My mother calls me up again to speak to me of suicide.
Another young man in the west has committed his suicide.
She tells me that I knew him in my teenage years
before I left home instead of killing myself
But I don’t remember him atall.
Over the past 40 years Ireland has been transformed by its integration into the world economy via its membership of the European Union.
Lauded by politicians and big business, both as the “Celtic Tiger” during the years of growth and boom and for its “exemplary fiscal responsibility” in the years since the banking crisis erupted in 2008, it has been held up as a model for smaller economies to follow. Yet, as with most countries that have adopted neoliberal policies, Ireland has witnessed a rapid and obscene rise in inequality.
It is against this backdrop that we need to set Dave Lordan’s Lost Tribe of the Wicklow Mountains. Born in 1975 he makes no claim to be an impartial and gentle observer — he is both welcoming and worried by the changes he sees. He is outraged at the suffering hidden by soulless statistics. Here we have a “witness to the beast” who, in his own words, “is on the side of the losers” and no matter how difficult it proves, wants to use his art to “speak truth to power”.
He succeeds in this because of three vital intertwined components that form the basis of the work he produces. He has developed a tremendous ability to construct work that effortlessly paints pictures in the reader’s mind — lines such as, “my brain bloomed like a desert bush”. He has no fear of using this sensitive and highly attuned talent in a didactic way. Something is wrong; people’s lives are being spent and wasted; the earth and the environment are being destroyed — he is unwilling to look away for the sake of an imagined higher artistic purity.
The third component grows from the fusion of the first two in that Lordan’s work attempts to convey events, feelings and moments that are manifestly of their time, yet contained within them is a truth or message that transcends that time and moment and conveys a universal and timeless observation.
Walter Benjamin remarked on the Storyteller that he “joins the ranks of the teachers and sages, He has counsel — not for a few situations, as the proverb, but for many, like the sage.”
Lordan’s work has something of this quality. Written before the huge unrest that has exploded against the imposition of water charges in Ireland, this selection has a certain melancholic air to it yet still contains a vital and pulsating call to resist:
It is so righteous to stray
It’s so good to abandon
It’s so just to ascend
With the lost and forgotten
Summits the rooted
Cannot even imagine.
A new book by Paul O’Brien