Life has taken a slightly 'Eastern' tilt this week, at least in terms of reading and music listening, although all involved are Irish. Gabriel Rosenstock has been looking to Asia for many years now for inspiration even though the bulk of his work is written in Irish.
He is a highly regarded Haikuist and has written about travelling along the Ganges (Ólann mo Mhiúil as an n Gainséis). India was the inspiration for his 2007 bilingual collection Bliain an Bhandé/Year of the Goddess on whose blurb John Moriarty wrote: “Yeats has said that until the Battle of the Boyne, Ireland belonged to Asia. In these poems by an Irish bhakta, the ancient connection is being restored from our side, and that delights me.”
Rosenstock’s most recent collection, Uttering Her Name, is entirely in English and is described as a series of “spontaneous, ecstatic utterances in what the author calls a neo-bhatik style”.
If they are spontaneous (in the sense that they haven’t been reworked) then they are impressive achievements, reminiscent of Robert Grave’s poems to his ‘White Goddess’ – a beautiful, demanding and slightly sinister muse.
The Haiku is a much misunderstood genre of poetry whose Japanese ‘on’ are often clumsily transposed into English (and Irish) as syllables.
Journalist, and former Horslips drummer, Eamon Carr travelled to Japan in 2002 to follow the Republic of Ireland squad during the World Cup. In his introduction to The Origami Crow he writes: “My plan has been to retrace the steps of Matuso Kinsaku, the zen monk known as Basho, who in 1684 began a series of hazardous journeys throughout old Japapn in search of spiritual enlightenment. However, Roy Keane puts paid to my fanciful notions.”
The departure of Keane from the Irish squad and the high drama that surrounded the team’s gallant, but ultimately unsuccessful bid for world cup glory, serve as a slightly jarring backdrop to Carr’s journey through Japan, his musings and scene setting which all build up to a series of rather superb Haiku.
Describing a Robbie Keane goal he writes:
Finnan to Quinn, then Keane
harmony and geometry,
cool zen goal
More orthodox, in terms of Haiku at least, he writes:
warm evening on Ohashi Bridge –
ah, but where is
the sudden downpour?
Kíla have obviously taken my criticism of their gig in Belfast last year to heart and decided to tone things down a bit on their new album. Soisín is so mellow that you could easily drift off into enlightenment while it is playing in the background.
Rónan Ó Snodaigh’s tribal drumming has been tempered to a few bodhrán brush strokes while his multi-instrumentalist brothers (Colm and Rossa) and the band’s other trad players, Dee Armstrong (fiddle) and Eoín Dillon (uillean pipes and whistles) are allowed to showcase their considerable talents.
The album’s sleeve notes say that it had its genesis while Colm Ó Snodaigh was reading a book by Maria O’Halloran and was inspired to write a tune. The note continues: “ Marie ‘Soishin’ O’Halloran was a young Dublin woman who travelled to Japan to join a Zen Buddhist monastery and in three short years came to be regarded as a Buddhist Bodhisattva or saint of compassion. Meaning pure heart, enlightened mind, Soshin, is the English phonetic spelling of he give Buddhist name. We have given it an Irish spelling – Soisín.”
All the tracks are written by the various band members and although clearly in the category of Irish traditional it has more than a passing nod to Eastern influences.