In recent weeks (since the Orlando shooting), I've read a great deal of frustration from people where it concerns offering thoughts and prayers to tragic situations. I understand where this frustration comes from. It's easier to 'like' a post or write a quick note of sympathy and get on with the day than it is to engage a tragic situation, so offering thoughts and prayers can seem trite to people who are suffering.
On the 14th of September in 1607, Neill of Tír Eóghain, Rory Ó Donnell of Tír Chonaill and about ninety followers left Ireland for mainland Europe after several years of crushing defeat at the hands of the English. In the wake of their departure, the old Gaelic world began to collapse, and with it, the system of patronage that kept a hereditary class of Gaelic poets housed and fed. In the generation after this Flight of the Earls, the complex meters of Gaelic poetry gave way to freer, more melancholy verse as poets no longer had stable homes from which to compose. In time, this unique contribution to the world's literary craft was abandoned by its caretakers, since they simply did not have the support they needed to continue writing in the way they once had.
Belated Merry Beltane to you, and welcome to issue #19 of my quarterly newsletter, e-mailed to subscribers in May 2016.
A Messenger Traveling Northward
"Her name is Alejandra Maria Yaotl, and she is desperate to squat here, in this ribbon of grass between armies, to defecate. But her knees do not permit squatting, and she knows the desperation is only a great, killing mass in her bowels making demands of the failing body it consumes from the inside out, a little more every day. So she walks; strands of white hair blowing about her eyes, bent spine unable to straighten, papery hand gripping the rough wooden knob of a cane. The punishing sun shines down on a spill of engine oil, a pool of chlorophyl, a gob of intestine crushed into the soil. Behind, there is a shuttle with a weeping grandson at the helm who begged her to stay home and die in peace. Ahead, there are the towering gates of a city-state that teaches its people how to perform it, a continental theatre of violence caked in the blood of its sacrificial victims, the place where she will die one way or another." - D is for Duel, forthcoming in D is for Dinosaur
About nine years ago, I read a problematic book entitled How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living by Rushworth M. Kidder. In it, Kidder presents simplistic ethical dilemmas wherein the answer to the problem is embedded in the question itself and uses these to argue that humanity shares a set of core values. He further argues that everything outside these core values is a right vs. wrong issue. In short, he uses trite ethical dilemmas to argue for metanorms and moral objectivism.
Aaron Pound of Dreaming About Other Worlds has offered the most comprehensive review to date of The Ruin of Beltany Ring: A Collection of Pagan Poems and Tales. Among other things, he writes:
"At a mere eighty-two pages, this collection ends much too soon. C.S. MacCath's short stories have a raw and almost visceral feel that hones directly into the travails and triumphs of everyday life, casting light onto the ways in which those living such lives might turn to Pagan spirituality to help guide them through their days. The poems, on the other hand, display a strange mixture of the seriousness of epic myth combined with a joyful willingness to play with those myths, and an angry undercurrent beneath it all, that sometimes rises to the fore in a bitter rage. As I noted before, this isn't really a collection of fantasy stories: The subtitle for the book is A Collection of Pagan Poems and Tales, and that is an entirely accurate description. One could almost think of this book as a Pagan prayer manual, offering a brief and engaging glimpse into the thinking of a member of the modern Pagan movement, and as that it is definitely a collection worth reading."
I've just received my official acceptance letter for a PhD in Folklore from the Memorial University of Newfoundland. I've been waiting to blog about this news until it was official, though I've known for about a month that the Folklore department was offering me a place in the program. And while it isn't done to publicly disclose the financial details of one's award package, I'm pleased to write that I've been offered a fellowship, for which I'm most grateful.
I'm seeing quite a bit of soldiering on among my writing colleagues and friends right now, and I thought I'd share this little poem with you all in solidarity. It isn't terribly polished or suitable for submission anywhere, but I wrote it in one of my own soldiering on moments this week.
Hang in there, friends.
Hush, monster. I am working.
And sit over there, if you please.
There is little enough space in this room,
and you sprawl unconscionably.
If I can sit in this corner, with my small lamp, and write
until night falls, at last, across my attic window -
and if there is music enough to drown the drone of your breath,
that might be enough, might just be enough.
I know you're hungry, and I know that you exist on one food alone,
but I've already fed you so much, and you are too fat now.
Can you not sit over there in the long shadows and lurk awhile?
I'm getting to the good part.
If you've been thinking about writing for the Dispatches from the Word Mines series, now is a great time. In terms of general parameters, I have few. I ask that you be working in your craft and have something to contribute to a conversation about writing, whether it be instructional or promotional. I also want a bio and any associated images you'd like added to the post. I don't mind the occasional bit of colourful language, and I don't mind publishing instructional or promotional posts containing adult content (I'd shy away from hardcore pornography, but writing about or promoting erotic fiction is just fine). Finally, I can't use posts about fictional religions right now (I've published quite a few of those already), and the Dispatches series really isn't the place for a broad survey of your work or career. However, I'd gladly accept a post about writing Christian, Pagan, or Buddhist SF (or any other sort of religious SF), and I'd gladly promote your shiny new novel or collection.
You can reach me here if you're interested: http://csmaccath.com/contact