MARK GRANIER reads from Ghostlight: New & Selected Poems

Throughout October, Trasna will focus on the Celtic festival of Samhain, known better to Americans as Halloween. The holiday originated in Ireland and celebrates that time of year when the veil between this world and the next grows thin, and life seems more mysterious.

This week we feature award-winning poet, photographer, and filmmaker, Mark Granier. In addition to select readings from his latest collection, Ghostlight: New & Selected Poems, is his film: “Docklands,” which won the Doolin Writers’ Weekend Film-Poem Competition in 2019. Mark and filmmaker Fiachra MacAllister also produced the haunting video for Peter Sirr’s poem “About Ghosts: Whoever You Were,” which was recently featured on Trasna.

Mark has published five books of poetry and has exhibited his photographs in major European art galleries. Here, his poems explore a mysterious 16th century dancing plague; the presence of those we can’t see; and the rhythm of history that runs through us. 

 

Drawing, 1564, Albertinium, Vienna | Pieter Breughel [the Elder], The Dancing Mania.

Dancing Plague

There’s been a strange epidemic lately
Going amongst the folk – Strasbourg, Alsace, 1518

 

Where, who was the music?

 

Frau Troffea was the first. She danced for four days,

the insides of her clogs slippy with blood.

A strange thing, and maybe it meant little,

unlike the last touches of The Great

Pestilence; unlike leprosy, famine, the pox

or that foreigner, The English Sweat.

 

Where, who was the music?

 

Other folk followed, at any time up to a score,

hopping, twisting, kicking up dust that danced

mingling with the dust raised by onlooking crowds,

amongst these, maybe, a few doomed to discover

how it feels to be hustled by your own body,

arrested, taken away.

 

Where, who was the music?

 

We did as we were ordered: schemes, edicts,

management of the afflicted:  ‘Flux in the blood’

might be danced out of the blood: guildhalls swept

into dancehalls, The Horse Fair displaced by a hammering

platform assembled quick as a scaffold: a stage

for proper music makers ––

 

Where, who was the music?

 

trumpets, fifes –– and hired dancers whose job

was to clasp the poor souls and spur them, spin them like tops

faster and faster, to out-dance, outquicken this thing

even as the old or weakened who couldn’t keep up

stumbled, sagged, wilted and flickered out, gone

in some stranger’s mechanical arms.

 

Where, who was the music?

 

No good. We did as we were ordered, searched

house to house, street to street, rounding up

wagonload after hopeless wagonload,

transported to the mountain shrine of Saint Vitus,

where the strict monks set them to fasting, praying (even dancing

in red devotional dancing shoes)

 

Where, who was the music?

 

until something, it seemed, finally shifted. God

heaved off His curse. The shriven came clopping back

cured. Miracles. Or had this thing simply rolled on,

a thunder storm knocking the mountains? In its wake,

over two hundred graves, our faith shaken

as the unsteady, seasick earth.

 

Where, and what is the music?

 

MARK GRANIER reads “Dancing Plague,” from GHOSTLIGHT: NEW & SELECTED POEMS

 

 

Vulture Bone Flute

–– 38,000 BC

 

Fitting to see the oldest airs

salvaged from a raptor –– the air

of its wing –– and there is music

 

in our bodies, drums and strings,

wind instruments fulfilling themselves

so blood and sweat sings

 

to surfaces, half-blinding those eyes

lost in the swing of a scythe,

a notched sword, the haulage

 

of hominid arms through foliage ––

music that runs like sap

back to the root

 

of our species jogging on the spot

wired to an iPhone –– chants, field hollers,

deafening wars, silences –– the body

 

bearing the mind away

with riffs, keys, tones, variations

on what’s in us and what will come

 

to blow through our bones.

 

MARK GRANIER reads “Vulture Bone Flute,” from GHOSTLIGHT: NEW & SELECTED POEMS

A PHOTO OF GRANIER AS AN INFANT ALONG SIDE THE ONE PHOTO OF HIS FATHER

(Also pictured is Granier’s mother)

From Blackrock

Here’s to you, ghost father, alive or dead,

your surname’s reserved seat, your vast

library of the unsaid;

to your one image, slip of the past

 

in blurred grey and white;

a soldier, sitting with my mother,

your smile sleepy, hers bright

as the ghostlight blowing your cover;

 

to the curse or gift you bestow:

abstraction, my soft spot for absences;

cloudwatcher, seawatcher, open to the slow

shift of light, the waves’ always present tenses;

 

to the given, darkening, Dublin Bay almost black

except, nearby, where a wave splits a rock.

 

MARK GRANIER reads “From Blackrock,” from GHOSTLIGHT: NEW & SELECTED POEMS

 

Three Postcards From Mr Zed 

  1. Seascape 

The best thing about the sea is that

basically, it’s flat

and

there is no land.

 

  1. Night Gazing

 The big dark is my thing.

Who, after all, would miss

what the deadlights promise

and never bring?

 

  1. Self Portrait

 Set one mirror

staring into another,

unlock those cool walls

and you can fall

straight

down my throat.

 

MARK GRANIER reads “Three Postcards From Mr. Zed,” from THE SKY ROAD

 

 

 

“DOCKLANDS” a film-poem by Mark Granier and Fiachra MacAllister (2019)

 

 

Mark Granier is an award-winning Irish poet and photographer. He has published five collections of poetry, and his poems have appeared in many outlets, including The New Statesman, The TLS, Poetry Review, The Daily Poem and Verse Daily.

Granier’s photographs have been published by The Guardian and exhibited in a number of different shows and galleries, including the OXO Gallery in London and Royal Irish Academy Annual Exhibition in Dublin. His film-poem, Docklands, was a joint winner of the first prize in the Doolin Writers Festival in 2019.

Granier’s fifth poetry collection, Ghostlight: New & Selected Poems, was published by Salmon Poetry in 2017.

https://www.salmonpoetry.com/details.php?ID=432&a=56

All photographs are by Mark Granier

6 Responses to MARK GRANIER reads from Ghostlight: New & Selected Poems

  1. Jeannie Judge says:

    Mark Granier’s poems celebrate the harmony of creation from the beginning of time to the present. I am drawn especially to “Vulture Bone Flute,” which moves from the instinctive motion of the raptor to the music of the ear-budded runner. The very act of being alive is an art form; every body is an instrument.

  2. Enda Wyley says:

    Delighted that your work features in Trasna, Mark. Wonderful to read the new timely poems too.
    Well done to all the Trasna team for gathering such an interesting body of work together.

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