Tuesday, November 24, 2020




Sous Tension



                                                                        Ça tombe
                                                                   Comme un soupir

Ça prend la fuite
Comme la plupart
Des gens

Dans le calme
Et l’immobilité
De l’acceptation

Ce que l’on ne peut
Jamais arranger

Comme un chemin
Nulle part

Tous ces croisements

Autant de mutations
De passages en question

Que l’on rédige
Noir sur blanc



( Yan Kouton, 2020 )
















Under Pressure

A transversion



Like a sigh

It falls


And like the majority

Of us

It takes flight


In the calm


Of acceptance


All that we can never



Like a path

Going nowhere


All these comings

And goings


So many variations

Of the passage in question


So that we must edit it

In black and white

( Peter O’Neill, 2020)

Saturday, November 21, 2020




Sans Pouvoir Y Faire Quoique Ce Soit


Par Christophe Bregaint



Sans pouvoir y faire quoique ce soit
je vois les amis qui partent
vers l’infini
Bientôt ça sera mon tour

Je laisserais peut-être quelques souvenirs
au bord de la nuit
les sourires devraient être impérissables
plus que le chagrin
Conserver à tout prix ce qui a été vécu
avant que le temps ne désarme la mémoire
dans l’invisible

Lui aussi s’en est allé
sans retour
Chaque disparition nous rapproche de la nôtre
en un point inconnu
Nous lèverons l’ancre
avec l’espoir de laisser quelque chose de pas trop mal
de ce côté-ci de cette vie impétueuse

Une larme reflète ce qui s’est envolé
sans dire un mot
les paroles ne sont plus qu’une image
à sauver de la rouille
Autant que cela sera possible
pour combattre le froid de l’absence
on se remémorera toujours des lieux pleins de chaleur












Without Too Much Fuss



Without too much fuss

I see some friend has just left us

Lost to the infinite

And soon

No doubt

It will be my time



I’ll leave behind


Some souvenir

There on the edge of the night

Some imperishable memory of a smile

Or delight

Amidst the sadness

Consuming all price

What I lived through

Before Time disarmed me

In her exterminatory gyre


Such as he has gone

Without any promise of a return

Each disappearance

Conjoins us to our own

In the manner of John Donne

At some unknown destination

We will put up anchor

With some hope

Of not letting too much of a stain

Tarnish this side of life’s impetuosity


A tear can reflect so much more

Than a mere word

Speech being rendered


In any further attempt

To combat the Absolute;

The coldness of the absence

Which memory

That sparsest of kindling

 Will always

Try to fill with its warmth


                                                        Charles Baudelaire ( 1822 - 1867 )







Quand chez les débauchés l’aube blanche et vermeille

Entre en société de l’Idéal rongeur,

Par l’opération d’un mystère vengeur

Dans la brute assoupie un ange se réveille .


Des Cieux Spirituels l’inaccesible azur,

Pour l’homme terrasse qui rêve encore et souffre,

S’ouvre et s’enfonce avec l’attirance du gouffre.

Ainsi, chère Déesse, Etre lucide et pur,


Sous les debris fumeux des stupides orgies

Ton souvenir plus clair, plus rose, plus charmant,

A mes yeux agrandis voltage incessamment.


Le soleil a norci la flame des bougies ;

Ainsi, toujours vainqueur, ton fantôme est pareil,

Ame resplendissante, à l’immortel soleil !












When in some debauchee’s house golden dawn

Illuminates present company ideals prowl,

And by the same mysterious and vengeful operation,

In one foul swoop, the Angel awakes.


From such a spiral comes the inaccessible azure,

And so, the terraced man still dreams, and, so suffers

The gravitational pull of the abyss, which awaits.

And so, dearest Goddess, most lucid and pure being,


Upon the smoking debris of such crazed orgies

The clearest memories of you, the rosiest and charming,

Blaze with their incessant voltage just as


The light nourishes the flames of countless candles ;

 So your phantom, always my champion,

Like a resplendent soul, burns immortal like the Sun.

( Transversion Peter O'Neill under copyright, 2020 ) 

CEEJAY - IN MEMORIUM - 1946-2020

                                                Reading with CeeJay in L'Etiquette, Paris 2017. 

