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Ward Family Poems

Some Old, Some New, Some /slightly\ Mad

Introductory note: Critics with hangups and readers with hangovers should skip this selection and move to the next item in the chap-book contents. The first four poems were suggested by the highly acclaimed Samuel Beckett play, a non-work wherein a single actor, after the curtain rose, following the playwright's directions, sat/stood immobile, and sighed, once, before the fall of the curtain. It was all too deliciously erse-y terse-y. Undoubtedly a masterpiece. And received with applause.

No. 1
Poem without Words

John Ward
March 2001

No. 2
Poem without Words (Condensed)

John Ward
March 2002

No. 3

John Ward
March 2003

No. 4

March 2004

The evolution of new new age wordless poetry can be traced in the above four anti-revolutionary works. Beginning in 2001, the poet's pioneering work shows the ongoing refinement of the genre. The daring omission of words in "Poem without Words" flows into the condensation of non-linear soundlessness of 2002, leading into the untitled progression of the 2003 opus, culminating in the whole magnificence of the 2004 masterpiece, sans title, sans words, sans everything. e.e.cummings eliminated capitalization, Beckett discarded speech, inevitably there came the wordless poem.

In a hitherto unreleased interview, the new new age, as distinct from the old new age, guru grumbled at the interruption to his work in progress, but condescended to offer some guidance to those who follow in his footsteps. He recalled that, as a child given to ponder the mysteries of invention, he was driven to the inescapable conclusion that everything was based on a hole, i.e. on nothing. Begged to elaborate, he gave the example of a fishing net.

"First you take a hole. Surround it with string. Take an adjacent second hole. Surround it with string. Continue in this manner until you have sufficient holes surrounded with string. This is the basic composition of a fishing net, a series of holes, tiny ones to catch tiny fish, bigger holes to catch bigger fish. And with patience you bring home a salmon for tea.

"The hole, which was nothing, was the first building block. And it could be easily returned to its original state, recycled in a sense, ready for its next incarnation.

"It's the same thing with written words. They too are recycleable. Reduce them to nothing and they can be reincarnated with letters."

Pressed to elucidate further, he explained it had often been remarked that, to the people of his birthland, the half-spoken word was always relished and appreciated.

"What more natural then, than the development of the unspoken word? Indeed the need for it was drilled into every youngster of a certain persuasion in the Belfast of my youth. As recalled frequently by my good friend, the late John McGinn, a retired packing-case maker from that same city, the admonition was always the same: 'Remember, if yer picked up by the RUC or B Specials, and interrogated, whatever you say, say nothin.' "

The interviewer then asked: "So, in essence, your poems profoundly say nothing".

"Nothing--and everything," was the profound reply.

Since the above interview took place, startling proof of the soundness of the poet guru's theory was disclosed in an article by Margaret Wertheim in the Los Angeles Times, portion of which, reprinted in Canada's Globe and Mail of March 28, 2001, boldly reported:

    "Today, many physicists believe that nothingness is the foundation of everything, not just the arena in which matter resides but the substrate from which matter is actually constructed. As physicists envision the universe now, everything that exists is just a complex unfolding of the underlying substrate of empty space. This vision presents the universe, as English physicist Paul Davies has summed it up, as 'nothing but structured nothingness.' "

When this was brought to the guru's attention, he promptly uttered the immortal phrase: "I told you so."

Pressed further, he revealed that several cryptologists had congratulated him on presenting the world's first truly unbreakable code.

Content in the assumption that that ended the matter, the interviewer was startled to read the following item in the same Canadian newspaper, on April 2, five days later:

    A British art gallery has put on an exhibition of absolutely nothing. Visitors have simply been confronted by the white-washed walls of the huge hall at the Custard Factory Arts Centre in Birmingham, reports Reuters. A few captions on scraps of paper or on a bus ticket have been dotted around the walls of the display, titled Exhibition To Be Constructed In Your Head. However, Custard Factory spokesman Miles Grundy admitted to having doubts about the exhibit. "While this may be a good test of people's imagination, I personally prefer art you can see," he said.

Pestered once more to comment, the new new age poet barked, "Plagiarism! And not even very good plagiarism. Captions! Bah! The Grundys of this world are always complaining.

"Go away. Go away! And don't ever come back".

Whereupon the interviewer slunk away, sunk in the thought of his own nothingness.

No. 5
A man's a man for a' that -- or is he?

    Dullness doubled day by day
    the emptiness of salaried frustration.

