On Thursday, Oct. 14, Micheal O’Siadhail made a WCU appearance in a more private setting – a classroom.O’Siadhail led the discussion for Dr. Kim Bridgford’s poetry workshop class, which had been studying “Globe,” O’Siadhail’s 2007 poetry collection exploring the connectedness and evolution of today’s world.
O’Siadhail was part of a generation that observed the Holocaust, the flower child era and the French student revolution, a time where politics and ways of living were fought for in extreme ways. In the 1970s, the atmosphere changed: students became conservative and work-driven, as did the rest of society. The main motivation for a better lifestyle was no longer creating a political statement for all, but maintaining individual successes (i.e. getting a better job, constantly improving financial stability).
“It was looking back and just thinking ‘what happened’.paired with this extraordinary technological revolution – that’s where ‘Globe’ came out of,” O’Siadhail said.
“Globe” was written in four parts: Shadow Marks, Knot-Tying, Wounded Memory and Angel of Change. Each part of the book asks a major question regarding the changes the world (and O’Siadhail) has seen.
Shadow Marks focuses on “how does the past bear the present” while Knot-Tying looks at the people behind the shift and connection of past and present.
One of the poems discussed was “Shift,” from Shadow Marks. “Shift” looks at how change happens though the metaphor of language. One example is the difference in verb conjugations across generations, such as the subtle change of “have got” to “have gotten.”
A poem from Knot-Tying, “Cue,” was also examined. Within “Cue,” O’Siadhail pays homage to Shakespeare.
“He’s my knot-tyer, because he added and brought so much to language.”
The goal of “Cue” is to mimic Shakespeare’s writing, while including references to all of his works. “You really have to get inside of him in order to try and understand him,” O’Siadhail said, explaining why the poem is longer in form. “You know he must have been a bloody windbag.”
The third section of the book asks how the human race is meant to remember historical tragedies.
“My youth was colored by the Holocaust,” O’Siadhail said. “it absolutely shadowed [my youth]. But how are we to remember these tragedies? That’s what Wounded Memory is about. It’s how we remember.”
The last section of the book, Angel of Change, acknowledges the change in the world as a fast-paced whirlwind.
“The speed of change has gone very quickly, if you look at it,” O’Siadhail said. “If you look at the Industrial Revolution compared to the technological one, you see things move much faster now. It’s a globalization, but the question is, will it be an ethical one?”
In addition to discussing several of his poems in “Globe,” O’Siadhail also discussed poetry as a field with the class and took individual questions:
Q: Poems can have so many different layers of meaning – do you sit down and plan each meaning, or do they just happen?
A: “It’s a meeting of the author’s intention and what it means for you. Every person brings their life experiences to reading, so it’s really a meeting place of community and individual. I’m not trying to be clever, I’m just trying to give the poem a texture.”
“You don’t own a poem, really. It’s like offspring,” O’Siadhail said. “it goes off into the world on its own.”
Q: What is the hardest part of writing?
A: “Really believing and finding yourself. That’s the hardest. But what can you do in life that isn’t hard, or has hard parts of it?”
Q: Poetry seems to be such a large field, that encompasses a wide range of possibilities. How would you define “poetry?” How would you define “a poem?”
A: “Intensity of expression. That’s the wonder of language, that you can do all these things to it – it has playability. In the end, I trust language, in all its slipperiness.”
“It’s the only thing I couldn’t spend my life not doing.”
Regarding a poem, “it becomes what it is in its making. A poem really just has to come into being.”
Micheal O’Siadhail recently published another poetry collection focusing on language titled “Tongues,” which can be bought on Amazon.com and Bloodaxebooks.com. More information about O’Siadhail can be found on osiadhail.com.
Tara Tanzos is a fourth year student majoring in English and minoring in creative writing. She can be reached at TT649875@wcupa.edu.