The Griefscape As No-Place: All Stepped / Undone – by Michael McAloran.
endless ribcage of the sky / the glut of blood beneath
and a pulse of shit / dry your eyes / it’s just beginning
( p123 , all stepped / undone – ) is © Michael McAloran
First published Open Salon
All Stepped /Undone- is Michael McAloran’s fifth full poetry collection, and his second full collection with Oneiros Press. Tracing a line through McAloran’s work to date, one can discern a drive to whittle his poetic voice to its essential core.
All Stepped /Undone- is sometimes a griefscape, the collection is by turns both nihilistic and elegiac in its tone:
as if to –
bled winds of
spasm lock of the atoned blood
no not enough
birthing as if to ….
(p54 , as if to – from in thin dreaming- ) is © Michael McAloran
In structural terms All Stepped /Undone is loosely tripartite, however it is not as structurally underpinned as in McAloran’s In Damage Seasons –(Onerios Press 2013) which was somewhat more defined and contained within the poet’s structuring of his text. This is no bad thing in itself, as an evident structure can limit the movement of the text. I have included my reading ofIn Damage Seasons- at link. cf. my note at the end of this post.
The three parts of All Stepped /Undone- are : till claimed – of thin dreaming – and all stepped /undone-
till claimed- and of thin dreaming – are quite similar in form and in their sharing of theme and image. all stepped /undone- while sharing and picking up on these themes is aphoristic and condensed in its poetic expression:
head of dust / no /that was the drapery of the silence /
called upon /subtle till graceless / till bounty / reflected
upon /lest the burgeoning see
(p106 , all stepped /undone – ) is © Michael McAloran
One can see the development of McAloran’s voice from his earlier collection of aphorisms, Attributes, through the third section of this current book. His poetic voice has become skilled and honed to allow for his sure expressiveness which he achieves in the least amount of words.
Readers of Michael McAloran would do well to acquire the books Attributesand In Damage Seasons to see how he has developed and opened out his poetic work. I mention those previous works in particular as they are most related to the current text under review, in my view.
I feel that McAloran is directing his skill toward a quality of expressiveness that is the sure mark of the artist. He is developing a mature poetic voice that has a quality of tone rare in contemporary Irish poetics :
back-flexed / the arrow’s breath to claim the sky of /
night / the bread broken / such was the blade’s redeem /
or the blood-cut star of light / glistening /of the heart’s
(p 116, all stepped /undone -) is © Michael McAloran
Whilst related to McAloran’s collection of aphorisms, Attributes, in form, and to In Damage Seasons – in its intent and expression, this work is more loosely structured than both, and is therefore built wholly in the active poetic voice. The poet’s voice as mouthpiece of the internal landscape. In this case the voice or protagonist is mouthing his grief and alienation.
Of the three parts to this book , till claimed- is the furthest the writer will go in terms of his willingness to express alienation. The poems herein, and those of in of thin dreaming- are generally longer than in the final eponymously titled section.
There is as always with McAloran a complexity of image and a deprecating humour, the poem scuttle- can be read a few ways:
dread knock and yet …
of the lock upon
spill of spurious lights
worthless as breath
with my little eye
scuttle of dead hand wavering
scuttle – is from till claimed – p11 of All Stepped/Undone and © Michael McAloran
One is never quite sure, hence my delight at word-play and at McAloran’s image-play/ply of.
With McAloran a longer poem can be less expressive than the short aphorism. it is often akin to witnessing the unleashed voice in I (till claimed – ) warm up and spit out a gully :
(absence of light)
rage of death
and the cold ravage
in dead weather sun light
(p 71 , of thin dreaming – ) is © Michael McAloran
The unaccommodated and loosely structured poetic voice suits the visual artist in McAloran:
vortices of …
(ah spill the night
..into cups of earth)
in this dry sunlight
breaking for favour sensed
earthed from out of which to cast
vacantly as shadow
(p46 excerpt of biting still- from of thin dreaming- ) is © Michael McAloran.
Note : I have linked my reading of In Damage Seasons- here , the reason being that while the two texts share a tripartite structure , they are vastly differing works in terms of how the writer manages his expression. In Damage Seasons- has a structural containment, a triptych architecture, that felt almost imprisoning as it tied down the poet’s voice.
Oneiros Books link to All Stepped/Undone by Michael McAloran