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Wednesday 16 January 2013

'The Non Herein'...A Review by Chris Murray

The Poet as Minotaur In His Post-Catastrophic Citadel ;  The Non Herein-
By Michael Mc Aloran.
Published Lapwing Publications, Belfast, 2012.

Michael Mc Aloran's (third) collection of poems , The Non Herein-  is published by Lapwing Publications, Belfast. Lapwing Publications will be familiar to readers of contemporary Irish poets,  Helen Soraghan-Dwyer, Desmond O Grady and Eamon Lynskey. Michael Mc Aloran's work has appeared in The Recusant, The Medulla Review, Heavy Bear, Ygdrasil, Muse, A New Ulster, and other literary Journals. Mc Aloran owns the Bone Orchard Poetry blogzine which hosts an eclectic list of contemporary poets whose works of poetry and flash-fiction are rolled out on a regular basis.
The Non Herein- is a complete book of some fifty nine stand alone poems which exhibit an inter-relatedness in theme, a poetry of the body. More distinctly a poetry of the skeletal system, of the architecture that maintains the body.
There is a body hidden beneath and within The Non Herein- . It is, or more properly, was, a huge biological colossus or entity, and it has been left out to the elements. Or part of it has been left out, vultured. Its revealed head, teeth, death-grin and spinal column hint at what the poet guards in his broken citadel. The reader is simultaneously invited to ponder the catastrophic events that underpin the book and told 'this far and no further' by Mc Aloran.
I sensed a vastness of hidden architecture below Mc Aloran's tenacious use of colour, and in his use of symbol in the poem/s. Colours are identifiable as amber, molasses, tumour smoke, and black. The mythos of the once-living entity pervades the atmosphere of The Non Herein-. The most pervasive symbols in this book are of the skull (decapitated and separated from the hidden body), the teeth, the eye and the spinal-column,

Of The Traces Of - (10)

'Ashes ashen traceless
Of the locked till wind
Speech ever
Slivers of
Trace of the without
Knocking upon

(Never entering)

Ever the traces of it '

Whilst Mc Aloran consistently attempts to reduce the size of the colossus hidden beneath and uniting the poems of The Non Herein- , he never quite suceeds in his venture. The reader gets to wonder at the catastrophe that has led the poet to the speaking of it,

Till Headless Asking - (18)

'The Shadow of
Ice of a pyre's silence

Asked of
The meat of it '

What has been left out are parts of an organism that is bleaching in the sun, or had been stripped by hoar-frost. The stripped body left out is near the pyre. We are left in no doubt that the pyre isn't sacred,

Doused - (15)

In a flame of naught

Hissing upwardly
vacancy of none

Embers embers
Doused by final piss '

Mc Aloran's vigil is maintained in order to decipher the language which the necropolis offers him. This is evident in his absolute control of symbol throughout the book, mentioned already in his use of colour, image, and even weather, where rain is monsoon /deluge and where the elements are merely functional symbols without physical heat.

Silently (All The...) - (22)

' The bone ash of
Listless as the sky unlimbered

Lingering dice of loss
Breaking upon the shore's

Silently all the bloody while of it '

In The Non Herein- Mc Aloran's vistas are stripped-down to bare elements. They are concomitantly built up from the selfsame elements to suggest a limbo or no-place. Humour maybe subdued, ebbing-away, or indeed humble but it is always there. Here is a victory-song for life pushing up through human-remains, detrius, stink and bone.

The Night's Claim- (41)
'Smooth yes the stone of it

Gathering no moss
Yet ever
The shit
As the night's claim exhales

Rats in a barrel
Blood-shot    silences '

The actual colossus appears in Circumference Of - (pp 54-55)

'Until again

Carousel of shadow
Blind fingers

Dead searching of the course
Night and limb

Gathered to the pulse
Stricken of

Echoing out of one dead hand unto a vacant sky
Absence of the one

Dreaming all the while
Yet never of the sleep of it '

The skull, bone, the eye-socket, the open hand, and the spinal column form this book's overt symbolism. Mc Aloran's landscapes are sometimes Dali-esque backdrops for the outplay of the drama of loss, upon which straggled flowers appear then disappear as quickly as a candle-flame caught in a breeze. The machine in which the poet is caught is huge, a huge animalesque architecture, a tracery of deadened nerve-endings and frozen capilliaries. But it once lived.
Mc Aloran narrates this once-living necropolis with a curious tenderness that sometimes emerges momentarily but is often quelled and left unexplored. Whilst Mc Aloran has mastered the symbols which he uses so effectively to both camofluage and decipher the unnamed catastrophe which he has survived, he has created a prison of infinite proportion which has reduced things to symbols of. Hence he becomes the guardian of the images that he allows himself to reveal to the reader who must discern the map that s/he is offered in this book.
The geography of The Non Herein- is phosphorescent, over-exposed, a lansdcape of shapes, tongues, lungs, bleached wood, stone, and the knives of the butcher. Flowers are momentary and related to organs, organs are momentary and not related to human-life, but to human-function. This is not however a utilitarianism in his vision, but a sheer mastery of image which has a vertiginous effect on the reader.
Yet, within this post-apocalyptic Dreamtime there is a super-structure, a very definite exso-skeleton of mute and disbelieving support. The poems do not hang straggled and bone-whitened like rags in the bleaching sun. Mc Aloran's use of words to define and subsequently defy the bleakness of his vision are assured, neat and despite possibly his best intention warming, warm.
Here may be unnameable catastrophes just happened, survived, but the poet will sift through it all and have his triumph. His engagement is with a burned and ruined corpse left out to dry and fossilize with its rag-remnant of torn flesh and chilled bone, an empty jaw-bone, a leaving from a physical life.

It is available to purchase here

1 comment:

  1. Reverse symmetry