My second book, also from the New Writers’ Press. Out of print.
This book, comprising seven poems, was never issued to the public. Its history is also somewhat peculiar. One day in 1969, while I was living in Barcelona, teaching English as a foreign language, ‘No Die Cast’ arrived in the post, completely unheralded. My memory is vague, but I can only assume that, following the publication of ‘Endsville’ in 1967 by the New Writers Press (see note below) I must have sent these seven pieces (and perhaps others) to Michael Smith.
As a surprise gift – at the time very welcome I must say – Michael had set them by hand (in 12 point Bodoni) and hand-printed the result on Alabaster Wove paper. The punning title is also his – there was no die cast. His note at the end of the book says ‘Seventy five copies only have been printed’, but he told me subsequently that the setting was so laborious nowhere near that number were bound and that the sheets were stored in his attic – for all I know they may still be there. In fact it’s possible that my copy is the only one in existence.
Two of the pieces, Clap-Hands and Another Morning Poem, have appeared in other collections, most recently, and greatly revised, in New and Renewed – Poems 1967–2004.
Brian Lynch & Paul Durcan
New Writers Press, 1967
My first book, shared with Paul Durcan, and the first book issued under the New Writers’ Press imprint.
Note: The title Endsville does not appear on the cover of the book. Instead, the name of the putative series, New Irish Poets, appears to be the title, and is described as such in some catalogues. To confuse the thing further, New Writers Press were only nominally the publishers. Paul Durcan and I, acting under our own steam, were engaged in having the book printed by the Museum Bookshop (on the corner of Kildare Street and Molesworth Street in Dublin). The proprietor was a man called Chichester-Clark, a relation of a subsequent Northern Ireland Prime Minister, James Chichester-Clark. When Michael Smith told me he was starting the NWP – the first publication on his list was Trevor Joyce’s ‘Sole Glum Trek’ – we agreed that it would be a good idea to use the imprint on ‘Endsville’. But that was the extent of the connection.
The sculptor John Behan did the cover, an ink drawing on a large sheet of paper, which is now lost.
As I remember it, Endsville cost £67 to print, a considerable sum in those days, which came out of my pocket. I can’t remember if it was ever placed on sale in bookshops. The Eblana bookshop in Grafton Street may have taken some copies. If it was sold I don’t think either of us got any money for it.
THE WINNER OF SORROW
Published October 11, 2005 New Island Books
The Sunday Tribune Perception of a wonderful kind
The Winner Of Sorrow By Brian Lynch
New Island 14.99 340pp
BRIAN Lynch’s elegantly weaved novel about the life and times of English 18th century poet and confirmed madman William Cowper comes slowly into focus. The opening chapters, in particular, with their shifts in time and place – starting with Cowper as an old man, but quickly moving in and out of his youthful memories – challenge a reader to persevere. It’s a challenge that becomes worth it. Slowly, the book reveals itself as a meticulously crafted piece of work, a mixture of biographical research, expansive imagination, and a dedication to the examination of the rigours of being a writer.
This is not a biography -as Lynch himself makes clear in the sleeve notes – but it nonetheless draws a comprehensive picture of Cowper’s strange and eccentric world, and most importantly, makes the reader want to know more about it.
Why, for example, does Cowper, impotent and inept, barely able to make his way in the world, attract the care, attention, and sexual attraction, of women, who flutter about him, attempting to have themselves noticed?
The passages detailing the relationship between Cowper and the widow Mary Unwin, with whom he grew into old age, are among the most sharply observed in the book – sad, weary and strangely warm. Take these perceptive words, for example, describing Unwin’s frame of mind after she had proposed marriage to Cowper, but remained sexually unfulfilled even after the engagement was set: ‘She had prepared herself for regret and hardly felt it, because, despite the dulled steel in her hair, she was still the same person and, more, she was actually improved, at least in the sense that she now knew what she wanted, which then had been something only imagined from reading novels.’
But Lynch’s writing climbs above the necessary craft of human observation.
He finds ways to make his words sing, and of taking us with him on an exploration into the recesses of Cowper’s mind; surreal, poetic passages indicate at once how detached the writer was from the real world, but also give a sense of how he derived his poetic life. There is agony: Cowper is afflicted by the presence of terrible voices in his head, to which he gives names – the Mocker, the Judge, the Accuser. But there is humour too, subtle and wry:
‘Sometimes he thanked God he was mad – you could laugh out loud and not have to explain yourself.’
Although this story is primarily the tale of an internal life – as Cowper struggles with the process of writing, turning thoughts into words, imagination into penned descriptions – Lynch doesn’t neglect the detail of the poet’s external world. Eighteenth century England, with the discrepancies between the lofty nature of its religious evangelism, and the grimy nature of much of its real life, is accurately captured.
Lynch is himself an accomplished poet, and his own, beautifully created writing is one of the most satisfying aspects of this novel. He has managed to grasp hold of that most difficult of tasks – using the power of words to tell a story – and finely tune it, so that both language and narrative become almost the one.
NEW AND RENEWED
Review by Philip Casey
The Irish Independent
23 Oct 2004
Brian Lynch’s poetry and its rhythms have beguiled me since reading a poem called Panic Stricken Love in his chapbook Outside the Pheasantry, (1975). This poem was included in his collection Perpetual Star (1981), as Panic Stricken, and here it is named Panic. Other than this, not a word has been changed from the original. Other poems have been altered, of course, hence the book’s clever title. The Jews Escape (‘the yellow stars are ours’), previously entitled Ghost House, is practically a new poem.
In New and Renewed, Lynch has not only written powerful new work, but has examined the premise of each line and phrase to realise the full potency of that previously collected. It is a very potent collection indeed, and not just because its theme is often Eros in the everyday.
Even when the poem is not overtly erotic, a sensual energy pervades it. Without artistry it would be as nothing, of course. Lynch’s hard-won imagery stays long in the mind, and is marked by interplay and interdependence. Take Pension Alcoy, which has also had its lines and line breaks renewed. In the original I loved ‘To be empty you must be played upon’, but the change seems exactly right, the gong reverberating through a thousand windows until stillness reigns:
To be open you must be empty
To be empty you must be struck
As if you were a gong.
Outside the window
The window is open
Its window is open
And a thousand more
And suddenly there is no more Mr Lynch.
This interplay and interdependence underscores the noted humanity of Lynch’s work, and is its hallmark. Relationship is central, and meditations on the death of parents, the regrets of love, the complexities of marriage, and the mysteries of parenthood uncover deep emotion, as with the daughters of Myth:
But when they do return
The house is empty in the sun,
Mother has gone north or south,
And, there now, fatherless,
The door is wider than it was,
Or wider than they thought.
The book ends with powerful political poems, including an eleven page excerpt from Angry Heart, Empty House, entitled The Murder of Margaret White, which really belongs in a book of its own. It is based on a harrowing true story, and will stalk your dreams.
Brian Lynch’s poems have always been haunting. With New and Renewed Poems it seems inevitable that he will be given the wider recognition he has so long deserved.
Poet, playwright, screenwriter, art critic and novelist