Our call for issue 3.1, ‘How to Make Love in Dangerous Times’, began innocently enough: A bird has landed on your tongue. From there, what our contributors chose to do with that bird, rested squarely on what danger they saw in everything that came after. We called that bird love; after all, l’amour est un oiseau rebele — and like so many times before, love is here to have its way with you. We are not the first to say this about love. Take The Eurythmics’ Love is A Stranger: It’s savage and it’s cruel/And it shines like destruction/Comes in like the flood/And it seems like religion/It’s noble and it’s brutal/It distorts and deranges/And it wrenches you up/And you’re left like a zombie. Our call got as far as the throat, and never deeper than this: And you give in, of course you do. So what is it about love, that makes us give in? What is it about love that makes us do this, over and over again, with no regard for our safety? Is this complete lack of safety the thing that turns times dangerous? Think of AIDS, think of violence, think about choice. Think about control. We could not do this to the heart and so we stopped ourselves short, and buried that bird deep in the throat, and made it clear that before it ever gets to the heart, you have let a wild thing find its way into you. In some ways, it is already too late. Yes, there is a crack in everything and yes, you gotta kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight, but nothing in this world is casual. Love breaks in, and love can break a body, and love can do this long before it gets to the heart. Even the most beautiful birds are dangerous at times — prends garde à toi! We love the work that makes up this issue and we hope you enjoy it too: ‘How to Make Love in Dangerous Times’.
The Editors, The Pickled Body
How does a poet or an artist respond to a theme as open/closed as loaded/unloaded’? Some of these writers may have sent us poems they’d loaded earlier. Others may have freshly unloaded just for your benefit. Either way, we looked for work that took the theme seriously or played around with it, whatever it meant to the poet. Herein we have pickled poems that came loaded with meaning, ideas, fun/not-fun, excitement and drama, as well as acute observation. Nostalgia was a theme that emerged in retrospect, after we had made our selection. That being in the sense of painful recollection, and not, say, of old movies that remind the viewer of happier times and places. Some poems spoke to others, particularly two we are delighted to feature: Kimberly Campanello’s A Figure and Aifric Mac Aodha’s translation Cruth. We are honoured to present Michael S. Begnal’s wistful remembrances of places and people, Clodagh Beresford Dunne’s striking meditation on what becomes of us in death, Todd Swift’s pop-culturally astute word-movies, Rasiqra Revulva’s unflinching reflection on intimacy and illness, Padhraig Nolan’s simply stunning paintings from his MANTLE series, Rúairí Conneely’s exuberant moment of loadedness, Tween Plath’s inversion of an archetype, Susan Connolly’s visual chanting, Shane Vaughan’s visceral haircut, John Saunders’ exploration of suffering without recognition, and Bob Carr’s elegant quotidian assignations. This nostalgia in the true sense – suffused with the pain of remembering that which can never be experienced again except in memory – burns brightly in all of us once we reach a certain distance, different for everyone, on the path towards a kind of maturity, or at least old age. Each piece here is full of life, and the experience of life, both loaded and unloaded. Read on, gentle reader, and reflect.
The editors, The Pickled Body
A poem is unpredictable. A message, a feeling, sent from one mind to another, it is changed in ways the writer cannot know. In this issue of The Pickled Body, we have captured some of these slices of meaning yet let them slip out on a journey over which neither we nor the poets have any control. Make of them what you will, because a poem becomes something other – and richer – when it combines with the mind of the reader.
Some of the poems presented here deal, on the face of it, directly with the theme of quantum mechanics. Others take the notion of Ian Fleming’s ‘quantum of solace’, his unusual tale of the death of affect, in which he illustrates the bare minimum of human feeling!– the least amount of hope, of consolation – required for a relationship to survive. Others still are perhaps surprisingly spiritual.
A few of the poets in this issue are physicists or have a background in the subject – offering us an insider’s perspective, if you will. All are first-rate explorers. We are delighted to bring their work to you. We are also thrilled to feature Sean Hayes’s glorious photography nestled among the poems.
In choosing ‘quantum’ as our theme, we knew that poetry, like all art, like all communication, finds its true form when it is received, not when it is transmitted. And when that happens, both the poem and the reader are changed. Engage.
We are all minotaurs living in our own labyrinths. Sometimes it takes a brilliant poem to be our Ariadne or our Theseus. Yet as editors we may have been tempting fate in choosing the theme for our third issue. What if everyone took the word ‘Bull’ literally’?
What we might have expected: Greek myth, astronomy, cant; insemination, persiflage, Picasso; Hemingway, Miles, Manolete; horns of plenty, horns of death, horns of a dilemna or a dilemma. Meat, blood, wine. Victory and death. Picadors.
What we got was poetry, proper honest-to-goodness poetry, some of which addressed some of the subjects listed above – but not all of the work that came in was about the animal ‘bull’, or bullshit, or papal edicts, or Jake La Motta. And that’s what we hoped would happen. More than anything we looked for sideways glances.
What we pickled is, we think, a stunning selection of poems that to a greater or lesser degree took the notion of ‘bull’ and decided for themselves what that meant.
We hope you enjoy The Pickled Body 1.3 ‘Bull’ as much as we loved discovering this work, and now take great pleasure in presenting it.
An amuse-bouche is a single, bite-sized hors d’oeuvre. Often complemented by a particular wine, amuse-bouches both prepare the guest for the meal and offer a glimpse into the chef’s approach to the art of cuisine.
The Pickled Body believes that, like any good amuse bouche, poetry too is made for the mouth; it comes alive the moment the words possess the tongue. For issue 1.2, we asked for delicious things, poems that pushed the tongue to action. In selecting the theme, we wanted to acknowledge the mouth’s role in understanding art. To that end, we invited chefs to create amuse-bouches inspired by the poems of Federico García Lorca, Carol Ann Duffy, Alan Ginsberg, and Robert Creeley. The result is a feature that showcases the visceral and sensual nature of poetry, alongside the creative energy and drive that goes into making food look and taste beautiful. Our bouches were well amused by the results.
There is much to feast on in this issue. We think Geoffrey Gatza’s opening poem, Oh I’m better now. Ate something that must still have been in love last night., and its opening line, say it all: ‘Nothing is dead in the house today’.
The Red Shoes is a fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen. It tells the story of a girl who, possessed by a pair of red shoes, cannot stop dancing. Even after her feet are chopped from her body, the dance must go on. Our call for submissions was inspired by this idea, embodied in the fable as well as in two other works also called The Red Shoes: Powell and Pressburger’s wondrous 1948 film, and Kate Bush’s album released twenty years ago, in November 1993. We sought poems that possessed or are possessed, that moved, that ached.
The sixteen pieces selected for Issue 1.1, complemented by the work of our featured artist Ria Czerniak, are by turns visceral and surreal, vibrant and raw. The Red Shoes features work by: Philip Casey, Afric McGlinchey, Todd Swift, Kate O’Shea, Maurice Devitt, Amanda Earl, David Milligan-Croft, John Ennis, Ruairi Coneelly, Maria Isakova Bennett, Shane Holohan, Todd Colby, Kevin Higgins, Billy Ramsell, Kimberly Campanello, and Sarah Stewart.
We hope you enjoy this inaugural issue of The Pickled Body. In the title track of her 1993 album, Kate Bush asserts that ‘these shoes do a kind of voodoo’. We think the work collected here attests to that but don’t take our word for it. Instead take Todd Swift’s, from his poem “Red Shoes”: ‘So art sets teachers dancing with their slaves.’