In Memoriam

CeeJay -

Jean -Claude Crommelynck ( 1946 -2020)

A Personal Reminiscence


I read with some degree of shock about the news of the passing of the Belgian poet and rapper CeeJay, born Jean-Claude Crommelynck, last night. Although I had not met or spoken to him since our last encounter together in Paris in November, 2017, I had recently been brought into his orbit again due to the publication of the anthology Rimbaud et Moi ( Editions du Pont de l’Europe, 2020) in which we both had some poems published. This was fitting, as nineteenth century French poets such as Arthur Rimbaud are what brought us together back in 2015.

I had been invited by the poet and editor Walter Ruhlmann to co-edit an issue of his now sadly defunct printed magazine mgversion 2>datura. Through Walter and his independent publishing house mgv2>publishing which was publishing some of my early books at the time, I was coming into contact with a number of contemporary poets and writers writing in French and CeeJay was among them. I had been very impressed by his first collection Bombe voyage, bombe voyage ( maelström, Bruxelles, 2014 ). So much so that I invited the Belgian rapper poet to contribute some of his poems to the Transverser  issue I was editing in which I hoped to showcase some contemporary writers writing in French, and who were not just living in France.

CeeJay was delighted, and quickly gave me carte blanche to transverse any of the poems I liked. This is something that I will always remember about him, he had an instinctive trust in my transversions of his poems, as he knew that to translate his work literally, as some writers and translators might do, would not render the spirit of his work nor the idiom. This is the essence of my relationship with him, that of two poets who had a deep deep love and appreciation of 19th century French poets, such as Baudelaire, and the importance of giving artistic freedom or license to other writers who wished to do translation. CeeJay knew as a poet himself that all writing, to some degree, is merely translation of sorts, in the end!

When my collection of transversions The Enemy – Transversions from Charles Baudelaire ( Lapwing) came out in the summer of 2015, I was quite sick at the time and so only felt safe doing a small reading down in my local pub here in Skerries in North County Dublin. I am reminded now of a small group of around twenty sitting in the front room of The Gladstone Inn. Poets Michael J. Whelan and Christine Murray were there, along with CeeJay who had actually travelled across from Belgium to be with us. I was of course very touched by his decision to come over and join us. The publication of mgV2-81 Transverser had pleased him very much, it was the first time that he had graced the cover of a literary magazine, and he wanted to show his appreciation by supporting my latest book. CeeJay was a huge fan of Baudelaire of course.

He was a larger than life figure, and I will always remember meeting him at the airport dressed as he was in all of his multi-coloured splendour. CeeJay was an openly gay man and had been all his life. This couldn’t have been easy for him, his native Belgium is a profoundly Catholic country and I know he must have suffered terribly as an openly gay man. He spoke to me a lot about his first trip to the USA that night when we arrived in Skerries. I had booked him into the local B&B and we both spent a very pleasant few hours that night over a six pack of Chimay talking about various writers and poets that we liked. It is my fondest memory of him, talking into the wee hours over a few smokes and a few beers. The way poets and writers have always spoken to one another, I suppose.

We were very different people, CeeJay and I. He was the marginal poet and artist, eternally an exile. He spent a lot of his time outside of Europe in North Africa, for example, like so many men of his generation. Sometimes living in pretty extreme conditions, as he told me that night. Of course, CeeJay saw himself following a very specific literary tradition a la Rimbaud et Verlaine. He loved both poets dearly, and Baudelaire, and was rather ashamed of how they all had been treated in his native country. CeeJay then as the eternal outsider. I was a family man, my bohemian days long since over. He must have found me quite tame in comparison.

The next day, he joined me in The Gladstone and he read some of his poems from mgv2-81 Transverser – he was the very first poet that I invited to kick off The Gladstone Readings which would draw poets from all around the country to come up to Skerries to sit with me for a few hours in an old fisherman pub in Skerries to read and talk about poetry. He was his typical self, that day. Larger than life. He stood in the middle of the small seaside pub declaiming verses by himself in French and of course by Baudelaire. Imagine Gerard Depardieu, a little. He had a very large presence. He was full of joie de vivre that day, and I had a great time reading my transversions of his work to the assemble gathered. They were all clearly having a laugh too.

