose thick chest now tweaked in bending closer to our Cure. The skin across his chest was still rubbery and smooth though he had been all those years in the sun, never eating and only sleeping his few small hours at night because he enjoyed so much being still. I often wondered whether he would ever come to show any weary sign, whether ... Read more ».
In Mary Ruefle's essay On Erasure the poet writes of her compulsion to erase words: Perhaps I have lived through too many blizzards. Ruefle makes erasure works by 'whiting out' words from an already existing body of text. Seeing the process as one which unearths a means of poetic writing unreliant on traditional poetry, she does not consider the resulting works as found poems or objects. I made them in my head. Resonance, essence and aesthetic ends are delivered in the remaining words which, she writes, become 'extra-sensory' in their new found isolation. When writing I find my constant task is the grafting of reason and sense over an initial kernel, taking some word or thought and treating it with either careful sparsity or absolute generosity. With Ruefle there is the suggestion that things are more beautiful having undergone such a process of erosion or negation. Life, as we encounter, it is in a state of excess which we continually pare back: ..we ourselves are an erasure of everything we have forgotten or don't know or haven't experienced. Ruefle erases the work of others, whereas I will be reading an erasure of a book I have written -- though I adopt the principle rather than the exact process. Having over the last year and two months pulled the novel from my head, bringing it toward malleability in some places and resilience in others, I opened it at the first page and began to reduce it from 55,997 words to 475. Though it felt less like reduction than expansion, as the images in being collected seemed to swell, and those pairings or groupings of words that were only the serviceable links between their resonance too -- their functioning and sounds -- seemed to buckle. Ruefle enters into one text to shape and retrieve another, but I know my text too well for it to have kept hidden from me such ... Read more ».
At that age I left the house for long, bare foot hours perhaps every second day. On this day I wore a blue dress whose large pockets I filled with pebbles – I was certain the small action of rubbing their faltering edges brought about the few lines of poetry I had by then begun to phrase. Hatched again – lumpen sum. The first lake is a quarter hour’s walk from the house and immediately thereafter is a field fully grown. I stopped to dip my feet in a hole that still held some of yesterday’s fraught rain, noting how the weeds at its slovenly edges had begun to upright themselves in the morning heat. I might have dipped my feet in the lake but was at that time still cautious of the cannibal eels; the giant, gorging eels brought over during the war to kill enemy soldiers who stopped to bathe and swim. It was well known how they had gone hungry some weeks into peace-time, and swallowed one another whole. I imagined endlessly how each coated the next like a fleshy glove, growing larger with every incestuous meal. Eventually only the Sister and Brother Eel remained, watching one another until the brother, the younger sibling, fell asleep. I still sometimes dream of his fear upon waking, thrashing in the tight dark that was his sister. Engulfed, even as he stirred from sleep, feeling his jaws sealed by another set more widely spread. It was Sister Eel who had years ago eaten most of Christopher Plume, a freckled child, when he was nine. Father worked on him a great deal, mostly as courtesy. Plume drop Belly up. Thumbing the pebbles and pushing the words together, testing them in my mouth, until I came to Second Lake. This lake is much further along, and since my ... Read more ».
I slept badly and now I cannot work. The inside of my nose has a burning sensation and if I were to cry my eyes would sting and sting, they are so dry. There have been lilies in a vase for over a week and now all but one lily has died. Its petals still have something of an upward surge. The others have turned beige. I will throw them out the window. I will try to get more sleep. I will wake up and be able to work. It seems for now I cannot get enough breath into my chest. On the radio a man talks about heart disease; he says 'you never think about it' until something goes wrong. But I am often thinking about my heart, and clenching my fist so as to gauge its approximate size. Ada says something of her own heart In Follow Me To Ground. She says she will not live without it. And yet that is what she does. For most of the book..
Stemming from research into psychoanalysis and its portrayal of the female psyche, Follow Me To Ground is an allegorical rendition of feminine puberty in the face cultural conditioning. The novel seeks to relay the difficulty of the progression toward coherent self-awareness, and demonstrate how ideologies are undergone in a way that is acutely physical and sensate. Synopsis Ada is a girl who was not born, but made. Living in near isolation with Father, she tends to the ailments of Cures from a nearby town. When not listening to bodies and handling organs, she walks to a nearby lake which is home to a cannibal eel, writes brief juvenile poems, and crudely operates on the bodies of cats and birds. As Ada grows, she begins to consider her body may have a purpose that has been kept secret from her. Her suspicions are solidified when she meets Samson. A Cure with no sickness to be healed, he causes Ada to question all prior knowledge of herself. Before making plans to deviate from the life laid out for her she must first negotiate Father, and it seems he is more aware of her transformation than she could have anticipated. One day Samson doesn’t come to meet Ada. Returned to her daily existence of solitary introspection, not only her maker but the house she inhabits begin to resonate with a strange and ominous force. Her instincts are further clouded when Father announces a Cure will be coming to stay – a widow from the town, named Lorraine. As it slowly transpires that more has been risked than Ada’s own happiness, Father’s actions take on a sinister coherency. To an ever greater extent, he seems intent on maintaining her healing abilities, at the cost of stifling her other latent, lurking gift. Excerpt Ada A-da How did he decide on such a name? ... Read more ».