Niall O'Sullivan

high brow, low brow, none of that stuff in the middle


Posted on | December 6, 2017 | 2 Comments

Last night a young man approached me after the list was closed and asked if he could read. He said he was embarrassed because he didn’t have any money to cover the admission and I said it was fine. I have experienced abject skintness too, times when all I ate all day was a couple of marmite sandwiches for breakfast and lunch, when I was digging, hoeing and sawing for the council. I know the difference between those that are skint because they blew their allowance on a big weekend and those that allocate each slice of bread within a loaf. When he took his place in the performance space he half-whispered his way through a love poem, seeming as if he was going to burst into tears at any moment. After the poem he spoke of how he was once a dancer on Oxford Street and how he felt the dance scene was too aggressive and competitive. He spoke of how he wanted to do Spoken Word instead and how his friends had encouraged him to take the plunge. I remember a time when I was given a similar kick up the arse by a white Zimbabwean who lived at the same hostel as me. Then the young man spoke of how he had two choices tonight, to get up and read a poem or kill himself. I remember the chorus of sighs and gulps from the audience after he said this. I only thought later about the consequences that might have spun out if I hadn’t let him read. He finished within time and returned to his seat. While I’d cut off other poets I was ready to let him take whatever time he needed and fuck anybody that has a problem with that. After the applause died down I said that I had nothing funny or clever to say. I said that I hope he finds someone to talk to. I still have nothing funny or clever to say. He was gone before I started to stack away the chairs. I hope he’s okay.


Posted on | December 4, 2017 | No Comments

Tonight I am re-reading Paradise Lost so that I can regurgitate canonical standards for a clutch of bored millennials who think I cant see them checking their phones under the desk. This will no doubt tempt me to yell the name of Satan each time it crops up. Milton, the only person to have inverted syntax because it was the more difficult formal option. The way in which the vehicle is stretched out over so many lines before he even reveals what the tenor is. The reader ploughs through the Biblical imagery fuelled by the knowledge of what it is like but still none the wiser about what “it” is. His brilliance almost absolves him for being Cromwell’s Alastair Campbell, in the same way that regicide almost absolves Cromwell for his genocide. It is said that Milton went blind from writing propaganda by candlelight. I cannot deny that such forceful poetry comes from days when a tyrant was never far from a last cold kiss of an axe-head to his neck. Nowadays we can’t take away their blue ticks.


Posted on | December 3, 2017 | No Comments

It’s a pissy drizzle out there, that’s for sure. Who enjoys walking in drizzle? Mist is great, sudden downpours even better, but drizzle? Drizzle offers nothing but its needling inoffensiveness. A death from a thousand “buts”. Sure, all those gallant celebs were able to absorb the sudden shock of a bucket of ice but would they have done the same if it meant someone repeatedly spraying the same amount from a small nozzle over a number of hours? The only poets that write positively about drizzle are those Irish pastoral types who teach creative writing in California. The ones whose lips tremble at the thought of the nobility of other peoples’ suffering. Imagine if some demon faery cursed you to suffer a sudden drop in urinary pressure and you had to spend the best part of an hour drizzling out your excess bodily fluid? You’d piss out your sanity and elan vital before the ordeal ended. Even the word’s sound is an analogue for disappointment, a wet squib when rhymed with the cocktail sparklers of “sizzle” and “fo’ shizzle”. Still, the cupboards are bare and the big shops close early on Sunday. Faithful trilby and winter coat, deliver me from precipi-hesitation. I may be some time.


Posted on | December 2, 2017 | No Comments

My youngest has a strategy for when she doesn’t want to do something during the swimming lesson. She slides off the noodle or the floating mat and sinks into the water to tread a few inches beneath the surface, grinning back at me though chlorinated ripples. I laugh every time, scoop her back out and try again. Plonk. Back in she goes. She grins because she knows I’ll scoop her out again. She grins because she could do this all day. Sometimes I wonder how I look from her vantage point. An elongated pink smear of muffled authority. Scoop.Try again. Splash. Grin. She no longer drops off when I push her in the buggy for the full two miles between the pool and home. She demands fruit juice and chicken while I chew on silence. Each street flips from Endz to Gentry and back again. There was a time when the posh kids tried to sound common when they moved to places like this. The buggy’s wheels hoof over humps made in the concrete by tree roots. Every time I sink too deep into myself she shouts, “Chicken!”. When I’m chewing on some old hurt she cries, “Juice!”

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