Ah yes, it was a good day. One of my fondest memories, to be honest of all The Gladstone Readings. Well, Famous Seamus, my publisher at the time, did a beautiful job on the anthology The Gladstone Readings (2017) and which we published some years later. CeeJay’s poems in French and my English transversions also appear. The book is out of print now but if you are interested have a look on Amazon and you may find some second-hand editions going to spare.  

The next time, and last, I met CeeJay was in Paris. Again, through my publisher at the time Famous Seamus who were bringing out my Dublin Trilogy as part of a commemorative reading again for Baudelaire. It was 150 years since the poet died in 1867, and we both wanted to mark the occasion with a reading in Paris. It was to be another fateful day as it was also the day that I got to meet Yan Kouton for the very first time. Yan was to go on and translate Henry Street Arcade which is due out in the spring next year.

CeeJay read alongside myself ( pictured above with CeeJay on the day) Christophe Bregaint, Yan Kouton and the Beckettian actor extraordinaire Conor Lovett, my old school-hood friend. Little did I know that it would be the last time that I would see him. I was with my son Liam who had organised the whole event which took place in a wonderful cave au vin behind Notre Dame. It was a really special occasion, just some poets and Baudelaire enthusiasts and perhaps the odd tourist congregating in the old cave.

He read with gusto, I remember, on the day. But, then, that was so typical of him.





Avec la volonté de ma maîtriser.

L’âme dans de gants de chamois.

Dans l’anfractuosité du roc je me love, je me délove.


Par moments là- bas sur la crête,

Alors que je deviens trés calme et silencieux,

Je peux entendre le crquement de la pierre.


Temps qui n’ai ni commencement ni fin.

Présent parallel qui emplit les espaces vides.

Les dimensions fluctuant impercetiblement.


Pétrifié mon corps cesse d’exister.

Au creux profonde du cervelet

Seule la commande d’immobilité persiste.


Mon cerveau, chaudron où bouillone le trouble

Jette l’anathème du bruit nu pour l’oeil et l’âme.

La tempête s’approche à toute Vitesse, il n’y a pas d’abris.


L’aigle passe et repasse à la recherche d’une proie.










A soul in kid gloves,

With the will to control myself,

In the crevice of the rock I fall in and out of love.


At times down on the ridge,

When I become calm and silent,

I can hear the gentle pulverisation of stone.


Here, time has no beginning nor end.

The present parallel fills the empty spaces

Whose dimensions fluctuate almost imperceptibly.


Petrified, my body ceases to exist.

Only in the most profound hollow of the cerebellum

The sole command of immobility persists.


My brain, that cauldron where all trouble boils,

Spurts anathema of raw sound for the soul’s eye.

The tempest approaches rapidly, there is no refuge.


Time ticks away in search of prey.







( The poem Sommets by CeeJay first appeared in Bombe voyage, bombe voyage

Published by his publisher in Bruxelles, maelstrom 2014. It also appeared with my transversion into English in both mgv2>81 Transverser 2015, and The Gladstone Redaings Anthology, Famous Seamus, 2017.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2020


UCD Belfield Metaphysical:

A Retrospective


Kevin Kiely

Lapwing ( 80 pages)


I was pleasantly surprised to find the first title in the book Researching Venus and Furs and Psychopathia Sexualis in Kevin Kiely’s retrospective offering which was first published in 2017. I first came across Kiely’s writing on Facebook only some months ago and was immediately struck by the lyricism of some of his poetry, and of course wondered why I had never heard of him before. The opening sentence of Kevin’s Wikipedia entry clarified things for me however. ‘Kevin Kiely ( born 2 June 1953 ) is a poet, novelist, critic and playwright whose writings and public statements have met with controversy.’ This is all I need to know. So, to be very clear, in this review I am only concerned with the writing of Kevin Kiely as it appears in his book UCD Belfield Metaphysical: A Retrospective. I believe that I am perfectly placed to review the book, however belatedly, as I know next to nothing about the author except what I have read in his Wikipedia entry which frankly does not say much except that he has won a Fulbright scholarship in his time and lectured in a number of universities in the states and has edited a number of publications, writing profusely in many genres.