    Each day a string of automatic gestures, words, reflexes,
    each week a five-day sameness, each hour
    a deadening identity of the one before and after,
    forcing enthusiasm for things that matter less
    than a wind-blown dandelion seed.

    A knock -- "Come in"; a ring -- "Hello"
    trifling queries--names, addresses,
    contracts, reports, figures and estimates,
    wads of copy, artwork, blocks,
    someone else enslaved by print and press times--
    should be out fishing or following dogs with a gun
    across the autumn fields from Cashel.
    Rings again--well, let it!

    A man's a man when doing manly things,
    creating, hunting, climbing, using skill,
    and thinking thoughts more worthy of his nature,
    Not fiddling in an office, selling space,
    writing words, bluffing,
    puffing his goldfish ego
    in an artificial bowl,
    bending his spirit to a clockwork function,
    blinding the inner eye of fancy,
    killing Time in scheduled instants,
    aborting the vitality of thought,
    strewing the Boardroom altar
    with liturgies of files and memoranda.

    Rings again -- "Hello. Yes, speaking....
    "Yes, sir, of course I will -- not at all --
    No trouble -- delighted to help --
    I'll see it's sent right away."

Brian Ward

Note: The reference to climbing brings back one glorious summer day when, home on holidays, Brian and I set out from Ballyshannon to climb Trusc Mór. A long, long hike it was, up Higginstown Road, farther than I had ever gone before, round Lough Melvin shore, to the mountain foot, and then up, and up, until we reached the top. Below stretched the Moy and beyond, under cloudless sunshine sky, curved Donegal Bay and the broad Atlantic. There was a cairn there, rock piled on rock, from a time long gone. Then back we walked, ever tiring in our pace, through Kinlough and Bundoran, my every bone aching. Next day Brian repeated the climb--alone. J. W.

No. 6
Community Incommunicate

    The emptiness, the loneliness,
    the solitude of multitudes
    that choke the pavement.

    Thoughts born to wither incommunicate,
    a smile unshared, a bitter grin,
    a pain uneased by others' sharing.

    The vacant souls, all clad in City grey,
    the "Good for you, old boy" that rings so false,
    'cause each is each and each the other threatens
    in job and pride of place. (God what is that
    when everyone's an ant
    whose task and path is plotted
    in the mechanised economy of anthill conurbations?)

    The lunchtime pub, the bread and cheese and stout,
    and babbled hum of lime-light hungry egos,
    and filthy talk of getting sans begetting
    fills in the vast vacuity, supplies the lack
    of decent human talk and thought
    and human things that men might say to men.

Brian Ward

No. 7
Clío, the Computer-age Cat

Clío is her name,
One known to fame;
With ancestral lines
That are really divine.

She reminds me of Noah,
And Moscow too;
Daisy and Gumby,
Tiger and Fluff;
And Mick,
The Russian bravado.
But Clío is different--she's
A computer-age cat!

Where they spilled milk
And sometimes ink,
Clío plays with
A keyboard mouse;
But what she prints out
Is only meowable--
Which leaves me
Completely non-pussed.

I've tried her in English
And late Irish too,
Small Latin, less Greek,
A pinch of Italian,
And of French
Just a smattering.
I'm darned if she
Doesn't know any.

She's mostly Burmese
With some slight Siamese,
And that may explain it.

After feeding
And washing,
Each day she spends
Dozing and snoozing.

She naps,
And she naps,
While I tap
And I tap;
And when she awakes
She jumps on my lap
And refuses to leave
Till I stop and I pat her.

I'll try--

(With due deference to Pangur Bán and Robin Flower)

    John Ward


    I will not reap what other men
    have sown,
    I will not sign my
    name to
    other men's effusions
    Nor falsify by my subscription

    Nor steal another's word
    Claim false title to my
    neighbour's seed.
    Paternity frustrated in its
    native bed
    Will not find fullness
    by forgery,
    But fleshly un-ful-filled
    Will father words
    To make all men and women
    Sons and daughters.

    Words good or bad
    Words beautiful, self-conceived
    In the hermaphrodite womb of
    Mind and heart,
    Words ugly when the thought is base,
    Words, lighting words
    That pinprick holes of light in
    The dark veil shroud of our life
    And let us glimpse of newness.
    These words will be my own,
    Will bear my name,
    Will show the lineage of their paternity,
    Their muddied ancestry,
    My words,
    My words.

    Charlie Ward

    Note: "Words" appeared in a number of poems written by my eldest brother and published posthumously in 1981. It seems a fitting end to this homage in cyberspace to the members of my family. Breathe deeply.....and sigh. J.W. 2001.

    The End

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