Of the non herein
Ash upon drought as if
It could be uttered
Set to light
Broken cleft absent
In whip of
Dragging out the magus
Pulse of futile
Again once again
Asked of without quarter
Michael Mc Aloran’s collection “The Non Herein” from Belfast publisher Lapwing Press invites the reader to anomie and paradox, what lies within is self-negating. His poems mirror back life, (“opiate’s glass” . (Traceless of), “naught of the sheet glass” (Never Once) reflected as decay, vitality that reaches to extinguishing, the “jugular ash”. (Into Echoing)
“Torn…into echoing” suggests reluctance, the tendency to resist the dead sun, breathing- the “scuttling”, drive of purpose that regardless, terminates as “scum”. Some readers might search for optimism in McAloran’s work, might perhaps see the work of such a prolific poet as optimistic in itself, by virtue of his endurance. In this, we might impose ambition. But I think we would be wrong to do so. His position is consistent:
Spoken/ no not ever
(Asked of/ echoing)
Erased/ asked of once
Exile of scattered
So why, then, does the poet, so nihilistic and negating, bother with the poem at all? The artist, too, is scuttling. The artist must often reconcile the drive to create internally with purpose, with the role of art in their context. Context seems important here because McAloran’s poetry so clearly leads us away from the constructs of human ego and aggrandizing, from the idea of contributing to a collective human civilization whose sum can be stacked as valuable stock. To what end, in this universe? Toward what, to what end, does humanity toil? “Scuttle” suggests an insect, or a crab, without direction, whose movements beyond survival needs are aimless, yet frantic.
This is McAloran’s human:
Scuttle of meat
Spasm of dread held like an empty room
McAloran makes the distinction between frantic pursuit and biding one’s time. While we don’t come away with an answer to the question of “what end?” this is because he doesn’t offer one. The purpose of one’s work in that context does indeed lack a universal imperative and becomes the simple scuttling of biding time, in between survival. One’s actions are often an extension of that survival- vocation, for example, an extension of self-sufficiency. Acts of love might be an extension of the basic needs of procreation and nurturing. But what about the artist? The poet?
Trace of the without
Ever of the traces of it
(Of The Traces of)
What drives the poet to write in the face of such a sense of futility, if it is viewed as futility? Does this interject a certain nobility, to the act, undertaken without that connection to survival? Or would the cynic say that it becomes another tool, a complex tool, that can still be traced to human needs? In some ways, the artist can be seen as a more advanced version of the bird that preens, or dances to attract a mate. Absent that, what drives? And why seek notice? What is the bounty?
A closed fist of
Perhaps it can be viewed on a continuum of desperation, that element of frantic, running away from negation tied in the end to social currency. To McAloran, negation seems inevitable. “In the space between the one and naught” (Till Headless Asking) The artist creates, the poet composes, perhaps, to fill hours and to do so simply because it is more enjoyable than another pursuit. (“ashen hands”, “black pulse disappearing” (Till Headless Asking) Call it hedonist, Dionysian, call it post-modern or call it dada, there is art for its own sake and then there is anti-art, but McAloran is too disciplined and deliberate for the latter. (tread/tread alone, step, non-step) He is concrete then transient, corporeal then vanishing, present then absent.
The corrupt light
McAloran selects the jugular because it is the conduit, it feeds the mind, a life force, and yet he renders it to ash. And again, pulse:
Snare of the pulse
Again the ash of it
Once more the turning of
Till dredging of
The once lest there be
In a flame of naught
Hissing upwardly at the
Vacancy of none
doused by final piss
The final piss, the dousing, concludes both physical and creative life, in self destruction or inevitable dousing. All are extinguished, all meet the same end, in this termination. But part of our nature is to turn away from this inevitability toward life, light, vitality, until either realization sets in or reality. Our time is finite.
The eye is “roving” and then “breathless”. The eye is then “vacant of pupil’s light”. The “cadaver guillotine” severs a neck already dead, the termination, again, of a “scuttling/in the dark.” (As If It, Vacant Of) (Scuttle vast/Ebb as if to follow/Onward (Traceless Flowers)
In contrast to the frantic, the sun offers “adagio”. (Never to). Light is often impulse, “set to light” (In Abacus) “absent light” (Never Having) “claimed as a cadaver’s/Light” (Never Once)
The dead eye’s wastage of it
(light or other else)
In the “oblivion tide” (Shadowing As Of) awareness is intermittent, oblivion consuming, context is elusive, the light, the impetus, the drive, all seem severed from the cadaver, the human- purpose, were it to be found, is an unknowable realm, the domain of the sun, or “there else”.
Asking of the what
As if it could
(Shadowing As Of)
As if we could find answers, as if we could even know or experience our context, the denial of that disconnect, the human is severed, born into the “dust of nothing” to return there.
Rain rain upon the pissoir night
Wrench from out of the bile of it
Where drag and hollow
Dreft unto none
Of the herein
Spits out the carcass winds
Knowing of the which or when of naught
And the brutal fist
Of the herein
(Breath (Till Knock))
In many of the poems, McAloran refers to both mocking and tearing:
Laughter till the lungs bleed dry of corrugated flowerings
And the laughter lung of it
Plague of the incomprehensible
Of the redeem
A torn sky’s carcass
In spit of silenced
Tearing, severing, “in garrotte” (Fading (Wishful) Ever) it seems, is realization and a certain grief of the conclusions, inevitable, and the mocking of the human submerged in hubris and denial whose need to reckon with significance is asserted by confrontation with the vast, at least where regarded. Heaven seems best “never claimed” (Till Final) “salve of no purpose” (Till Bounty’s Tread) This is not reality, or truth, this is the shattering of an unknowable glass.
Trace of tongue across shattered glass
Mockery of lung
The poet refers to murmurs and “scattered speeches” often, (Of Cylindrical, Dredged, etc.) and the “shit of dreaming else/ Of cylindrical/ Nights” (Of Cylindrical) and the span of time, life a series of actions, repeated, in the servitude of nothing.
Violent cries clawing the circumference of none
Cold marrow’s murmurs
(The Bone Dissolve)
Do scattered speeches become, then, our means of reaching out, whether frantic or living passively, a mechanism of default, or a manifestation of the human wanting to be seen and at times, regarded, in spite of himself?
Speech once more
velvet it mutters
Counting out the shadow’s
(Till Eye Resend)
And the drunk stun purpose of the redeem
Asking of the shedding
(Till Eye Resend)
What is shed is that frantic imperative, the impulse to legacy or self-delusion, turning away from the scuttle but still living, still with breath. He doesn’t leave the reader quite convinced that their speech should cease, the inclination to reach is validated. But nor does he try to legitimize, romanticize, idealize.
In the final poem:
Fading wishful fading ever knowing of
(image of immense sky’s limbs)
Dread one less
As a reader, I am often struck by Mc Aloran’s brutality, and his ability to connect the abstract to physicality, to biology, the imagination to corporeal meat- life, death, bones, piss. His phrases are oddly placed, his manipulation of language so uniquely strange, his poems both disturb and evoke. This collection rivals “Attributes” as one of the best collections of his poetry that I have read to date, and delivers more of the same sentiments that so deeply resonate.
“The Non Herein” is available from Lapwing Press here, perfect-bound with a stark, minimal aesthetic, hand assembled in Belfast.
The Non Herein-
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Elynn Alexander is the editor and founder of Full Of Crow Press, promoting poetry, fiction, art, and independent creativity. You can contact Elynn Alexander (Lynn) at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.elynnalexander.com.
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