One of the reasons why I was so pleasantly surprised at finding the reference to Masoch and Venus in Furs is that normally it is a reference that most contemporary writers, not too mention Irish, would run from by a hundred miles, but not so Mr Kiely. Man of controversy, indeed! So, already my interest was piqued  and all of this on the very first page. Of course, I should justify now why I was so pleasantly surprised to find the name of Masoch, that bold tatoo printed like a talisman of all that is taboo, and I will. Subito. Well, firstly, most writers, if not all, are deeply masochistic individuals, and yet very few at least among  men would be ready to admit this. I am speaking now particularly of poets. When one thinks about it one would imagine that it would be self-evident, that poets, for the mots part, at least among men, would be deeply masochistic. And yet, why does one never read anything about it? There now, there’s a little modern- day conundrum. Of course, this fact, as fact it is, would in part explain the absolute death of any real debate in the public forum concerning the poetic art; Sex being a thing, since the rise of the new found feminism, that has almost disappeared from the realms of contemporary poetry, at least the stuff that is printed in the so called established journals. You only have to pronounce the words and you get an idea of how stuffy and boring contemporary poetry is in the most part. At least the stuff that gets promoted officially.

You know, I have a theory that one of the reasons why populism was allowed to become as popular as it did was because the arts became so emasculated in recent years due to the rise of that other fascism, yes the other twin pole which has had us all bouncing off the twin pillars of contemporary society – political correctness! A thought; to be truly radical these days is to be a moderate. Look at Joe Biden! The voice of moderation itself in a world that has become so polarised that a mere Tweet can set it alight.  

All of this preamble is quite pertinent to the present work.

Returning to Masoch, or at least Kiely’s poem about him, I notice that the poem is made up of thirteen verse in the form of paragraphs which are more prose then poem, filled with conjunctions and discourse markers of reason, reason having as much to do with poetry as a sock has to do with window cleaning, one could say! And, while my heart kind of dropped, as it has on so many occasions, as one is more often disappointed in life then not, my fears, which so readily sneaked up on me after such a promising beginning were then just as quickly dispelled with by the second poem When the City Becomes Metaphysical I ask the Question. For, after once again inserting a plethora of determiners, conjunctions and linkers ( this, and, so, as, and ) in but the first five lines, I suddenly smiled as I saw what Mr Kiely was up to…He was sailing his kite on the metaphysics of reason, by justly demanding from it as much as he could in turn pursue it, so that  reason, by being so duly encumbered, and so exhaustively so, had no other possible avenue to pursue, but to the actual heavens!

This trick reminded me of Beckett, and a wonderful essay written about him by the French thinker Gilles Deleuze. Deleuze’s essay L’épuisé (1992) , translated as The Exhausted , is one of the most illuminating short essays on Beckett’s mammoth incursion into contemporary consciousness by so singularly pursuing, according to Deleuze, the inexhaustible permutations of logic and reason and taking them to their ultimate limit; namely to the point of absolute exhaustion, having tried every single possible permutation. This is, after all, when you think about it, one of the key elements of Beckett’s humour. Think about the sequence of the stones in Molloy; the exchange of hats in Godot, and all the back and forth in the exchanges, point counter point between particularly the two tramps; the endless variations of thought and possibility in the novel Watt - a veritable piss-take of reason, one could say; to the innumerable numerical sequences elucidated in Comment C’est How It Is…Well, Kevin Kiely knows his Beckett and his Joyce, and metaphysics is part of the title.

All of this was formulating while enjoying The Sunflowers now, the third poem in the collection, which positively flies into quiet lyricism – a poem evoking Van Gogh and Gauguin and their much celebrated bust up. But, it wasn’t until I turned the page and was confronted with the fourth The Foyle Flows Softly When She Sings Her Song that I started smiling like the proverbial Cheshire.


The memorial sky: invasive clouds are too near and hyphenate

the irises like cat’s eyes entranced: motorways are stars and

corridors in scales, convoys of traffic are so much glass, metal and

plastic and in each a phantom ghostly driver plays out the sonata

of speed and distances


Kiely aligns the statements like a brickie would bricks in a building site in Kilburn. They pile up and inevitably form a solid brick wall of poetic statements. Very few poets have the tenacity of thought to do so, such is Kevin Kiely’s schooling. So, now, somewhat akin to the passenger who has sunken into the backseat of a taxi on a Friday evening, giving up all thoughts of control, I sat back and prepared to finally enjoy the book and the unusual feeling of transportation that it was awakening in me. Most contemporary poetry, and poets I must admit, bore the pants off me for reasons already mentioned; I am not interested in their moral qualms, never have been. If I had of been, I would have returned to church many years ago. I want to be entertained, teased, and yes Rebecca Elson, sometimes even awed!

As well as intellect, lyricism is also in quite short supply, it would appear, and yet such is the stuff that one expects, nay, demands of poets, at least worthy of the name, and all true poetry. Rightly so, then, poetry is a damn illusive demon. Think about your life, seriously! How much poetry does it actually contain? Be truthful now? Well, you see how you’ve answered the question. It’s a rare thing, and that is how it should be. What then are all those creatures doing on social media then? Enough said.


So much missing prosaic terza rima sentinel of the shelves

there is not a bright grain on the photocopy, metaphors will fit

not fit, lame language, scratches of pen on train tickets, words on

the dull


White page desktop from pressed keys: through a portal of silver

fleece the aircraft banks to climb stairs of clouds, levels off –

the horizon’s walls are lit with streams of leaking light


the jolt that suggest speed beyond dials. The ache of longing:

take me away finally from all of this, take me home from each

day’s lost and found, the sulphur of solitude


The above taken from the title UCD Belfield Metaphysical. But the book doesn’t really get going until the section A Map of Melancholy. Everything to date was just a preparing, a softening up, one could say. At least stylistically. After the first 4 prose poem sections, blocks of paragraphs deconstructing, or perhaps more autopsying, the death of a romance; classical masochistic poetic despair, in short. In other words, the stuff that poets should be writing about, but for some reason don’t, anymore!


I tell you I have been within her sacred

grove and we shall not be burned like the combustibles when the

grey smoke of bitumen throbs among the vertebrae of flames and

the stench of hell, for to be touched by her is healing and in an

instant all pain, all death, all longing disappears and in her eyes

and voice is the resolution quest while in her kiss a true

home emerges for this earth that baffles and astounds, repels

and yet astonishes in its chant, fix your eyes on her gaze and this

is easily done ( 4 )


Then ‘Pont de Normande – 6 abandoned attempts in 788 words     no surrender to language poetry’ and something really interesting happens. The lines now become disjointed, fragmented – Kiely uses punctuation in the spirit of the modernists, loosely fixated, so that the text on either side of the page can converge, and poems apparently merge. For example;



roadscape     hub        bridge                                             She walked late,    

circling                                                                                      cotton sheets drape night’s sleep

car after car                                                                        he followed –

                    procession of speed

motionless                                                                           loins veiled

                  spokes                                                               finger -pulse magnetic

                     Pont de Normandie                                        to her naked arm

Hub of an Oval Wheel                                                    and proud nippled breasts: Tarot Card.


I must say, I really enjoyed this section. It reminded me of the early poetry of Kiely’s contemporary Trevor Joyce, another poet who is habitually consigned to the marginals by the so called officialdom – who the hell needs the civil service involved in poetry anyway? ( That’s a good joke, by the way!)     

But also, I was reminded of Baudelaire and Proust who both used to live in Honfleur which crops up in the poem and to whom Kiely is respectful to. Berlin then crops up in reference to 42, the year when the world held its breath! All so mercifully out of Ireland, coming up for a bit of air, far away from the incestuous… I mean ancestral… home.


because I love her to the point of madness


I must accept then what I will

is not always in my grasp, not always

what can be controlled


I can rise higher than the trees

their arms and limbs in choral forests

above the sea cliffs


the depths and deeps of oceans

are floating continental islands

and every country

swaying with the earth’s axis


Keep on climbing Kevin, to the Metaphysics of the heavens.



Peter O’Neill

November 2020